Fuse is once again celebrating an extended Black History Month by looking at a variety of rising forces who are creating Future Black History before our eyes. Today we pay tribute to Janet Mock, trans activist, journalist, producer and New York Times bestselling author.
Born in Honolulu to an African American father from Texas and a native Hawaiian mother, Mock came out as transgender on a national stage at age 27 with the profound Marie Claire “as-told-to” article "I Was a Boy." Later calling out the headline's "glaring and harmful misgendering," Mock said she was motivated to do the piece as a way to "reach across my little space in this world and speak directly to young people who feel different and feel like outcasts and struggle with their bodies and endure the teasing and the bullying and the taunting."
Mock's space isn't so little anymore, and her efforts have been demonstrably potent and focused since. In 2012 Mock led the #GirlsLikeUs hashtag, a crowd-sourced wellspring of empowerment for trans women; the year after, #TransBookDrive, a partnership with LGBT Books to Prisoners. She torched the always-in-need-of-torching Piers Morgan for sensationalizing her in a tone-deaf TV interview. She published Redefining Realness: My Path To Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More. In 2016, Mock—who holds a master's in journalism from NYU—profiled DeRay Mckesson in The Advocate and Nicki Minaj in Marie Claire.
Last year Mock also produced and conducted the 11 interviews for the HBO special The Trans List, featuring Laverne Cox, Alok Vaid-Menon, Caitlyn Jenner, Shane Ortega, Bamby Salcedo, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy and more. This June 13 she will release Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me, part of which will center on her first love, also "the first person to whom she truly opens up, the first person to witness her embrace her natural hair, and the first person to provide for her in ways that her parents failed to do."
As a sophomore in high school, Mock—born Charles—introduced her peers, family and community to Janet. “All I had, you know, growing up—I grew up poor, I grew up as a black child in communities that are already suffering,” she would go on to tell Oprah Winfrey. “And so the only resource I had was my truth, was myself. That’s the one thing I could control in the world, is to present and be who I knew I was.”
At the D.C. Women’s March on Jan. 21 (where Future Black History Month artist Janelle Monáe also gave an incredible speech), Mock spoke out for the myriad women whose control over their bodies continues to be endangered in America and beyond:
“My sisters and siblings are being beaten and brutalized, neglected and invisibilized, extinguished and exiled. My sisters and siblings have been pushed out of hostel homes and intolerant schools. My sisters and siblings have been forced into detention facilities and prisons and deeper into poverty. And I hold these harsh truths close. They enrage me and fuel me. But I cannot survive on righteous anger alone. Today, by being here, it is my commitment to getting us free that keeps me marching.
Our approach to freedom need not be identical, but it must be intersectional and inclusive. It must extend beyond ourselves. I know with surpassing certainty that my liberation is directly linked to the liberation of the undocumented trans Latina yearning for refuge. The disabled student seeking unequivocal access. The sex worker fighting to make her living safely. Collective liberation and solidarity is difficult work, it is work that will find us struggling together and struggling with one another. Just because we are oppressed does not mean that we do not ourselves fall victim to enacting the same unconscious policing, shaming, and erasing. We must return to one another with greater accountability and commitment to the work today."
In 2015, Mock married Aaron Tredwell, a photographer. “The whole day,” she went on to write, “was a statement on the transformative power,of being seen for who you really are and being loved not despite your past and experiences but because of it.”