My garden of peace is a potential space, one that does not existence yet. That garden is one where we can love and be ourselves without fear or censorship. I strive for the day when such a garden permanently exists. Until that day, I feel/connect/heal alongside those people in this community who share the same dream as I.
Being at CMU the evening of Tuesday, April 8th afforded a rare opportunity: to meet and hear one of the prominent voices of an entire movement speak – that voice belonged to writer, activist, and trans woman, Janet Mock. In December of 2012, my brother-in-law introduced me to Janet Mock when he found an article Janet had written about coming out as trans to her boyfriend, Aaron Tredwell. I had been struggling a lot at that time to find a fulfilling relationship where I could openly be trans. Janet spoke freely about the struggles we face in finding a partner and how being a marginalized and oft-ignored segment of society compounds that difficulty. I knew that being trans can make relationships hard, but Janet really demonstrated that it is possible. Janet has been with her partner for over five years now. Moreover, she showed me that you can be who you are, live it loudly, AND still be loved and supported, even by a cisgender heterosexual man.
“All hail the goddess!” I say!! Janet was a living example of what else is possible for our community last Tuesday night: sharing our stories…and sharing them proudly. In the wake of her best-selling autobiography, Redefining Realness, Janet has embarked on a book tour, which thankfully brought her here to Pittsburgh (thank you CMU AND Garden of Peace Project for that!).
In her book, Janet speaks with blunt honesty about the challenges she faced in affirming her identity as a trans woman of color in a world that simply does not give a face or voice to women like her. Since Janet chose to break her silence and become visible, she has enabled so many people to have conversations about what gender is and who gets to dictate who we are. She ventures that is we, as individuals, define who we are—not what society or the media say we are. I could not agree more!
I had the opportunity to meet and connect with Janet prior to the event. She was as gracious, warm, and lovely in person as she is in the media. But where she really shined was in the question-and-answer discussion that followed before a packed auditorium. Janet’s background as a writer was evident in her command of language as she detailed the overarching issues facing trans people today (discrimination, marginalization, employment challenges due to contradicting gender markers on identification, lack of access to healthcare, etc.). Additionally, she was able to vocalize the nuances of the trans-experience in a way that I have not heard so well-articulated up to date. Perhaps such an articulate voice can really help the world understand that trans issues are human issues, just as worthy of respect and dignity, as any other human issue.
On Tuesday night, I swelled with hope and pride watching Janet Mock from my seat in the audience. As a person that rarely finds inspiration externally, I was absolutely inspired by her. She was so willing to be her, to put it out there, and to engage in life whole-heartedly. And, I know that by her presence and her message, she is changing the very landscape for trans people everywhere. I never thought that I would see a time where real change like this was possible. I never imagined that the trans community could approach a moment where our faces could be recognized, validated, and, perhaps, even celebrated. While the journey to that place is definitely not yet complete, it is infinitely closer thanks to the work of this one brave, astonishing woman. So thank you, from me and from all of your grateful community, Janet, for everything you are doing. Our world is better place because of you!
Garden of Peace Project strives to empower individuals to explore their Self and we believe that each person should have one place where they can go to connect, feel vulnerable, heal, and where they feel most at “home” -- their garden of peace. Where do you find your garden of peace?