Trans rights activist and media star Mock to speak in Asheville on Wednesday


Janet Mock, a powerful voice for the transgender community, the author of a best-selling memoir and a multi-media star, will be the keynote speaker at a conference of human resource managers Wednesday in downtown Asheville.

Mock’s appearance is scheduled as part of the North Carolina Society of Human Resource Management Conference, which starts Wednesday and is being hosted at the US Cellular Center in downtown Asheville. With its 1,100 attendees, the event is one of the largest conferences to be hosted at the civic center in Asheville in recent years.

Mock’s 5 p.m. address is open to the public, and tickets are available. Tickets cost $35. A Q&A session will follow Mock’s talk, which will be moderated by Lisa Eby, the human resources director of the City of Asheville’s Health & Human Services department.

The conference theme is “Lead Differently,” and the goal of the event is to challenge human resource professionals and other business leaders to rethink how they engage and motivate staff and colleagues, according to organizers. The conference will include continuing education sessions, interactive vendor exhibits, networking opportunities and an opening reception featuring Asheville restaurants, craft breweries and entertainment from downtown buskers.

The event includes several other top-notch speakers whose sessions are open to the public. One session will include four Asheville-area speakers who will deliver short presentations around themes of innovation and collaboration. The speakers are: Patti Digh, author and former founding VP of International & Diversity Programs for Society for the Human Resource Management; Cortina Caldwell, communications director of LEAF Community Arts; Kendra Penland, executive director of the Asheville Brewers Alliance; and Chad Littlefield, co-founder of We! Their talks are set for 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, and and tickets are still available.

Mock’s talk arrives amid a growing national conversation about transgender rights and a heated presidential contest that includes debate about race and gender. In North Carolina, Mock’s appearance comes as the state continues to feel the backlash of a controversial state law passed earlier this year by the N.C. General Assembly and signed into law by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory. The law, known alternately as House Bill 2 (HB2) and “the bathroom bill,” most notably requires people to use the bathroom of the gender recorded on their birth certificate. The new law overrode local ordinances aimed at protections for the LGBT community (most notably in Charlotte.) Critics say HB2 discriminates against LGBT individuals, while proponents say it protects privacy in bathrooms.

Since its passage, businesses, celebrities and sporting events have withdrawn from North Carolina in protest. Bruce Springsteen scrapped a concert. PayPal canceled plans to invest in Charlotte and bring 400 jobs there. The NCAA and the ACC have announced that championship games would be moved out of the state. The U.S. Department of Justice has sued the Tar Heel state.

Mock has emerged in recent years as a leading voice regarding transgender rights. She’s the author of the New York Times bestselling 2014 memoir Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More. Oprah Winfrey interviewed Mock and included her in her “SuperSoul 100” list. Mock hosts a weekly MSNBC digital series about pop culture called “So POPular!” Mock also created the hashtag “GirlsLikeUs” to help empower trans women. She’s also a contributing editor for Marie Claire and a correspondent for Entertainment Tonight.

Mock is also producer and interviewer for the documentary The Trans List, which debuts on HBO this December. The film is directed by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, who also directed The Black List and several other documentaries. In The Trans List, Mock interviews 11 remarkably diverse representatives of the transgender community, including Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox, as they reflect on their lives pre- and post-transition.

Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, Mock has become one of the most influential trans women and millennial leaders in media, according to a press release. TIME called her one of “12 new faces of black leadership” and one of “the most influential people on the Internet” while Fast Company named her one of 2015’s “most creative people in business.”

Tom Rath, another conference keynote speaker, will deliver his address at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday. A Q&A session will also follow his talk, which will be moderated by Bill Murdock, CEO of Eblen Charities in Asheville. Rath is a bestselling author and researcher who studies the role of human behavior in business, health and well-being. He has written six New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers over the past decade, beginning with the #1 New York Times bestseller How Full Is Your Bucket? His book StrengthsFinder 2.0 was listed as the top-selling business book worldwide by the Wall Street Journal, The Economist and

Tickets for the three-day NCSHRM conference are still available at

Tickets for individual speakers are available here.