Society’s Dismissal and Dehumanization of Trans Women

While I am still invested in concealing myself in certain societal stratas, I do share with Janet a growing awareness of the many facets of being.  And a growing awareness of the ways in which I have been othered and policed…both as trans and as a woman.

“My assignment at birth is only one facet of my identity, one that I am no longer invested in concealing. Acknowledging this fact and how it has shaped my understanding of self has given me the power the challenge the ways in which we judge, discriminate, and stigmatize women based on bodily differences. The media’s insatiable appetite for transsexual women’s bodies contributes to the systematic othering of trans women as modern-day freak shows, portrayals that validate and feed society’s dismissal and dehumanization of trans women.”

-Janet Mock, Redefining Realness

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On the Stigmatization of Gender-Variant People

“As long as trans women are seen as less desirable, illegitimate, devalued women, then men will continue to frame their attraction to us as secret, shameful, and stigmatized, limiting their sexual interactions with trans women to pornography and prostitution.

And if a trans woman believes that the only way she can share intimate space with a man is through secret hookups or transactions, she will be led to engage in risky sexual behaviors that make her more vulnerable to criminalization, disease, and violence; she will be led to coddle a man who takes out his frustrations about his sexuality on her with his fists; she will be led to question whether she’s worthy enough to protect herself with a condom when a man tells her he loves her; she will be led to believe that she is not worthy of being seen and must remain hidden.”

-Janet Mock, Redefining Realness

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Dialogue: the key to kind acceptance of another person

Think about a time when you met someone, someone you instantly clashed with, without a word being spoken…go ahead, I will wait…we have all had that happen.  Now:  think about someone that happened with, and then as time passed and you got to know them you discovered you were totally wrong about them, that your reaction had been all within you, and was unrelated to them completely.  I am not going to wait on this one, for these sorts of endings are more rare…at least in my life they were.  Sadly, far too often I just avoided the person and then lived…until I forgot about them, and went on in my cushy-comfy zone of complacency.

Wanna know the basic root of this phenomenon?  I think it is Xenophobia:  fear of the unknown.  A person will look different, or act different, or some other factor about them is something unknown to us…so we clench up, clam up, and withdraw…and then make up all sorts of rationales to justify our low  and venal rejection of a fellow creature made in Their image.

Generally, at least for me, dialogue precedes the change of heart and mind that I undergo when I have been in this boat.  After talking with the person (not at, or over), I discover that we have so much more in common by virtue of our shared human experience and reality than we are different.  Especially when I was firmly locked away in the christendom ghetto…I dared not talk with different people, unless I totally dominated the exchange in a monologue “devoted to evangelism”, but in truth designed to shield and protect myself from having to stretch and include someone in my world.

I think this is why so many so-called “evangelistic-efforts” end fruitless, and at times even exacerbate the divide between we who call ourselves “saved” and they whom we designate as “needing to be saved”.

Genuine dialogue bypasses all this.  Trust me, if your faith is living and genuine, and you are in relationship with Jesus more than with His book, then you will not be able to miss the chances to give an account for the Hope that is in you…they will beg to hear why you seem different (you do seem different…don’t you???).  You will find that connection…and begin to learn that the things you hid behind as reasons to not connect with people have become touchstones of punctuation in the quilt of common experience.

This is one of the main reasons I post essays on a lot of topics, and other people’s interviews of interesting people…and it is why I recommend reading the interview with Janet Mock that I post below.  It originally appeared at http://www.rookiemag.com/2014/05/janet-mock-interview/ and it is a fabulous window into the existence of one of the most influential people in our times.  Janet is uniquely positioned to touch a lot of spheres in life, and she is articulate enough to create that dialogue.

Dialogue is not something that is sorta like the old “I won’t hit you if you don’t hit me” game…that is stasis, and dead waters.  No…dialogue is living, interesting, and often the very vessel They can get into to reach our hearts and minds.

Check out the interview…I am pretty sure you will be glad you did.

Love always, and Grace upon Grace…

Charissa

 

You Can Be Free: An Interview With Janet Mock

In which we talk about her feminist icons, how teenagers are way cooler than the media thinks, and why she identifies with Tracy Flick.

Photo by Aaron Tredwell.

Pardon the hyperbole, but Janet Mock may be the best person ever. I felt this way after reading her 2013 book, Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More, a beautiful, powerful memoir that follows Janet from her childhood in Hawaii, where she grew up as a transgender girl, to her current position as a high-profile (and still young!) writer and activist who inspires people everywhere to live exactly as they want to live.

She decided to come out as trans in a 2011 essay in Marie Claire magazine; since then, she has worked hard to increase the visibility of transgender people, including starting the hashtag #girlslikeus, which encourages trans people to share their stories on Twitter. (She is also very good at social media.)

