Who are you, really, without community? I have been held up consistently as a token, as the “right” kind of trans woman (educated, able-bodied, attractive, articulate, heteronormative). It promotes the delusion that because I “made it,” that level of success is easily accessible to all young trans women. Let’s be clear: It is not.””
This is the second review of Janet Mock’s Redefining Realness on CBR today because badkittyuno takes weeks to review things whereas if I wait more then 2 days I forget what I wanted to say. Mock, who worked for People.com at the time, was the subect of a 2011 Marie Claire profile where she came out to the world as a trans woman. She has since taken the mantle of trans advocate including the popular Twitter hashtag #Girlslikeus
The profile was a compilation of a series of meetings, phone calls, and e-mails from the past few months that disclosed one aspect of my identity: I am a trans woman, or, as Marie Claire put it, “I Was Born a Boy.” The fact remains that the girl in that article didn’t resonate with me because it wasn’t really my story.
Janet Mock, born Charles, grew up in Hawaii until her parents’ separation sent her and her brother to Oakland with their father. Her father always placed a lot of value in masculinity and Janet struggled to find herself. As a teenager she moved back to Hawaii where she befriended another trans girl, Wendi, and found a community, of prostitutes, that helped her grow into the woman she is today. Her mother was more supportive of her choices; in Hawaii she had access to hormone therapy and her family agreed to call her Janet, not Charles.
Growing up she had to endure parents who made poor romantic choices and suffered various drug addictions. In both households Janet lived in poverty but she was smart and resourceful. Janet also delves into her life as a sex worker in Hawaii, which financed her gender reassignment surgery, and the molestation she suffered under her father’s roof. Mock’s long career, as well as her degree in journalism, elevates the writing in this book. I could, however, done without the pidgin dialog which made some of her Hawaiian stories difficult to read.
I was raised by my parents to be visibly black and raised myself to be a visible woman.
It must be hard for anyone to be forced into the limelight and declared the spokesperson for an entire segment of the population but Mock does it with grace. She knows her story is not every trans woman’s story but it’s important to share her experiences for future generations of struggling trans kids.