Activist Janet Mock Seeks to End the Silence


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Janet Mock, an activist and inspiration to women.

Janet Mock, a transgender activist, feminist, writer, TV host and an advocate for many. She has strived to break the silence and open up about her experiences whether it is about being a person of color, feminist or a transgender woman.

On October 19, NDSU Women’s and Gender studies hosted a Q&A and book signing with Janet Mock, which was open to the public. People used the hashtag #Mock2NDSU to share experiences at the Q&A.

Recently releasing her second book, “Surpassing Certainty,” explaining what her twenties taught her, while being a New York Times bestseller from her first book of “Redefining Realness.” She has a master’s in journalism from New York University.

After reading both of Mock’s books, students in the class the class taught by Erienne Fawcett, Introduction to LGBT Studies, wrote the questions that were asked during the Q&A. During the Q&A Ann Burnett was the one asking questions for the students and then notecards were given to the audience for the purpose of being able to ask questions that were not previously answered.

“I think it was a lifelong process – I think that when you are a person of color, a trans person, and a woman I think having all those identities in one body, you grow up in a world and a culture that is often not necessarily thriving or existing and so it can kind of be hard to navigate the whispers – of people around you” Mock explained about the journey of breaking the silence. People are “always offering commentary on your body or throwing slurs at your identity,” Mock continued, “I think I quietly suffered for a long time specifically as a teenager and parts of my adulthood and it was through the process for me of sitting down with myself and telling myself my own story that I was able to start unlearning the commentary – that everybody was telling me.”

Miranda Stambler| THE SPECTRUM
Janet Mock receiving a NDSU feminism T-Shirt.

When she first came forward to tell her story in 2011 in Mary Claire magazine. She realized that trans woman of color were rarely pictured in media. This being said in the beginning of the Q&A she confirmed people were allowed to take pictures.

She focuses on other people who wrote to spread their name such as Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Audrey Lorde and so on. She explained how people in the culture were also hostile towards these people and parts of their identities and it also inspired her to share her own story no matter of the people against her identity.

“I started writing ‘Redefining Realness’ in 2001 and our culture is not where it is not now trans people, trans stories, trans bodies that LGBT movement period are a part of the mainstream conversation at that time it was not” At this time people were discussing same-sex marriage, but rarely any part of the LGBT community, let alone people of color in this community were rarely represented. “I was afraid of is anybody going to listen, is anybody going to care” She became concerned of being able to keep her job or being able to live while writing this. There were sacrifices and concerns she had when doing this.

“I was afraid – growing up in a culture – that told me that I wasn’t deserving of being here, and this happens in small and large ways, I was told that I wasn’t worthy of being here by people pushing or closing the doors to restrooms or people saying I should go home and change,” Mock shared, “All of these different messages told me that if I spoke up and told the truth then something bad was going to happen to be.”

“I knew that being silent was no longer a convenience,” Mock said, she then goes on about how she was lucky in the sense of being able to break the silence without being getting her job taken away.

When asked about whether there has been a change in media as to woman of color being involved more in media, Mock said, “I don’t think that the media news rooms are diverse enough yet, just representing all kinds of people, whether that’s folk of color, LGBT people – the list goes on and on and on.”

She believes the internet has evolved what we think media is today. It has gone from a person dictating the news to now being a dialogue because someone else can go and check if this person is correct or not. She sees it as being more media outlets, but it is not investing it’s time to

She tries to bring more awareness to the media not being diverse enough, and uses her power, “To ensure that I am pulling people up with me as I am raising myself up,” Mock said. This caused the crowd to roar in applause.

While some people apart of the LGBT community do not have supportive families, Mock explains how you should go find that person that is believing you are worthy and does not question any pronouns or sexuality that needs to be justified. Referring to the LGBT community, “We are incredibility resilient, we are incredibly creative and we can go out to create different kinds of families,” Mock explained.

When giving advice for those dealing with unsupportive families, “Don’t try and think about coming to a point which you can be completely free only,” rather think about the one person you can be free with, Mock explained.

“I have the special part of being a part of many different communities and for me community – is what ties us together” Mock shared. She explains how each community does something differently, feminism groups sometimes don’t accept trans women, LGBT groups don’t focus as much on trans women of color, etc. but she still is apart and shows up for each of these groups.

She wants allies to educate and helping people today understand difficulties. “To not see it as a noun, but as a verb – it’s a constant process of doing, it’s a constant process of showing up” Mock explains, “to learn how to not only step forward, but step back and to realize that you are no one’s savior.” Sometimes allies need to step in for these people to help explain to those who do not understand and inform those of the minorities.

When talking about the current political situation, “I think it is important in these chaotic times – to unplug” she explained, how people should “do whatever you need to do to bring yourself joy.”

Miranda Stambler| THE SPECTRUM
Janet Mock and Ann Burnett during the Q&A on NDSU campus.

“We need to figure out ways to which we can show up for each other,” Mock explained. “This kind of political landscape can make us feel like we’re isolated,” but she therefore says we need to be more active in the sense of being more conscious in showing up for one another. “We have great gains” Mock explained when describing the movement of LGBT, but that there are also people still upset that will push back. Though there is progress being made, such as marriage equality.

During the women’s march Mock had spoken in Washington D.C., which was what she described as a revolutionary. “A consciousness was awakening,” Mock shared. She was upset over the fact that everything was pink and focusing around woman having vaginas. The sea of people seemed to be white and straight and an overall lack of woman of color and transgender woman.

When talking about the Miss USA winner, Mock explained how the winner held a common and wrong definition of feminism being “anti-men – It’s I am a wife and mother – it’s a part of that tradition – I was upset about it” Mock explained. During her time as being a judge of Miss USA, she unlearned things about the idea of beauty being bad and brains should be used more, when she learned that women can use their beauty to gain attention and share their intelligence.

An audience question pertaining to the Mock’s book “Surpassing Certainty” being about her twenties she describes the twenties as one word, that word is “Messy” she went on to explain that it is a time to find what you need to do to survive and be forgiving of yourself when mistakes are made.

When asked how to become successful woman in this world, “For me I would – start by having a definitive definition of what success is for you, I define success as doing what I love doing without having to compromise myself, my experiences, my communities, or my truth,” Mock shared. Overall, she believes you need to find that definition of success that varies from person to person.

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