My feelings about her greatness only intensified when I actually got to talk to her on the phone last month, when she’d just returned home to New York from one of her many college speaking gigs. You know how sometimes you’re talking to someone and they’re just so on it that their voice crackles with electricity? That’s how Janet was.


JULIANNE: So much of Redefining Realness is your very specific memories from your childhood, some of which are so wrenching! How did you remember all of that, and how were you able to get it all out in your writing?

JANET MOCK: I started by writing journal entries. I made a commitment to myself to write 500 to 1,000 words every morning—to just catalog every memory, even if it was just a fragment, on paper. Once I really got into that space and got disciplined, I was able to re-imagine what happened and to mine the feelings and the details of that time period. That’s why there are a lot of pop culture references, because I watched so much TV! I would try to remember certain things by asking myself, What song lyrics was I trying to memorize? What type of dance moves was I trying to learn?

But then you have to remember the pain, too, and that was the hardest part—the wrenching part, as you say—having to revisit that, not as an adult, but going back as a child and feeling it again as a young person who didn’t have much agency over their body and how it felt to go through those traumatic events. So I just had to be very kind to myself as a writer, but also kind to those who wronged me, kind about the mistakes people made and how they contributed to my pain.

As a fellow writer, I have found when you’re accessing those painful things, there is an instinct to lie to yourself, in order to protect yourself. How did you avoid that?

There are certain moments in the book where I call myself out for wanting to soften things or exclude things, and that was part of being transparent. I was committed to being transparent not just through the stories I chose to tell, but throughout my writing process. I talk about my mother’s suicide attempt, and about not wanting to [write about it] because I didn’t want to see her that way. Also, some of the details of the sex work I went through as a teenage girl—sometimes I wanted to erase those from the record of my life. But being honest about that actually helped me. It relieved me from my silence and shame, and hopefully it can help other people feel that sense of relief about something that may be heavy that they’ve been holding on to for a long time.

Was wanting to find that relief one of the reasons you started writing the book?

Yeah. At first I wasn’t writing with the intention of making a memoir—I just did it ’cause I wanted to have a record for myself. It was a selfish project—there was no sense of intersectionality or social-justice jargon or anything like that. It was just about me, this girl, and her story and her pain. I was trying to get it as raw as possible on the page so that I’d know that it was real.

But when I stepped forward publicly in Marie Claire, I was like, Wow, there’s a powerful story here that I think I’m supposed to tell. I don’t mean that in a boastful way—there just aren’t many books by young marginalized women like myself who did what I did, the way I did it.

Since that Marie Claire piece came out, social justice ideas and words like intersectionality have become way more widespread, especially for young people, partly because of Tumblr. Have you seen a shift?

Ooh, Tumblr’s powerful, yes. Those words are very powerful tools for describing this oppression. And it’s great that some people have access to them—but most people don’t. For me, it was super important to not use those terms in the book, because they exclude a lot of people who don’t have educational access, or who may not be engaged in social-justice stuff, but who want to be enlightened about things, to have their political consciousnesses raised a bit. I wanted to write the book for everyone—including that girl who I was in seventh grade who didn’t even know the term transgender. I wanted to give her a book so she could also feel like she was in the know, without being talked down to or made to feel like she has to aspire to something “higher” when she already has all the knowledge she needs to define her own experience. It’s not for me to define it for her. So I wanted to use words and language that she understands.

Your book has done a lot to help trans people be recognized in the larger culture. Did anything help you feel recognized that way? There aren’t that many books out there like your book.

My reflection of myself has always been a composite of many images and people that I have met along the way. I talk a lot about Beyoncé and Clair Huxtable and Toni Morrison, and I talk about the trans women who were in my life as a teenager, and the women around me when I was growing up, my father’s sisters, my grandmother, and my mother. I saw all of these women as mirrors, and made them into my own little mirrored mosaic.

But regarding the whole genre of “trans books”—I guess they would call them “transition stories” or “transition books”: So many of them do not have the intersection of youth, and that’s pretty important, because young people oftentimes don’t have much body agency in our culture. Like, your parents can literally pick you up and take you somewhere and put you wherever they want and tell you want clothes you can wear and what clothes they’re willing to buy you. All of these things are what make finding yourself and expressing yourself and your own authenticity difficult [when you’re young]. That’s one of the things I notice when I speak to young people, that sense of struggling with their lack of agency. I just tell them that, yes, you do have agency, despite your parents. Live your life on Twitter, put up some selfies! Reblog some things! That sense of self-representation is so important.

In terms of trans women, I’m happy that there are more of us visible in mainstream media. Platforms like Tumblr and YouTube allow people to create images that they don’t see in the mainstream media—and to also talk back to mainstream media when they fuck up. Rookie is a testament to that!

