Mock Shares Her Transgender Experience
Published: Monday, April 8, 2013
Updated: Monday, April 8, 2013 02:04
“There is great power in owning who you are and not being ashamed of that.”
Janet Mock, writer, former staff editor of People magazine’s website, and transgender rights advocate, spoke on Friday afternoon about her experiences as transgender. The event, “Translating Transgender with Janet Mock,” was hosted and moderated by the GLBTQ Leadership Council (GLC)’s Freshman Leadership Program.
“It’s remarkable how forward it is that Boston College is having this kind of conversation,” Mock said. “This is more than most public universities, much less a Catholic university. So thank you so much for being here to listen to my story.”
Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, Mock spent most of her young adult life on the small, tight-knit island. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Hawaii and traveled state side to earn her M.A. in journalism from New York University. In 2011, after working for People magazine for five years, Mock shared her transition story with Marie Claire. She has since worked to expand society’s limited portrait of womanhood, speaking worldwide on her experience and issues of transgenderism. She founded the Twitter project #GirlsLikeUs and creates transgender-specific programs and education for the GLBTQ youth center at Harvey Milk High.
“As a child, I walked around with limp wrists and a sway in my hips,” Mock said. “I was probably the most feminine son a father—who wanted a football player—could ask for.”
Mock was harassed by her peers and classmates for most of high school. She was sent to the principal’s office on numerous occasions for wearing skirts and lipstick and she was often forbidden from using locker rooms and bathrooms.
“I was constantly navigating hostile environments,” Mock said. “I dealt with misogyny and street harassment, just as many other transgenders do. I was lucky, however. I transitioned as my peers in school were also going through their physiological changes in puberty.”
After graduating from the University of Hawaii, Mock was ready for a change of scenery. She traveled across the country to New York, where, for the first time in her life, she was not identified as transgender.
“I made the decision to not lead as a trans, and it was the most freedom I’ve ever had,” Mock said.
Mock spoke about the obstacles she has faced as transgender, including the difficulties of finding adequate health care coverage and treatment.
“When you tell a doctor or nurse that you are trans, people tend to gawk at you and gawk at your body,” Mock said. “Often times, they’ll leave the room and when someone else walks in, you can tell they know by the way they stare at you. There is a very dehumanizing factor to it.”
Mock discussed the misconceptions often associated to those who are transgender.
“People think we are confused or mentally disturbed,” Mock said, shrugging her shoulders and laughing. “People also think we do not have a relationship with our bodies and that because we don’t ‘associate’ with our bodies, they can bombard us with questions about our sexuality … People think there is a lack of realness to our bodies. Which, again, is not the case.
“I want to change the narrative of how we see trans-women. Especially trans-women of color … And I want to break down the term ‘coming out.’ I prefer ‘inviting in.’”
Mock left the audience with a few words of advice on how to be supportive to the transgender community.
“The word ally is not a label, but a growing process of action,” Mock said. “It’s important to remember that you are joining a movement that is already happening. You are not creating it … Always call people by their preferred name and don’t ‘out’ them to others without their permission … Check others and yourself on blind spots and privileges … Be vocal about safe spaces. If you know a safe community, speak up.”
As the event concluded, students and faculty stopped outside the lecture room, leaving their signatures on a large white board reading, “I pledge to be a Trans Ally.”