Activist Janet Mock Rocks Simmons

February 19, 2014

Janet Mock

New York Times best selling author and fierce trans advocate, Janet Mock, presented her keynote address in honor of Black History Month.

On Thursday, February 20th, the Simmons campus was thrilled to welcome the New York Times best selling author and fierce trans advocate, Janet Mock, to present her keynote address in honor of Black History Month.

There was excitement -- and lots of finger-snapping -- in the air as students, faculty, staff, and members of the greater Boston community crowded into the Linda K. Paresky Conference Center to hear Mock's sold-out speech. This popular event was organized by a coalition of student organizations, including the BSO, Like Minds Coalition, PRSSA, and SWAG on behalf of the Simmons Palooza, Multicultural Affairs/Dean of Student Life's Office, Dean of CAS and BAFAS.

Sarah Neil, Vice President of Student Affairs/Dean of Students noted, "Students are at the center of everything we do and their interests and ideas are deeply valued. Students, after all, are essential contributors to community dialogue on important issues of the day. They challenge all of us to consider alternative viewpoints, realities and lived experiences. The Janet Mock program is a shining example of that."

Mock's keynote address detailed the struggles of early trans women of color such as Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, remarking that in Rivera's lifetime, she was never invited to give a keynote. Mock concluded her speech with a reading from her book, Redefining Realness, describing her experience living as a young trans girl in Hawaii.

Mock first made headlines when she declared her identity as a trans woman in her 2011 profile in Marie Claire magazine. Since then, Mock has created the #GirlsLikeUs Twitter campaign, which encourages trans women to share their experiences openly and honestly. Most recently, Mock was featured on the Colbert Report to discuss her controversial and widely discussed Twitter fight with CNN talk show host, Piers Morgan. Mock credited her current media visibility to her willingness to break the constraints of silence that many trans women of color believe is essential to their safety.

The talk was followed by a rich Q&A session. One student wondered how doctors can be more respectful of the unique challenges of being transgender. Another, an aspiring teacher, asked how she could create the most supportive environment for the children who will one day be in her classroom.

Mock shared experiences from her life to highlight the need to treat trans people with discretion, sensitivity, and above all to be guided by the way each person chooses to self-identify.

While waiting in line to get her book signed, sophomore student Kristen said, "Listening to Janet Mock was inspirational; she's a great woman to follow. While reading Redefining Realness I've become really in touch with myself, and I think listening to authors like her is very important for me and for other students. I look up to her so much!"

As Black History month draws to a close, we reflect on the importance of events and speakers that open our minds to support and respect. Dee Moore, sophomore and Vice President of the Like Minds Coalition said, "Simmons should prioritize hosting events like this. We, as a community, should remain dedicated to listening and learning from people who differ from ourselves. I think speakers like Janet Mock challenge us to reevaluate what our perceptions and prejudices are, and that is crucial to creating a more just and equitable Simmons community and Boston community at large."