Thank you, we’re trying! You’ve talked about how reading the work of several female authors of color—like Zora Neale Hurston, Maya Angelou, and Toni Morrison—helped you get to a place where you could “just be.” As you were reading them, did you feel like you were being seen?

I think the first one I was exposed to was Maya Angelou, in probably eighth- or ninth-grade English class, when we read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Being the only black student in class I was like, Oh god, we have to read this? I knew everybody was gonna look at me and think this was my experience. But then I read it, and I was like, Oh my god, this is my experience! It was powerful to read—specifically the parts where she talks about sexual abuse as a child. That was something that I had never told anyone I had gone through, so seeing that someone had written it down in a book that we were reading in class, I was like, Oh my god—this exists in the world?

So that was one of those things where I was like, I need to go to the library and read more books. Because I also didn’t have access to books, unless it was school. (I always talk about my youth struggle of never being able to order anything from the Scholastic catalog that was passed around in class, and always yearning for those books delivered to me the following week!) [Reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings] prompted me to get a library card and just sit among those stacks and read books by women who looked like my self-image. That was important to me, because [those women] lived the life that I saw myself living one day, as a black woman. In my own reality, that didn’t exist for me yet. I was this trans girl who wasn’t out, who wasn’t revealing herself to the world or even to herself. It was so helpful to be able to look into those books and be like, Wow, this is what life could be like for me.

But the top one would be Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. For me, that book was everything. The idea of this woman on a quest to find herself and to find the right kind of love and fulfillment and identity and not being smashed into her community’s fantasies of her—that gave me so much agency. It pushed me to dream of greater possibilities for myself. It just blasted my mind open! You can be free!

What were you like as a teenager?

By the time I turned 13, I had met my best friend, Wendi. When you have a pivotal bestie, you kind of become the same person but you also complement each other. Wendi was so unabashedly unapologetic about who she was that no matter what I did—even when I started transitioning—I could never seem as “out there” as her. I was always slightly in her shadow, which gave me safety. From 12 years old all the way until we were 18, we were like close close close tight. So when you ask me what I was like, I can’t talk about my teenage self without talking about Wendi, because we’re so linked.

But I was very internal, if that makes sense. I think I was a deeper thinker than my best friend was. I enjoyed the library. I enjoyed quiet space, because I didn’t have that at home. But I also wanted attention, right? I was always kind of seen as a natural leader—people listened to me, and what I said mattered. So I never felt as though I was dismissed.

I loved school, and I was someone that people would ask for style advice. I always seemed like I was with it. I wasn’t a popular girl, but people liked me. I wasn’t ever going to be the prettiest girl in school, because I was a girl that wasn’t even supposed to exist. But I hung out with the popular girls, and they were my friends, so that gave me access points. It was almost like I was tolerated because I had these cool friends. So I always felt like I was internal, but I bet a lot of people from high school would remember me. I felt like I was invisible, but I knew I wasn’t, because I was so visible.

I think that once you’re out of high school, you start to understand that the way people see you does not necessarily line up with how you see yourself.

Mm-hmm. I had this sense of like…oh my god, I was such a victim. But then I realized that I’d internalized what people think trans people go through in high school. Like, it was tough, but high school was tough for a lot of people! I’m sure that my multiple layers of identities that I inhabit made it more difficult, but to be honest, I enjoyed high school. I wanted to go every day.

It wasn’t my peers who gave me problems—it was mostly teachers who didn’t understand how I could thrive, how I could be so liked, how I could be in marching band and debate club, how I could be captain of the volleyball team and be elected a student leader and become a peer mediator. They didn’t understand how a trans girl could do all those things, so it’s almost like they didn’t want it to be true.

When I was in the eighth grade, me and Wendi started a petition to get the intermediate school to allow us to wear makeup. [Laughs] I didn’t include this in my book because it’s something I forgot, but other people remembered us going around with a clipboard and some notebook paper and getting people to sign a petition so that we could wear makeup. In my memory [Wendi and I] just walked into school wearing makeup. I don’t remember ever getting in trouble for wearing makeup. I was that student, though, that’s who I was. When I watch Election, I’m like, Oh, I was soooo Reese Witherspoon!

Related, the times I’ve seen you speaking on TV, you seem to have so much grace and poise. Where do you learn those things?

In the mirror!

Do you think [poise is] something you can learn, or do you just embody it?

