Janet Mock | Reflections on MWF keynote address

September 2, 2017
Janet Mock

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia


It was Thursday night and, unlike my usual routine of getting into my pyjamas with a cup of tea and relaxing on the couch, I was getting ready to catch the train into Fed Square to hear Janet Mock deliver her keynote address at Melbourne Writers Festival (MWF).

For those of you who may not know who Janet Mock is or who haven’t come across her incredible form of activism before, this video is a great starting point:

As Janet mentions in this video, it is up to every individual to educate themselves if they want to be an effective trans ally, so I really encourage you to get into a YouTube spiral of watching Janet’s videos – there’s no end to their value and fabulousness!

But back to MWF for now. As I said, it was a cold Melbourne evening and as I ventured away from my warm and cosy living room, I was feeling tired and uninspired.

“I feel open and safe in my books because I trust my readers.” – Janet Mock

I walked into the warm and welcoming space at Deakin Edge and sensed a close community, gathering together – that feeling just continued to embrace me throughout the next 60+ minutes.

Janet Mock Melbourne Writers Festival

Janet Mock delivered her honest and uplifting keynote address which focused on voice and visibility as a trans woman of colour and I was so engaged and charmed by her conviction that I could have listened to her talk for many more hours.

“Trans women are women. Trans men are men. Trans people are exactly who they say they are.” – Janet Mock

Janet shared some of her own story and graciously shared her experiences of being a trans woman of colour in modern day America. She shared the books that have been most important and influential in her life, giving specific credit and thanks to the black women writers who came before her.

Janet Mock’s recommended reads:

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Sula by Toni Morrison

This Bridge Called my Back by Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua

Redefining Realness by Janet Mock

The Colour Purple by Alice Walker

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Borderlands/La Frontera by Gloria Anzaldua


Janet concluded her keynote address with advice on how we can all be better ally’s to the trans community. This element was a powerful call to action and is something we should all remind ourselves of over and over again.

One point that particularly stuck out for me was when Janet spoke about how the trans community in the US were treated by the wider LGBTIQA+ community once they achieved marriage equality. Rather than harnessing powers of protest, the community seemed to think that all the discrimination had ended and there was no more work to be done. Of course, this completely erases issues of intersectionality within the queer community and this, considering where Australia is currently at with fighting our own marriage equality laws, is something I, as a cis-gendered, white queer person, want to be much more aware of as we see out these reforms in our country.

Janet Mock and Benjamin Law at Melbourne Writers Festival

Photo courtesy of Adam Staples

“So many of us in this room belong to a generation that is far more diverse and committed to telling stories that matter” – Janet Mock

It was such a pleasure to attend Janet Mock’s keynote address and, I should mention, Benjamin Law did a fantastic job as the host for the evening – giving a wonderful welcome to country that gave specific gratitude, thanks and respect to queer Indigenous Australians.

I left MWF feeling inspired, motivated and having gained so much from Janet’s wisdom and experiences and I feel so privileged to have been able to attend and share this re-cap with you all. Happy MWF x

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