Janet Mock, acclaimed author, transgender activist and advocate, visited Texas State April 5 to discuss her upcoming book and share her experiences with a room full of Bobcats.
Janet Mock began her career at People.com, and has since contributed to Entertainment Tonight, Marie Claire magazine, MSNBC and more. She produced HBO documentary “The Trans List” and wrote “Redefining Realness,” a 2014 New York Times Bestseller.
Mock entered the LBJ Student Center Teaching Theater around 7 p.m. for the Trailblazing Truth Teller event, and the audience gave her a standing ovation. Officers from Transcend at Texas State welcomed Mock to the stage, where she began discussing her upcoming book, “Surpassing Certainty.”
The book is a memoir about the experiences she encountered in her 20s. Atria Books will release “Surpassing Certainty” June 13.
“I was told trans memoirs don’t sell,” Mock said.
Similarly, Mock was told about all the things she couldn’t accomplish as a transgender, black woman. However, she tackled obstacles, rose to the occasion and defied those who doubted her.
She was born in Hawaii, which Mock called a very diverse place in terms of skin color and gender identities. Her hula teacher was a transgender woman, which gave Mock a sense of openness in order to be herself.
When Mock was in high school, she was in student council, participated in band and played on the volleyball team. Mock’s peers quickly adapted to her transition.
However, some school administrators “gave her hell” about her transgender identity. One faculty member blocked her access from the women’s bathroom and even told Mock what to wear.
“Her job was to protect all students, but the way she saw that was to protect all students from me,” Mock said.
Eventually, Mock transferred to a different high school where the administration was more accepting. She knows this process is not easy or applicable for all transgender youth considering their dropout rate.
“Young trans people are not dropping out of high school—they are being pushed out,” Mock said. “Their bodies are being policed.”
Mock said many people with privilege can stand up against these injustices.
“It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person if you have privilege, but you need to own and check and not be complicit in your privilege,” Mock said.
After more discussion, audience members were able to write questions on notecards for Mock to read and answer aloud. In response to a question, Mock said it is important for people with various gender identities to know they are enough.
“We need to be inclusive of the fact that people are struggling with their own experiences,” Mock said. “I’ve been there in terms of believing I could not achieve because of my identities and where I’ve been.”
However, she reminded those who are struggling they can surround themselves with people who will fight and advocate. Mock said it is always okay to ask for help.
After the discussion came to a close, Mock received another standing ovation while audience members rushed to get in line for the book signing. She signed copies, exchanged words and took photos with students who attended the event.
Skyller Walkes, event coordinator, said the discussion with Mock was authentic and celebrated every identity.
“This has been one the most incredibly beautiful and transformative experiences of my career and life,” Walkes said. “As an activist and a woman who is unapologetically black, this was an idea and vision that began in my office—and it took off.”
Dr. Clint-Michael Reneau, director of Disability Services, said having Mock speak on campus was important for the intersectionality of identities.
“We need to concentrate programming on trying to help students to see the whole pieces of their identity and who they are,” Reneau said.
Reneau said the Office of Disability Services worked with community and campus partners, wrote grants and proposals and collaborated with student organizations to bring Mock to the stage.
Alliance at Texas State, the Office of Equity and Access, the Hispanic Policy Network, the Multicultural Programs Committee, the College of Education and Transcend at Texas State all sponsored the event.
“We thought the message Mock brings is important and powerful to help students who might find themselves pressed into the margins,” Reneau said. “For many folks, she provided a sense of visibility about claiming a space at the table and allowing yourself into existence.”
For Christina Welch, psychology senior, Mock’s message of access and opportunity got through. She grew up in a conservative, Christian household where identifying as LGBTQIA was frowned upon.
While engaging in Mock’s discussion, Welch learned she doesn’t always have to explain her identity to others.
“I loved every part of the event,” Welch said. “It exceeded my expectations. She was very inviting, and it was a good experience.”
Welch said it is important for Texas State to have a wide variety of speakers on campus.
“It brings attention to people there who might not have been a part of the LBGTQIA community,” Welch said. “It’s great Mock uses her platform to do that and share her story.”