[Laughs] I feel like because I’ve had to juggle so much, that there’s not much that bothers me. There are a lot of high-pressure things that are stressful—especially live TV appearances! They’re so stressful, no matter what. Even if it’s a “safe” environment with a host that you really like, it’s still super stressful. What grounds me in this idea of having “good composure” or being eloquent or graceful is over-preparedness. Over-preparing puts me at ease and allows me to be present when I’m there. I can control how I act, how I react, how my face looks, how I sit, and what comes out of my mouth, which allows me to appear as though I’m totally at ease. It call comes from just growing up, juggling a lot at home, family dynamics, my own struggles with identity—wanting to be great, you know? Daring for greatness. Juggling all of these things was the boot camp. But preparedness is what grounds me. Knowing your environments so you can expect them, and even knowing the failings of your culture. Like, if you’re going into a racist, capitalist, sexist corporate environment, and you know what it is and its failings, then you can know how to operate around it. You kinda seem like #unbothered.

What do you do when you are suffering, and how do you help your friends when they are suffering?

The space of suffering, I struggle with, because I’m part of a community that’s so steeped in trauma. A lot of people talk about trans women of color and the violence that we deal with. But when we’re together, we don’t talk about that. Because the world will remind us of that. We know that when we walk in the world, we are under attack. We understand that. And so when we get together, we wanna talk about Beyoncé and have a couple cocktails, you know? Hang out and just be. Just be happy. Being happy together builds our sisterhood, but it also builds our resolve and it’s just like, This is revolutionary for us to be in this world and its suffering and to deal with suffering, but be fucking happy, too. We don’t need to sit in it all the time, because we exist in it.

Do you keep inspirational Post-it notes around your workspace?

Well, I do have one that my boyfriend, Aaron…he was listening to an audiobook about the I Love Lucy show—it’s random, but he loves inside-Hollywood stories. The head writer who helped them create that juggernaut of a television show said the two things that matter in Hollywood are ownership and perception. So I have a Post-it note that says ownership + perception.

The work that I do, it really informs me. I want to own the content I make—I don’t want to just be a subject on someone else’s show. I want to be leading those conversations. “Perception” is the idea of definition–I can create the image of myself that I allow others to see. And I can maintain my boundaries in a public world.

Also, I have a sticker on my planner that says It’s your turn to change the world.

Speaking of, I read that you work with Youngist, a platform for young people to do citizen journalism and have an amplified voice in mainstream media. What do you do there?

I mostly just giving editorial advice, but I think it’s so important for any silenced group of people, like young people, to have their own platforms. Everyone loves to talk about millennials—I guess that’s you guys!—but it’s important to give them power to have their own voice. Everyone always asks me, “What advice would you give young people?” and I’m always like, young people know exactly what they wanna do! If they want advice from me, that young person will come to me, you know? They know their experiences. They know what they’re going through. They know who they are. And my job is not to talk down to them, or to give them some aspirational message. It’s just to let them know that they have all the power to determine their own lives, to define them, and to declare them.

Youngist takes the political and pop culture news and really gives [millennials’] take on it, instead of older people always being like, “The millennials are taking selfies! They’re so absorbed with themselves!” It’s like, uh, no, look on YouTube, look at what they’re doing.

It’s nice to hear you say that—those selfie articles are so make-fun-able.

It’s always like, some 50-year-old cisgender white hetero man talking about young girls and what they’re doing. It’s like, this is so pervy, first of all! [Laughs] It’s these people who think all young people are the same. No, they’re not! It’s really simplistic and reductive, and I think young people can just, like, grab their computers and blow shit up. ♦

Janet Mock: Why I Asked Alicia Menendez about her vagina, & other invasive questions

Alicia Menendez Interview: Trans People & Media’s Invasive Questions | Janet Mock.

Janet Mock is amazing!  While she is physically beautiful, and incredibly blessed in that she was far less ravaged by Testosterone than many of us, the fact is it is her mind, her heart and soul, and her indomitable spirit that make her beautiful.

I love that she is so courageous and following her dream, and I love even more that she feels a sense of mission for the entire TG community, and to humanity in general.  When people who have influence, like her, intentionally take steps to challenge the current paradigm, and then to educate and inform as well, it makes a way for everyone to gain access to greater liberty to actualize themselves as well.

Flipping the script:  such a good way to really drive home awareness.  Try it yourself after you read this and watch the video…put yourself into the space of a transgender person.  Walk around an entire day dressed wrong and see how you feel (warning: it won’t feel good!!  Lol!)

Blessings and Joy,

Charissa

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Very well written post about a paradigm shift happening right now

I was truly impressed with this post by Jen Richards…she has recognized and chronicled an event that will later be looked back on as a true moment in history.

Will you find yourself on the right side?

From Piers Morgan to Stephen Colbert: How Janet Mock is redefining history

BY JEN RICHARDS

The tide has turned.

The media’s treatment of and engagement with trans people is now moving in another direction, and we are in the middle of a historic moment that will be looked back upon and recognized as a turning point.

