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USC Keynote Address
Interviewing Isis King
At this time a year ago, I felt trapped, inhibited by stories I had kept secret for so long. Maya Angelou frequently sang to me in bed, her voice so deep it shook my soul awake at night:
There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.
At this time a year ago, I was scared to utter words that are now intricately linked to my name in a simple Google search: Janet Mock, transgender woman.
At this time a year ago, I was secretly writing stories about my life and storing them away in files on my computer. Never to be read.
Now, I have published many of those stories on my own terms, unleashing them for any stranger to read. I’m no longer hidden. I’m a transparent woman with a story I’m proud to tell.
I’m open. I’m visible. I yearn to be seen.
What has 2011 taught me? It taught me that truth-telling will set you free. Because I let myself let go of the things that I felt held me back, I can now just be. I’m no longer bound or defined by the things that have happened to me. Because I tell my story, because I share what matters to me most, I have, which is still surreal to me, inspired other people, empowering them to become their dreams.
Janet, I want to let you know that you are a real inspiration to people who quite possibly cannot see living their lives with such openness. As the father of two, I hope that my kids grow up with lots of role models like you who have outed themselves for a greater purpose and to help others.
It honestly makes me so happy inside to know that through everything you’ve lived through and experienced that the possibility of living your dream isn’t impossible, and finding love like you have IS possible. I hope that I can experience love like that one day too! You deserve all the good in your life, and it’s only the beginning!
Janet You are so amazing!! I am the only trans woman who got accepted at my music conservatory to earn my Master’s in Opera Performance. When I see your work, you remind that it’s possible to be successful as a tran woman. You are stunning and I hope I reach that level success in all areas of my life!! Thank you for being YOU! ♥
You are a complete and total inspiration. You wouldn’t believe how popular your story has gotten on my campus. Your story touches the lives of everyone I have talked to: straight, gay, trans, etc. Your story is a story of unconditional love. In a world where true love is being doubted more and more, you have given hope to so many. I pray that God blesses me with a love even half as amazing as yours and I truly thank you and wish you and Aaron the best.
Even though I can’t identify with the specific struggles in your article I am definitely facing some of my own. And it is a true blessing to read how you have overcome those struggles (it gives me encouragement). Your words are inspiring…to say the absolute least. I also like the fact that you take time to respond to the posts…not many do that…it just shows how awesome you truly are :)
I always thought my transition story and being transgender held me back. I was scared of what other people would say about me. I was afraid that being who I was would not be enough. I was anxious that I’d be repeatedly attacked and bashed because of my journey. I acted from a place of fear and self-shame. I had internalized so much transphobia from society’s cues that it skewed the way I saw myself.
Then I realized after sharing my story, after making myself uncomfortable, after putting my truth out there in such an abundant way with only the intention to share from my most honest place, that most people didn’t attack me (yes there were many closed people who were intolerant). I was surprised that people didn’t only embrace my narrative, but they embraced me and saw themselves in my story.
I learned through the transformative power of storytelling that I am more than my transition and I am more than my experiences. I am all of it – and so much more. And I may have never discovered this if it weren’t for truth-telling.
I’ve come to realize that what has always inspired me was the quest for self-acceptance and ultimately self-love. I wanted to love and to be loved. And I have been blessed to have found that with Aaron. It is at his side that I feel most at home. He is the only person who sees me completely, the good and the bad, and still tells me that I am beautiful, that I matter and that I am loved.
It’s this core of love that enables me to be so open about my past and so open about my present. He is the man behind the camera: the one who talks to me with a microphone so the world can listen in; the one who makes me laugh just as he’s about to pull the trigger on his camera, immortalizing me at my best; and the one who is now following me with a camcorder to document our little love story to share it with others.
Aaron makes me better because he loves me openly and proudly, but more importantly because he has helped me love me more. And it is this relationship that continues to push me forward to tell the uncomfortable truths about my past and how they’ve shaped my present.
I know 2012 will bring forth the discovery of more truths. I am not Cinderella and my life has been no fairy tale but if my life and my love and my openness inspires others to act from their most honest core, I will continue truth-telling.
That’s my New Year’s resolution: to keep truth-telling.