Empowering All Women: The #girlslikeus Hashtag Turns a Year Old
1 month ago
Activist Janet Mock says the hashtag has become a community of empowerment for transgender women
Happy birthday, #girlslikeus! May you trend for many more.
It’s been a year since Janet Mock, an outspoken writer and activist for transgender woman of color, first gave birth to #girlslikeus on Twitter, taking to the popular social networking site with the intention of building a community for women like her. The hashtag has gone from alerting people to the injustices and tragedies that often mar the lives of trans women, to a space for shouting out the good and advocating for change, both in the "outside" world and the world within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning community, or LGBTQ community.
To date, the #girlslikeus hashtag has racked up an impressive 7,000 tweets (and counting), according to Topsy.com analytics. Not satisfied with slowly conquering the Twittersphere, #girlslikeus is a hashtag to be reckoned with on the online photo-sharing giant Instagram – more than 1,000 “selfies” and candid photos have been affixed with the hashtag and shared, according to Webstagram. Mock, an editor at People.com, shared her story with Loop 21 last year after news of the disproportionate U.S. murder rate for trans women of color. The 30-year-old writer caught up with us to chat about the growth of #girlslikeus and the trans visibility movement.
Loop 21: For people who don’t know, what is #girlslikeus? How and why did you start using it on Twitter?
Janet Mock: #Girlslikeus, right now, is a [social network] hashtag, but I feel like it's almost a movement unto itself. As the girl behind #girlslikeus, it’s been an amazing thing to see it grow into its own living organism. I see it more as a collective than a hashtag.
"We may be girls with something extra or girls who have to go through a different path in life, but at the end of the day, we just consider ourselves girls"
It started from just having conversations with other young trans women about our experiences and about how we label and identify ourselves. Most of them will say, “I just identify myself as a girl.” We may be girls with something extra or girls who have to go through a different path in life, but at the end of the day, we just consider ourselves girls. I started using [#girlslikeus on Twitter] after the Jenna Talackova [Miss Universe controversy]; after CeCe McDonald [was sentenced to a Minnesota men’s prison]; and then after Paige Clay’s death [found murdered in a Chicago alley.] I just found that there was a needed space to talk amongst ourselves about our issues. There also needed to be a space that was created by trans women. Kind of like FUBU, “For us, By us.”
Loop 21: What are some of the topics discussed within this Twitter community?
JM: Women talk about everything -- personal self-medication, because health care doesn’t really care for us in a way that meets all our needs. They're talking about coming out [as transgender] to your family or how to come out at work. I just want it to be a space where we share and swap resources. And to uplift one another! That’s what #girlslikeus is to me, at least. But I also love that it’s something else to so many other people that engage on Twitter and Instagram. Just by saying, “girls like us,” it’s sort of a wink, without having to say that we are trans women.
Loop 21: Scrolling through the hashtagged tweets, I’ve noticed it’s not all serious, heavy issues. Some tweets are just shouting out positivity in the trans community. What have you been most glad to see tweeted?