It’s worth bearing in mind from the outset that historic moments are greater than their actors. History seizes upon some often singular aspect of a person or time. It uses them to tell a story, a story that exists in a way that no individual in their inevitably contradictory complexity can. Making history requires more than a person. It demands the right person, with the right story, at the right time, in the right place, in the right context and with the right support. It is precisely the collision of such utterly unpredictable and uncontrollable factors that makes for a moment that can be recognized as historic.

We are having such a moment. And the person at the center is Janet Mock.

Janet Mock is a transgender writer and advocate whose first book, the memoir Redefining Realness, details a truly American story. Its poor heroine winning independence, success, and love through intelligence, determination, and hard work makes it timeless, while its portrait of a society grappling with issues of fragmented families, race, drug addiction, abuse, sex work, poverty, sexual orientation, and gender identity make it more timely and relevant than anyone expecting a “transgender memoir” could possibly predict.

Mock recently taped an appearance on Piers Morgan Live, her first interview outside of the “bubble” of social justice circles and sympathetic peers. There’s little about the interview itself that would presage the coming fiasco. It is clumsy and awkward, but utterly predictable. The whole of the exchange can be summarized as “I can’t believe you used to be a boy,” an approach to which trans people are forced to become inured.

Some viewers would have gawked along with Piers Morgan, some would learn, hopefully a few would buy the book, and trans people would have seen it as little more than a teaching moment and another small step forward.

And here we have the first history-provoking accident. The producers chose not to air the segment for nearly a week, and it happened to air the very night of Janet Mock’s book-launch party. Many of Mock’s most ardent supporters and closest friends were together celebrating, away from any televisions. None saw the segment, the way the producers had edited it, or the graphics they used.

However, all of us saw Twitter. We saw the official show feed ask the question“How would you feel if you found out the woman you are dating was formerly a man?” And we saw the reactions of our community, as outrage poured in on social media. Janet was not alone that night, and in this heightened context of solidarity and celebration, she, along with actress Laverne Cox, snapped a photo summing up the collective reaction to the way producers has framed the interview.

Then, for some inexplicable reason, Piers Morgan himself jumped into the fray, eventually dismissing trans people as “enraged” and “stupid” and saying he would “deal with” Janet Mock the next night.

How do we explain why someone with a primetime show on a major network, someone with 3 million followers, would feel bullied by a young author promoting a first book, and her 17,000 followers?

What happened that night happened because of a larger unspoken context, because of what had been happening for years in countless other ways at a smaller scale, to Piers himself and undoubtedly to countless of his peers and colleagues.

Cisgender people have been confused and threatened by trans people, by anyone not conforming to inherited and unquestioned gender norms. Straight people have been uncomfortable with different sexual orientations, or even the implication of such possibilities. White people have been anxious around black people, any people of color, and afraid of discussions about racism, its history, and their ongoing complicity in it. Men have been scared of women, their power, and their refusal to remain the second sex.

In short, those with power have known that they’re losing their exclusive hold on it.

The reactions to the realization of such loss range widely, from fear to compassion to humor. We can see three embodiments of points along the spectrum in Bill O’Reilly, Piers Morgan, and Stephen Colbert: the conservative, the liberal, and the parody.

Next to Bill O’Reilly’s reactionary politics, Piers Morgan is a “good guy,” a classical liberal and self-appointed ally. We can forget he’s another rich, straight, white guy with a huge platform. Likewise, Stephen Colbert can make fun of both Bill O’Reilly and Piers Morgan, the entire edifice of egomaniacal white male privilege, while still benefiting from it himself.

As the mediocre middle, Piers Morgan can lean in either direction. He could have reacted to the backlash against the initial interview with humor and openness, more Colbert-like. Instead, he went full O’Reilly, indignantly framing himself as a victim and revealing an astonishing blindness toward the real power dynamics at play. At least with O’Reilly, there’s a smug self-awareness of the theatrics at play. Morgan seemed to honestly believe he was the victim.

This happened—was able to happen—only because of the wider cultural anxiety around difference and the ever-loosening grasp of power by those constituting the invisible “normal” by which all else is defined.

In this system, women are less than men, black is less than white, and trans is less than cis. In this world of less, Janet Mock’s more is simultaneously a novel wonder and discomfiting threat. It must be controlled. Dignity is not innate for the less, but rather bestowed. Piers Morgan, as an embodiment of the liberal, compassionate aspect of power, did the “right” thing by giving Mock space, by allowing for difference. When such an allowance was not simply accepted with unqualified gratitude, it evoked every anxiety around the place of that difference.

When he had Janet Mock back on the next night, it was for one purpose: to address a threat to power. Morgan’s second interview, little more than a public tantrum, did not go as planned however. And here we see the moment the tide turned:

In this moment, Janet Mock and Piers Morgan are historical actors playing out a dynamic centuries in the making. The most perfect possible embodiment of privilege in Western culture is desperately trying to reinforce the existing power structure by controlling the place of the most perfect possible embodiment of those denied privilege in Western culture.

