By Magan Magan
Well-known transgender activist Janet Mock gave a keynote speech at the Deakin Edge, Fed Square. Her speech left many of the audience members in awe. She spoke about writers Audre Lorde, James Baldwin, Barbara Smith and Bayard Rustin being responsible for her own consciousness. Janet’s shout out to current hip-hop sensation Cardi B (whose introduction to the world is different from her favourite writers) exemplified her connectedness to young people and contemporary rising talent.
2017 Melbourne Writers Festival used its platform to explore and unpack revolution and social justice. The themes are appropriate for the current political climate as a lot of debates and conversations have been taking place for some time now – much of which is about identity politics and the body.
When I found out Janet Mock was going partake in the festival and talk about visibility and voice, I knew she was going to play an important role in validating the transgender community and the transgender experience.
Janet spoke about the importance of story telling and said,‘Telling our story enables us to connect with ourselves’. I cannot think of anything more important than being able to be connected with us. When I started writing I wanted to understand my world and myself. I wanted to build a language pool that articulated what I felt as a result of my experiences in the world. It is a transformative process to be able to label our world. One of the most powerful moments in my life was when I understood my own subjectivity.
Being an object of society and moving to a visible subjective citizen is a process of going from having no choice to having choice. Janet reminds us of the power of telling her story and said to the audience, ‘choosing to tell my story made me bold’. The fight for self-determination is no doubt a fight about love. She reminds us about the trans body and how a society obsessed with erasing it speaks of the trans body. ‘People will talk about trans bodies but never talk about loving a trans body and what it means to love a trans body,’ she said.
The fight for social justice cannot be done if we do not take a concerted step at including stories we don’t understand. Janet Mock used the word intersectionality and spoke about the multiple forms of oppression LGBTQI people of colour experience, which was an apt reminder for us to stay away from complacency and to work on dismantling all forms of oppression.