Cis-to-Sis: An Open Letter to Janet Mock

From Ebony:

Preston Mitchum pens a few words of solidarity to the writer after her…uncomfortable brush-up with CNN’s Piers Morgan

By Preston Mitchum
February 11, 2014

I was scared” continues to reverberate in my mind. All too often the LGBT community is not allowed to feel safe in spaces that society claims are available to us. But this article is not about sexual orientation. Quite frankly, it isn’t even necessarily about Piers Morgan. What it is, though, is an apology to you, Janet Mock, and the entire transgender community for cis people who simply refuse to acknowledge our undeserved privilege.As I sit and write this article, Redefining Realnessis positioned on the left-side of my dining room table while my last scoop of chocolate ice cream is on the right. Blankly staring at the words on this laptop, I am constantly reminded that transgender women, particularly transgender women of color, will have their identity challenged, criticized, and policed, even from alleged supporters. And for that Janet, I am sorry. I am sorry that you and your transgender sisters (of color) live in a world that simply will not allow you to navigate in a secure, affirming, and loving space free from cissexism, misogyny, transphobia, and racism.

Like many people following your career, I was intrigued by your path to womanhood, identity, and so much more. But it is the so much more that made me rip apart the book-shaped package delivered to my desk last week, hoping it would be my embarrassment of riches: your memoir. Your book connected with me immediately and though I am cisgender, what resonated with me was your path to finding yourself. This path to identity and self-love, I have learned, is a metaphysical dilemma but it is one we can conquer.

Janet, your book will save lives. And I am sorry that self-proclaimed allies may not be able to experience that just yet. As I watched your initial segment with Morgan, I couldn’t help but to think how you must have felt in that setting: a transgender woman of color ready to discuss your first book, while all Morgan wanted to discuss was his infatuation with your assignment-at-birth. Surely you and your transgender sisters are no stranger to this invasive line-of-questioning though. Just last month, in fact, Laverne Cox and Carmen Carrera were berated with media’s fixation of genitalia as if it is synonymous with or related to gender, gender identity, and gender expression.

I couldn’t help but imagine the “here we go again” mindset you must have had when Morgan began the interview with “this is the amazing thing about you: had I not known anything about your story, I would have had absolutely not a clue that you had ever been a boy, a male.” What troubled me was that he expected you to take this as a compliment – an ode to your ability to pass and operate throughout life as a “real woman”.

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