A straight white man is trying to give advice to a black trans woman. And she doesn’t need it.

This is not historic because she said she doesn’t need his advice. It’s historic because she is telling the truth. She doesn’t need his advice. She can take care of herself, and by extension so can her community and anyone embodying difference.

If the tide turning was that rejection, the further evidence of receding waters was Mock’s appearance on Stephen Colbert.

He is no less comfortable with trans women than Piers Morgan, as has been revealed repeatedly in past jokes that clearly fall on the side of mockery rather than parody, but he’s self-aware enough to know his place in relation to such discomfort.

By siding with Janet Mock, with trans people in general, he acknowledged that his ignorance and confusion were his problem, and that one solution was openness. His response to the anxiety was humor. As another straight white man, he can only maintain his place in the system by knowingly making fun of it, which is the beginning of a shift. Humor is the truest signal of change because it acknowledges and accepts the inevitability of such change rather than fight it.

Tides do ebb and flow. We are still in the moment, and there will be more surges in all directions. It took centuries of resistance by countless people and movements to create this particular moment, and the wider one for trans people includes Stonewall, Sylvia Rivera jumping on stage at the Christopher Street Liberation Day Rally, Laverne Cox and Carmen Carrera’s appearance on Katie Couric’s show, and events yet to come.

There is still an incredible amount of work to be done, and none of this yet translates into a guarantee of safety for anyone embodying difference, much less other trans women of color. Nonetheless, an acknowledgment of the moment lends further support, and helps allow us to contextualize our actions.

The final proof of this shift in power came soon after the show aired. And though it can’t be attributed directly to the interview, the timing is far too auspicious not to get wrapped into the historical nature of the moment: Piers Morgan’s show was canceled.

Meanwhile, Redefining Realness is now a New York Times bestseller.

Jen Richards is the codirector of The Trans 100 and creator of We Happy Trans, a website dedicated to celebrating positive transgender experiences that has received national media attention, as well as the websites WTF Trans Dating,Trans Love Stories, the Chicago Trans News, and the Activism Facebook group. She’s the cohost of Sugar & Spice, an advice and news podcast, and organizer of No Boys Allowed, a group for trans feminine individuals in the Chicago area.

Another thing worthy of reposting: “Cis-to-Sis: An Open Letter to Janet Mock”

I was touched so deeply as I read this piece…Preston truly states so many things that we struggle with that others would have no idea about…because they are cis.  He gets it.

And can I just say that Janet is a true heroine, and courageous as hell…thank you girl!  You give me hope in my heart of hearts.

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Cis-to-Sis:  An Open Letter to Janet Mock

PRESTON MITCHUM PENS A FEW WORDS OF SOLIDARITY TO THE WRITER AFTER HER…UNCOMFORTABLE BRUSH-UP WITH CNN’S PIERS MORGAN

By PRESTON MITCHUM

 

Image result for janet mock 2014Janet Mock

“I was scared” continues to reverberate in my mind. All too often the LGBT community is not allowed to feel safe in spaces that society claims are available to us. But this article is not about sexual orientation. Quite frankly, it isn’t even necessarily about Piers Morgan. What it is, though, is an apology to you, Janet Mock, and the entire transgender community for cis people who simply refuse to acknowledge our undeserved privilege.

As I sit and write this article, Redefining Realness is positioned on the left-side of my dining room table while my last scoop of chocolate ice cream is on the right. Blankly staring at the words on this laptop, I am constantly reminded that transgender women, particularly transgender women of color, will have their identity challenged, criticized, and policed, even from alleged supporters. And for that Janet, I am sorry. I am sorry that you and your transgender sisters (of color) live in a world that simply will not allow you to navigate in a secure, affirming, and loving space free from cissexism, misogyny, transphobia, and racism.

Like many people following your career, I was intrigued by your path to womanhood, identity, and so much more. But it is the so much more that made me rip apart the book-shaped package delivered to my desk last week, hoping it would be my embarrassment of riches: your memoir. Your book connected with me immediately and though I am cisgender, what resonated with me was your path to finding yourself. This path to identity and self-love, I have learned, is a metaphysical dilemma but it is one we can conquer.

Janet, your book will save lives. And I am sorry that self-proclaimed allies may not be able to experience that just yet. As I watched your initial segment with Morgan, I couldn’t help but to think how you must have felt in that setting: a transgender woman of color ready to discuss your first book, while all Morgan wanted to discuss was his infatuation with your assignment-at-birth. Surely you and your transgender sisters are no stranger to this invasive line-of-questioning though. Just last month, in fact, Laverne Cox and Carmen Carrera were berated with media’s fixation of genitalia as if it is synonymous with or related to gender, gender identity, and gender expression.

