News  Tackling identity, gender, and race with Janet Mock

New book aims to create a basis for discussing trans and feminist issues

On October 3, the Centre for Gender Advocacy’s (CGA) annual back-to-school fall event series, “Another Word for Gender,” welcomed famed trans rights activist and author Janet Mock for their keynote address.

Mock, a well-known author, speaker, and activist for trans rights, was in Montreal to speak about gender, race, and her experiences with identity, as well as to discuss her book, “Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More.”

The event started with a moderated discussion between the CGA’s director, Gabrielle Bouchard, and Mock, who received an enthusiastic cheer from the audience upon entrance; it touched on a variety of topics, from Mock’s personal life to the issues that currently affect the trans community. As Bouchard pointed out, what these issues primarily boil down to is giving people the “freedom to choose, determine, and act so you know you are loved not in spite of your truth, but because of it.”

Born in Honolulu, Mock grew up in a turbulent household where both her parents were, as she put it, “loving and wanting to protect [her], but not knowing how to do so.” At the age of 16, she became a sex worker to pay for college, and by 18 she had “carved out a space for [herself],” to undergo sex reassignment surgery.

Mock said her purpose in writing the book was “to write as if I was communicating with my seventh grade self. I wanted to tell a personal narrative of my life, but also include a ‘manifesto’ of terms and policies and definitions because my seventh grade self didn’t know about ‘transgender-ness’ or feminist issues. By centering on myself, it gave me access and connection to everyone else that will read the work.”

After the moderated discussion, members of the audience were invited to share thoughts and ask questions. A variety of topics were raised, including how people outside the trans community could help tackle discrimination to how racial discrimination that exists in the trans community could be stopped.

Mock also stressed the importance of the other causes she advocates for, namely equality for women and people of colour. As she told the audience proudly, “I call myself a young, transgender woman of colour, and while one of those terms I will soon have to drop, the others form an integral part of my identity […] Even before I identified as transgender, I was at an intersection of race, which is the first thing that makes you realize this world is not yours.”

When asked about the difference between the trans and LGBT movements by an audience member, Mock stated, “For me, the issue was about inclusiveness […] But it is also important to understand that there are transgender people who are and aren’t queer, and who do and don’t identify with the LGBT community.”

Kiana, a McGill student, told The Daily that she was pleased with the event. “It was really inspiring, I still can’t get over how good it was. It’s a really important issue and I’m glad that everyone was so enthusiastic,” she said.

Mock ended the evening’s events with a message to those in the audience: “There’s so much we need to transform, and change, resist, and destroy, build, and reconstruct […] hopefully, we are working toward a world in which, when you decide, you are allowed to change your ID, your name, your gender, whatever the hell you want.”