Pierre R. Berastaín
Janet Mock, People.comStaff Editor and nationally renowned transgender activist, will give the keynote address at the Hispanic Black Gay Coalition’s 2012 LGBTQ Youth Empowerment Conference. The free conference, which takes place Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., educates and inspires LGBTQ youth of color under the age of 25 to use their ideas, knowledge, and skills so that they can create personal and social change.
Mock, a transgender woman of color, uses media as a platform to explore and challenge “society’s limited portrait of womanhood.” Her #GirlsLikeUs campaign empowers trans women to speak up and out about their experiences and lives.
With school back in session, the LGBTQ Youth Empowerment Conference is an important opportunity to create dialogue about what it takes to help LGBTQ youth of color be informed and aware of resources, make healthy and safe decisions about the way they live their lives, and feel supported by the greater community.
According to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network’s 2009 report “Shared Differences: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Students of Color in Our Nation’s Schools,” across all non-white racial and ethnic groups, sexual orientation and gender expression were the most common reasons LGBT students of color reported feeling unsafe in school. The report also highlights how verbal harassment, physical violence, and/or discrimination because of sexual orientation, gender expression, and/or race/ethnicity often have more negative effects on the classroom performance and overall attendance of LGBTQ youth of color than their white counterparts.
As a transgender woman of color, Mock understands and empathizes with the struggles LGBTQ-identified youth experience. “In my freshman year of high school, I began transitioning from Charles to Janet. So I had a choice to make. I could pretend to be something I was not, butch up and blend in with the crowd, or I could fight the hardest fight there is: stick out and live my truth and be my authentic self. I chose the latter.”