I couldn’t help but imagine the “here we go again” mindset you must have had when Morgan began the interview with “this is the amazing thing about you: had I not known anything about your story, I would have had absolutely not a clue that you had ever been a boy, a male.” What troubled me was that he expected you to take this as a compliment – an ode to your ability to pass and operate throughout life as a “real woman”.

Janet, as you know, the more we focus on assignments-at-birth and preoccupy ourselves with transition and surgeries, the more oppression and discrimination faced by transgender people will continue to go uncovered. I can imagine you wanting to discuss how transgender people have complex and nuanced identities that go beyond gender. And I can even conceive you wanting to discuss your advocacy work regarding #girlslikeus, which has helped to save the lives of many young girls by elevating voices to ensure their visibility. But no, Morgan only wanted to mention disclosure to your boyfriend and sex reassignment surgery. And for that Janet, I am sorry. I am sorry that your lived experience was deduced to an old Maury Povich or Jerry Springer episode.

Even more, I am sorry that Morgan responded defensively on Twitter, claiming that he was disappointed in your tweets and accused you of “deliberately, and falsely, fueling some sense of [him] being ‘transphobic.’” What I learned from standing in solidarity with the transgender community is that sometimes, most times, it is best to remain silent and listen. In fact, I reckon only the worst “allies” attempt to place their feelings over those who they claim to stand in solidarity.

What frustrated me more than anything was the amount of cis heterosexual white patriarchal privilege that emanated from my television screen during Morgan’s interview of you. The problem is that no matter how much sense you made, Morgan was going to be the victim because society has taught him that he wins even when he loses. In his eyes, at least at that time, it was impossible to oppress a transgender woman of color since he has been supportive of past LGBT – or as he said, “gay” – concerns.

But if Morgan was really about supporting transgender women, he would not have constantly interrupted you, complained over his privileged feelings, told you what the transgender community should do, forced advice onto you regarding your vulnerability and fears, and blamed the transgender community and other supporters for the backlash of his initial interview with you.

Janet, you and the transgender community go through enough without constantly explaining “sex” versus “gender.” And while I understand it may be our jobs as advocates to educate, I also know it is aggravating to have our lives picked, prodded, and dissected. It is even more troublesome when you realize that your lives will be more scrutinized when you stand at the intersection of multiple identities. As I stared at the television screen, full of emotion and frustration, I couldn’t help but to examine the cissexism, misogyny, and racism pervasive throughout both interviews, though clouded with “I support you” language.

You are strong, Janet. Much stronger than I could be in that setting. Make no mistake, though, your interviews did teach me one valuable lesson: cis folk, myself included, have a long way to go before we can claim to fully stand in solidarity with the transgender community. Step one is learning when to remain silent.

Cis-to-Sis, Janet, we support you. Keep speaking your truth and redefining your realness!

Preston Mitchum is a civil rights advocate and policy analyst in Washington, DC. He has written for The Atlantic, Huffington Post, and Think Progress. Preston is obsessed with incorporating intersectional frameworks into laws and policies. Follow him on Twitter @PrestonMitchum.

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Janet Mock is an Amazing Woman

She is such a role model for me…she has truly transitioned.  What do I mean by that?  It seems to me that so many transwomen get lost in transition, and are actually a bit too fearful to ever really internalize for their own identity the fact that they truly are women and have made their way into the body they desire.  There is still life to be lived post transition!  There is a walk to be walked, there is a life to be lived, and a destiny to be actualized.

This is what I have been trying to sow into my own heart and spirit as each day passes.  Well, Janet inspires me sooo hugely!  She has really lived with courage and strength and yet with tenderness and vulnerability as well.  She is smart, cogent, beautiful and amazing.  She speaks well for us, and for anyone who wishes to learn about the experience of being a transwoman, read her amazing writing and learn.  I do each and every time I read.

Thanks Janet!

Love,

Charissa

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I’M A TRANS WOMAN, BUT PLEASE STOP ASKING ME ABOUT MY GENITALIA

Author and advocate Janet Mock breaks down Laverne Cox and Carmen Carrera’s appearance on Katie Couric’s talk show

By Janet Mock

Society, Career & Power

January 9, 2014

Aaron Tredwell

I don’t talk about my kitty cat with my friends. It never seems to come up when we’re gabbing about The Real Housewives or gagging over Beyonce’s “Partition” music video. But I—an unapologetic trans woman and writer—have been asked about my vagina (by people I do not know, mind you) more times than I can even recall.

Outrageously, trans people’s bodies have been open for public dissection since 1952 when Christine Jorgensen became the media’s first sex change darling, and in the 60 years since Jorgensen’s headline-making path to womanhood, journalists from Barbara Walters to Katie Couric are still asking the same tired questions about our bodies.

