By Anamika Dutta
Writer, TV host, and transgender rights activist Janet Mock came to speak at College of the Holy Cross on Monday, Nov.14th. Mock’s moderated discussion was perhaps the most anticipated out of the series of events known as “Unity Week” at the College.
As a transgender woman of color, Janet Mock’s experience growing up is vastly different from anything I, or most Holy Cross students around me, have experienced. For this reason, her coming to Holy Cross sparks a necessary conversation across campus, as we all try to speak across difference. Mock emphasized this phrase throughout the discussion, and we should all strive to take her words to heart. We all come from different backgrounds: varying races, ethnicities, genders, socioeconomic statuses, religions, and sexual orientations, which play a part in defining who we are. Instead of ignoring these differences, we must strive to learn from them, and learn from each other.
Janet Mock began her novel “Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love, and So Much More” through a series of journals complete with her everyday thoughts and feelings. Before she could be honest with others, she had to learn to be honest with herself. While this feeling is relatively common amongst members of the trans-community, Mock made a point to clarify that the trans-community is not a monolith. She was born to a teenage mother, and her father struggled with drug addiction; her experience growing up on welfare while also struggling to come to terms with who she really was, is her own unique experience that does not speak for everyone in the trans-community. Hearing Mock’s experiences was eye-opening for the audience; many of us have lived relatively sheltered lives, and do not often extend our ears to listen to someone who looks or seems different from us. As awareness of the LGBTQ+ community increases, Mock believes our language has also adapted to be more inclusive. While we are still far from providing the proper protection for, and inclusion of, LGBTQ+ Americans, Mock holds hope for the future. However, she makes a point that should not be overlooked: the responsibility of educating those who do not understand marginalized people’s experiences should not fall solely on those who are marginalized; rather, allies need to speak up. Allies need to stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community, and speak up against injustice and ignorance. We need to send the message: just because someone does not see a particular problem in his/her life, does not mean that problem does not exist.
The Holy Cross community owes Janet Mock an enormous thank-you for sharing her story with us, and helping us to understand the importance of not only being an ally, but of embracing our differences as qualities that makes our nation stronger, not weaker. In light of recent events, her words ring true now more than ever. It is of the utmost importance that we do not get discouraged, and that we continue to fight to create a world where parents of transgender kids do not have to fear for their children’s safety when they leave the house. Together, we will use empathy as we make legitimate efforts to understand why some people feel silenced, while others feel perfectly heard.