Friday, July 08, 2011

Janet Mock is a Woman Because She Knows She's a Woman

About two weeks ago, Afrobella got an exclusive interview with Janet Mock (The Afrobella Inverview--Janet Mock). She's the woman of color who recently had a feature in Marie Claire magazine called "I Was Born a Boy". The interview was wonderful. My hair type is a lot different from Ms. Mock, so many of her beauty tips don't apply to me, but her graceful and determined attitude absolutely inspired me just as it did when I read the article in Marie Claire.

I read through the comments on Afrobella and they were, for the most part, really respectful. However, my mood soured a bit when I read what one commenter wrote.
"I think this story is nice and Janet is very beautiful! Her hair is amazing! However, as a woman of God I must ask the question…When a person decides to change their gender,isn’t that saying God was wrong when HE created you? Do not get me wrong I’m not saying she’s the devil oh her soul is doomed…etc..etc. I just want to know what people think."
It really bothered me for several reasons. I didn't like the fact that she posed this question to other cis* commenters, instead of directing it to the person she was talking about. Secondly, I am not sure what God she's referring to, but I do know that that term "woman of God" is used almost exclusively by people in Christendom. I've read the Bible and see nothing that legitimizes her claim that she has to question anyone's gender or relationship with their Creator. Lastly, the "I'm not saying she's the devil.." part irked my nerves. Why even bring that up if that's NOT what you're implying?

Of course, I responded. Being a person of faith, I wanted to express my view so that anyone who read through it wouldn't be led to believe that the views of the commenter represented the thoughts of everyone who also consider themselves people of faith. I'm blogging my comment, because it's something that I'd like others who don't visit Afrobella to understand.

God made our bodies. He did not make our gender. Gender is a social construct, like race. Some Black women have café au lait-colored skin and others have dark mocha-colored skin and some have skin the color of bittersweet chocolate. Yet all are Black. Likewise, some women are trans and some women are cis. It's no denial of God to recognize that not all women look the same nor do all men look the same.

It's not the body parts that make a person a man or a woman. If it was, then what do we call someone without a uterus or without breasts? Would not having these parts mean you're not a woman? What if you have MORE parts than what most people expect a woman to be born with? I have three nipples. Yeah, that's right. I said THREE. Now, here's where it gets even more complicated: Due to cancer, I had chest surgery. It left me with one complete breast and about half of one on the other side.

Well, what does that make me? The answer is: It doesn't make me anything. I am a woman regardless of what my body looks like. My body needn't conform to how some people think that a woman should appear. No matter what anyone else has to say about my body (e.g. "That looks disgusting!"; "How did you get those fat keloid scars across your chest?"; "If I had to go through all of that, I'd kill myself!"), I am a woman and God loves me for who I am, not because of what gender I consider myself or because of what my body looks/looked like at some point in my life.

The same is true of Ms. Mock. She's a woman, because she knows she's a woman. During the period of slavery in America, the womanhood of people of color was denied, because of how we looked. We weren't white and, in the eyes of the ruling majority, that meant we didn't have what it takes to be considered real women. They didn't even consider us people! They even used the Bible as justification for this view.

But WE always knew what and who we were. It took a long time for this society to accept what we already knew. Eventually it became apparent that their self-serving interpretation of the Bible was bogus. If history is any clue, we are now in a period where people who identify as trans* are taking the same steps that people of color had to take to in order to be acknowledged for what and who we were.

I'm saddened that some of our sisters are still forced to fight for their right to call themselves women. I know one thing for sure, in the Bible, Jesus was ALWAYS on the side of the downtrodden and oppressed. I don't think I could call myself a follower of Jesus or a woman of God if I didn't take the same stance and stand in support alongside our sisters who are trans.