Related: Meet the Women of ‘Orange Is the New Black’

It’s stunning that legendary women have found themselves asking other women about their genitalia—in public. As I write in my upcoming memoir, Redefining Realness“Undergoing hormone therapy and genital reconstruction surgery are the titillating details that cisgender people love to hear.” (For the uninitiated, cisgender is nomenclature for those who are not trans, and therefore less likely to experience the misalignment of their gender identity and assigned sex at birth.) But these are “deeply personal steps I took to become closer to me, and I choose to share them.”

It’s about choice. We, as women, have the choice to invite people into our lives, into our struggles, and into our bodies. Consent is key here, and on Monday, model Carmen Carrera and Orange Is the New Black actress Laverne Cox wielded their agency during a joint appearance on Katie, the ABC daytime TV talk show hosted by Katie Couric, who posed the genitalia question–twice.

When Carrera was asked, “Your private parts are different now, aren’t they?” her response was simple: she shushed Couric on her own show. Like a bawse.

“I don’t want to talk about it; it’s really personal,” Carrera said, visibly and rightly uncomfortable by Couric’s gaze. “I’d rather talk about my modeling…There’s more to trans people than just [genitalia].”

What was interesting to me in this moment was that Carrera laid claim to her body. She’s danced in pasties in clubs across the country, on our TV screens in RuPaul’s Drag Race, and in two W magazine shoots with photographer Steven Meisel—but don’t get it twisted: Her body is not ours to dissect.

Related: ELLE Canada Features Transgendered Miss Universe Contestant Jenna Talackova

Couric backpedaled, stating that her question was not in vain, that it was more than just “peering interest,” yet she posed the same question to Cox when she took her seat beside Carrera in a glowing BCBG Max Azria sheath. Couric told Cox that Carrera “recoiled a little bit” at the “genitalia question” and that she wondered if she had “the same feeling about that as Carmen does.”

“I do,” Cox said, backing Carrera up. “I was so proud of Carmen for saying that…the preoccupation with transition and surgery objectifies trans people and then we don’t get to really deal with the lived experiences, the reality of trans people’s lives.”

Cox then broke it down for the journalist, serving Couric facts for days: Trans people face discrimination everywhere, from employment to the streets, where trans women, specifically those of color, disproportionately face brutal violence (Cox mentions the murder of Islan Nettles in New York City, giving the tragedy its highest media profile to date). The actress concludes by saying that our culture’s focus on bodies doesn’t allow us to zero in on trans people’s “lived realities of that oppression and that discrimination.”

And that was the moment in which, Couric, a TV veteran, had to “bow down” to the magnificence of Cox, leaving her with this throwaway statement: “You’re so well spoken about it.”

Let’s be clear though: This story is larger than Couric; it’s about our culture and its dehumanization of trans people’s bodies and identities. Because trans people are marked as artificial, unnatural, and illegitimate, our bodies and identities are often open to public dissection. Plainly, cisgender folks often take it as their duty to investigate our lives to see if we’re real.

Curiosity is vital to the growth of our society. It allows us to stretch our minds and learn more, which I truly believe was Couric’s intention: to educate her viewers. But curiosity and mere mystery objectifies and others those that are being gazed upon, pushing our most marginalized peers to defend their right to exist without the pervasive violation of the dehumanizing gaze of curiosity.

The real takeaway from this Katie appearance is the transformative power of solidarity and sisterhood, as exhibited by two successful women—two trans women, two women of color—at the top of their game. As Cornel West, someone Cox often quotes, said, “Justice is what love looks like in public,” and these two women loved one another in public.

Carrera and Cox applauded one another, gushing about how proud they are of the others’ success and how their various achievements help elevate the public’s perception of what’s possible for trans women. And it was this public showing ofsolidarity that actually flipped the media’s tired genitalia script when it comes to women and girls like us.

When Couric re-posed the question to Cox, even after being shut down by Carrera, to me, it seemed that the TV host was trying to pit the women against one another; instead, Cox said, she was “proud” of Carrera for not answering the question. It was like glorious choreography—again, I’m referencing Beyonce’s “Partition,” in which two women dance in unison against the ropes, moving together as a leopard-print spotlight silhouettes their bodies. Carrera and Cox are equals, partners, a team, and they produce something revolutionary: a new possibility for trans women.

And it’s a possibility model for us all.

Janet Mock is a writer and advocate, whose book Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More will be released February 4 by Atria Books. For more info visit JanetMock.com.

Read more: Janet Mock ‘Redefining Realness’ – Empowerment for Transgender Women – ELLE
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Read more: Laverne Cox and Carmen Carrera – News Treatment of Trans Women – ELLE
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Visit us at ELLE.com

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