Janet Mock speaks at Commons Day on Oct. 16 in the Island Federal Credit Union Arena. The Commons Day seminar is a yearly event for first-year students in which the author of that year’s reading requirement comes and speaks to students and staff. GABBY PARDO/THE STATESMAN

On Oct. 16, Stony Brook University hosted its annual Commons Day seminar for first-year students with guest speaker, writer and transgender rights activist, Janet Mock. Commons Day is a yearly event in which the author of the first-year reading requirement comes and speaks to students and staff. Her autobiography, “Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More,” spoke about the struggles Mock endured throughout her journey of discovery and transition into a woman. Mock showcased the key parts of her life, like growing up in Hawaii, meeting her best friend Wendi Miyake and moving to New York; all of this molded her into the strong, confident woman she is today. Her autobiography discussed topics about shaping identity and speaking your truth, which touched the hearts of her readers and made her speech even more enjoyable. 

The Q&A with Mock was a gratifying experience that invited the audience to connect more with her journey. Mock brought her story to life, making the reading of her book both resonant and powerful. Her raw voice allowed a distant narrator to come to life — a real woman with a personality just as intimate as her writing style. 

Mock was asked a series of questions by Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, Charles L. Robbins, DSW. She took her story and expanded upon it in ways that related to her life, describing how her past experiences helped define who she is today. She spoke about how she had to pave her own path in life and find the courage to speak her truth. Mock began writing her memoir only for herself and took joy in it because she found comfort in reflecting and telling her story. She then was courageous enough to tell the world about her private thoughts and ideas. At the time “Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More” was published, there were very few people in the media who were members of the LGBTQ community. She was afraid of the backlash that she would receive for being trans during a time when the workplace was not as accepting as it is today and believed that she was “sacrificing by speaking up” about her story. 

“I was kind of searching for someone who looked like me, who had my experiences and after a while, I was like, you have to do it,” Mock said. She saw the struggles that many people like her were “fearful of telling their story.” Mock says that speaking her truth has really changed her career since she would become a beacon of light for those who were going through similar situations. She decided that she had to be a role model who she needed as a child and step forward to fulfill that role for future generations. 

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Another main focus of Mock’s interview was gender politics and its relationship in the media. Mock, alongside Executive Producer Ryan Murphy, is currently producing a show, “Pose,” which includes a diverse cast and an intriguing plot that will captivate anyone that decides to watch it. Mock said that people would often state that she was the first trans woman of color to land herself in the successful position she has today. “I am the first trans person, period, to have this kind of a deal,” she said. Mock rose to success during a time when openly gay and trans people were ostracized simply for living their truth. She was able to pave a path for herself and earn her reputation as a highly successful writer and producer while embracing her struggles and identity.

Being able to hear Mock’s story on Commons Day was worthwhile. “Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More” is a great read, and I can confidently say that after attending Mock’s interview, I have a much bigger appreciation for her. Mock’s wit and confidence kept her audience intrigued and entertained as she passionately spoke about the topics she was dedicated to. She is a spokeswoman for being your “unapologetic self” and embracing every aspect of it. 

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