This past Tuesday, I along with another Shout Out blogger, thewanderingotter, attended UVA’s Pride Week event featuring guest speaker, Janet Mock. Yes, you read that correctly — JANET MOCK. I am still in disbelief that she came to little ol’ Charlottesville. Both “Wandering Otter” and I were convinced that a body double would show up instead. Despite our disbelief, it was her.
I am a fan of her work as a writer and anchor on her show, So Popular!, but I did not know what to expect. She runs in circles with icons like bell hooks and Barbara Smith, what conversation about feminism and trans issues has she not had? I became quite intimidated by her mind and what I had to offer in the conversation as an ally. I do not claim to be an expert on trans issues at all. As an ally, I think it is important to recognize your place, shut up and listen to the experiences of marginalized individuals and work alongside them for their rights. At one point, she discusses that it is the responsibility of the ally to, “take education upon yourself and not ask the marginalized people in your life to educate you.” At this point, “Wandering Otter” and I were clapping up a storm in the audience.
I assumed that her message would be directed towards valuing trans lives and I came in solidarity and appreciation. But I left with more wisdom than expected. As a college student with intersecting marginalization as a woman and a person of color, I often find difficulty feeling satisfied with my contributions in the fight to equality for all marginalized people. I look at individuals like Janet Mock and think, “Wow, that could be me one day.” But Mock said something that resonated with me and made me realize that there is no better time than the present.
She said, “My journalism is a form of activism.” This made think that there are various ways for me to contribute. I don’t need to have a famous blog, a television show, or tons of followers to produce and create awareness for marginalized people. I can make an impact by using my preferred medium to create socially conscious and empowering content and will simply be an added bonus when others notice my work. Through her praising of the twitter activism, I could tell that social media activism had a special place in Mock’s heart. She had an appreciation of grassroot movements and the discussions happening online between peers. Also, hearing that statement reminded me of how Mock starts her book, Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More, with a quote from Audre Lorde “You become strong by doing the things you need to be strong for. This is the way genuine learning takes place. That’s a very difficult way to live, but it also has served me. It’s been an asset as well as a liability.”
I often associate my work with my survival. Sometimes it is easier to use a creative outlet to express what cannot be said. While hearing Mock discuss her work as activism, I could only think that her work is also her way of survival. She needed to be strong to write a self-revealing memoir. Her memoir is for her as much as it is for the audience. I think the source of my intimidation was her honesty along with her intelligence. There are not many individuals that tell their story and journey publicly and basically say, “This is me.” Mock knew that she was opening her life to be critiqued, but her bravery enabled her to tell her story. Her bravery and vulnerability dares me to do the same. Tuesday evening with Janet Mock was an uplifting experience that the audience and I needed.