Posted May 25, 2016 by Cooper Point Journal in Campus Life

Janet Mock in Conversation with Talcott Broadhead

Mock Comes to Evergreen for T*REX’s Queer-Trans Week

by Danny Loose

On Saturday, May 21 feminist writer and media critic Janet Mock sat down with local writer and activist Talcott Broadhead for a conversation to conclude Evergreen’s first ever Queer Week. Queer Week was organized by Trans Resource & Education Extravaganza (T*REX), and included other talks Aydian Dowling and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, in addition to panels on transitioning, a trans student bike ride, and bowling at the West Side Lanes.

Mock’s arrival came at a time in which the wake of numerous bias incidents and assaults on which led to students calling for a more active participation on behalf of the institution to protect and create prosperous environment for queer, trans, and students of color. Mock touched on a bevy of issues regarding intersections of identity during the hour and a half talk, taking questions from the audience and Talcott.

Janet Mock has recently re-entered the public eye after her critique of theorist Bell Hooks’ thinkpiece on Beyoncé’s new visual album “Lemonade” being rooted in internalized femmephobia. Mock spoke about the ways her critique response has been misconstrued as “feminist beef” as it had passed through sensationalist click-baiting. Mock said her and Hooks maintain a personal relationship that engages in healthy debate, however, the two regularly diverge views on femme-ness and autonomy. This then opened up a larger discussion on femmephobia at large, and the ways in which femme empowerment is often criticized as attention-seeking without understanding it as an act of self-preservation.

The conversation was introduced by the very adorable Dot Broadhead, the subject of Talcott’s book “Meet Polkadot”. Talcott spoke at length about raising a transfemme child and the ways they grapple with letting their child be autonomous in a world that treats femmes as property and sexualizes young girls. Broadhead articulated this sensitive topic well, but spoke disproportionately for someone who was in charge of facilitating a conversation with a guest speaker.

The temperature of the crowd began to rise when the topic turned more directly to race. Some seemed specifically uncomfortable with the space Broadhead’s took up in the conversation, while simultaneously discussing the space white people take up in discourse surrounding race in academic settings. At one point an audience member even called out “we want to hear what Janet has to say” after a sustained period of Broadhead speaking.

Broadhead cited that much of the responsibility for taking care of people of color in academic spaces falls squarely on faculty whose employment does not account for that emotional labor, echoing notes of a public post made by Evergreen professor Naima Lowe regarding the ways she has made herself available to students of color in the wake of so much recent anti-black violence on campus. This awkwardly put Lowe into the same position that Broadhead was just critiquing: asking a black person to explain the emotional labor of teaching white people about racism, when that is not their job. It was at this point that the crowd became increasingly uncomfortable Janet stated that in this point in her career she no longer will be taking the time and labor in explaining racism to white people, drawing snaps and positive comments from the crowd.

Janet was asked a few questions ranging from complicated questions regarding capitalism and transmisogyny, the intersections of her identity as a native hawaiian and trans woman, and what breed of dog she owns. Being in proximity to such a relevant critical figure in pop culture’s burgeoning moment of familiarizing itself with queer and trans representation was really quite a treat that I feel extremely enriched by the experience, but I hope that in the future Evergreen students take advantage of the opportunity and further engage with the work of guest speakers. Overall, while Talcott as a visible Olympia trans activist and member of the “Redefining Realness” street team makes sense as a facilitator, I hope next time a talk with a trans woman of color is hosted by Evergreen it could be facilitated by another trans femme of color to make sure that discourse centers around those who deserve it most. All in all the experience of seeing Janet Mock was highly empowering and an enriching experience and the event served as a good model for ways in which Evergreen can improve discourse surrounding intersectional identity.