In her career as a journalist, Janet Mock has hosted shows for MSNBC, written a best-selling memoir, founded the #GirlsLikeUs social media movement and become one of the most influential trans women in the country. Her accomplishments and advocacy have made her a role model for other trans people everywhere, and Mock is proud to be a much-needed mirror that young girls can look up to. However, she also says that there’s an irony in her successes.
“I can’t ignore the fact that my experience and my success is way outside the norm,” Mock said during a talk for OWN’s “SuperSoul Sessions” speaker series. “Way outside the norm.”
While Mock certainly struggled to live in her truth and find support when she was younger, other trans women lack even the most basic necessities that many of us take for granted.
“Many of my sisters are grappling with homelessness and joblessness, and a lack of access to health care and education,” Mock said. “This deep space of lack pushes them out of hostile homes and intolerant schools and into the streets and prisons, and deeper into poverty.”
Complicating this cycle is the general reaction of the public to those who are seen as “different.”
“We as a society often ignore them, because we are afraid of difference,” Mock said. “So we push those who are unlike us away. We push the ‘others’ out of our scope of vision, away from our reality.”
Instead, society focuses on the few, like Mock, who are held up as living icons. Or, as she put it, “tokens.”
“We create and hold up tokens, rare examples of marginalized people who have made it, who we applaud, who alleviate us of our guilt and our shame and our burden,” Mock said. “And I know firsthand of what it means to be a token. To be reduced to one aspect of my identity and never fully seen.”
That’s all anyone everyone wants, she added: to be fully seen. However, it’s an emotional, uphill battle for many who are simply viewed as “other.” And within this realm, the playing field is not equal.
“The great irony of my success is that it deludes many into believing my success is possible for all those girls,” Mock said, her emotions surfacing. “The reality is, it is not. Just because I clicked my heels and I made it out of Oz doesn’t mean everyone can.”
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