Trans Visibility

Diversity Highlighted: The Advocate

Diversity Highlighted & Substantial Change Followed

It was a cold day in January and I was cooking dinner when a beautifully attractive black woman with gorgeous hair caught my eye. She was being interviewed on CNN’s Pierce Morgan by Morgan himself. Beyond her good looks she was professional, educated and had a great laugh. As I shut off the stove and turned my focus to the show I learned that the woman was speaking from the narrative of trans women of color. My lower jaw was now on the floor and I was shouting at the TV, as Morgan was about to break for commercial, “what’s her name… what’s her name..” As the camera zoomed in on Morgan he said, “We will be right back to continue our conversation with NY Times Best Selling Author: Janet Mock.” I had her name! 

In less than thirty seconds I had pulled her up on my iphone, by googling "Janet Mock," and found her book. I liked her on Facebook and spent hours researching her work. I decided I would purchase her book and read to fulfill my New Year's resolution. Redefining Realness was my obsession. 

I rushed to Barnes and Noble's bookstore the next day and purchased the book. I immediately began reading the book that evening. Her stories kept me flipping pages until 1:30 in the morning. I continued reading the book for the following four nights. The book was so great, I could not skip a night. There were multiple reason how I connected with the book. Advocating for transgender rights is my passion, I love the Hawaiian culture (Janet is multi-cultural, she is half Hawaiian), and the book is educational and entertaining. At the time I was the current President of Allies, Los Medanos College’s LGBT & Allies organization and a senator on LMCAS: Los Medanos Associated Students. After receiving information through the online social media site, Face book, and I found out that Janet was coming to visit the SF LGBT Community Center. She was going to read her book, and sign them. I tried to get a group of students to go to see her with me. I was unsuccessful; nonetheless, I ended up going by myself. Other students did not have the resources or the finances to meet me in the city. This got my creative and strategic mind working and I came up with this idea that maybe I could bring Janet Mock to Los Medanos College! Then I thought to myself, “no, this would be too difficult, too expensive, and too ambitious.” Here is the thing, when my mind whispers this to me, then I know I must make it happen.  The idea was born!

First, I reached out to Janet via Facebook, and I have to say that the power of social media is amazing. I personal messaged her letter explaining the aforementioned and she responded right away with her agent information. The rest is history. I became the Chair of the Janet Mock Committee and contracts were signed between LMCAS and Mock her. The date was set: September 13, 2014. We decided to have an Elevating Diversity Conference with sexual and gender identify as the main focus. The planning committee planned the event over the summer and I focused on the moderated discussion that would happen between her and me for one hour at the end of the conference.

The day feels like a big blur to me because I was the leader and the time went by extremely fast to me. I did not sleep for three days leading up to September 13. I was experiencing panic attacks and my level of fear of failure was at a level I had never experienced before! I was terrified. I was terrified because I did not want the first ever student lead conference to be a big embarrassment for myself, our college, or Janet Mock herself. I remember the night before, insomnia taking hold and my mind worrying about everything, thinking about what I will do if no one shows up. I am glad to report that the motto, “if you build it, the people will come” worked in my favor for this event or perhaps it was the execution of planning that yielded success. Either way, I was happy that the event was deemed a success. The college newspaper, The Experience, wrote a great article,  "Diversity Highlighted," on the success of the event. 

I was able to spend a lot of time with Janet over the two days. The first day I picked her up at the airport and spend quality time with her and she was amazing. This put me at ease, being she a celebrity and all, to overcome me being “star struck.” I still had, like I always do, anxiety because I had to moderate a one hour discussion with Janet in front of a crowd and in front of the college administration.

It would be a lie if I told you that I wasn’t nervous. I was so nervous that I didn’t remember the answers she was giving on the spot; rather, I was in my head thinking of the next question to ask. I had to do a lot of preparing for this because there are high expectations of what is appropriate to ask and what is not appropriate to ask a trans person during an interview. You see, Morgan came under fire by Janet and the transgender community because he sensationalized the fact that she “used to be a boy, and now is a girl.” There is a label for this line of rapid fire questioning called “trans 101.” Therefore, I had to ensure I stayed clear of these questions. 

Thankfully I did, and it meant a lot to me to get a text from Janet that congratulated me on how the conversation went “swimmingly.” I really enjoyed how Janet answered my question, “Do you think it would have been different if you spent your teenage/young adult life in Oakland versus Honolulu?” She talked about exactly what I hoped she would: acceptance of “mahu” in Hawaiian culture, and how “there would be no me without Hawaii.” 

That night I was invited to have dinner with Janet Mock. Not only did I follow through on my 2014 New Year’s Resolution, organize and plan the first ever student lead conference at Los Medanos College. I was able to make a dream come true for, not only myself, but many students as well. 

Subsequently, the College President, Bob Kratochvil, met with me to talk about instituting gender-neutral restrooms in the science building. He was extremely moved by the transgender students stories about the stressful affects on their academic, personal and social lives when cannot safely use the restrooms. Within a month or so, the two binary restrooms were convert into ALL gender restrooms! This was a huge victory for transgender human rights. New equality standards were implemented to ensure student equity on campus. Moreover, the administration committed to strategically place gender neutral restrooms on campus whenever a new building is built on campus in the future.  


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