OUT Magazine May “Storytellers” issue features a conversation between Ellen Page and Janet Mock, as well as two interviews with Jill Soloway and Lydia Polgreen. Page and Mock’s discussion circulates around the power of telling a personal narrative when it’s able to connect with people everywhere.
Page opens by saying she recently read Mock’s book Surpassing Certainty, and commends her on her generosity towards people who were unaccepting or unable to understand her transition, which took place through middle and high school. Mock comments that she always felt she had a unique experience in that she was able to experiment as a young adult without her gender identity “leading the way” because of that early process, but it wasn’t a feeling that lasted:
I know that being able to “pass” was this huge privilege that had enabled me to not have my trans-ness and my womanhood checked in every space. I know that’s unique for a lot of folks. But it is a story that I know so well because when I did decide to step forward and tell my story for the first time publicly in 2011, I got lots of emails from women who told me that they still never found the space to be out, that they would never, ever reveal that they were trans.
They were taught, as I was taught, to move on with your life after you transition and just leave your “becoming” behind you. And I struggled for a long time, for many years, as a young professional, physically working in mainstream media as an editor at People. I was scared that if I came out, I would only ever be able to tell trans stories.
Mock asks Page about her experience confronting Ted Cruz during his campaign about LGBTQ rights, and they discuss the difficulties in talking to people who don’t seem sincerely interested in building a bridge towards understanding. Page says she has had similar conversations while filming her show for Viceland, Gaycation:
I have found when we interview certain people for the show who are very much anti-LGBT, there just doesn’t seem to be an openness to really want to listen. So I think it was an opportunity to talk to someone who was infamously anti-LGBT and for some reason dedicates a lot of time [to that] in their political career. I guess how I feel about it now is: We tried. I wanted to just try to engage and even have a bit of a conversation or bring some connection to it.
Both women are engaging with the power of storytelling and grappling with its limitations in culture.
“I could write this story or this op-ed,” says Mock, “But there’s a whole segment of the world that I believe needs to read this story that never will because we don’t overlap in any way. They don’t read the things that I read. They don’t follow the folks that I follow. I love that we are able to talk to people who are ‘like-minded,’ but I wonder, where is the opportunity to talk to people who are not? Whose work is it to build that bridge? In my mind I’m always thinking it’s white folks’ job to go and get those people.”
Both Mock and Page ultimately say that at a certain point in their lives, their identity wasn’t politicized as it is now. They ended up educating themselves through books and film to learn how to engage and be an ally beyond sharing their personal experiences. You can and should read the rest of their thoughts on that growth here.