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In , Marie Claire magazine published a profile of Janet Mock in which she stepped forward for the first time as a trans woman Those twenty three hundred words were life altering for the People editor, turning her into an influential and outspoken public figure and a desperately needed voice for an often voiceless community In these pages, she offers a bold and inspiring perspective on being young, multicultural, economically challenged, and transgender in America Welcomed into the world as her parents firstborn son, Mock decided early on that she would be her own person no matter what She struggled as the smart, determined child in a deeply loving yet ill equipped family that lacked the money, education, and resources necessary to help her thrive Mock navigated her way through her teen years without parental guidance, but luckily, with the support of a few close friends and mentors, she emerged much stronger, ready to take on and maybe even change the world This powerful memoir follows Mock s quest for identity, from an early, unwavering conviction about her gender to a turbulent adolescence in Honolulu that saw her transitioning during the tender years of high school, self medicating with hormones at fifteen, and flying across the world alone for sex reassignment surgery at just eighteen With unflinching honesty, Mock uses her own experience to impart vital insight about the unique challenges and vulnerabilities of trans youth and brave girls like herself Despite the hurdles, Mock received a scholarship to college and moved to New York City, where she earned a master s degree, enjoyed the success of an enviable career, and told no one about her past She remained deeply guarded until she fell for a man who called her the woman of his dreams Love fortified her with the strength to finally tell her story, enabling her to embody the undeniable power of testimony and become a fierce advocate for a marginalized and misunderstood community A profound statement of affirmation from a courageous woman, Redefining Realness provides a whole new outlook on what it means to be a woman today, and shows as never before how to be authentic, unapologetic, and wholly yourself


10 thoughts on “Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More

  1. Raymond J Raymond J says:

    I m not the biggest fan of memoirs per se, and many trans memoirs are pretty dry, redundant, and focused on white trans men I even am a white trans man but most of them exhausted me I transitioned about 14 years ago, have worked around the queer community for nearly 20 years, and have recently felt a bit jaded and exhausted by the work But in the past year, Janet Mock has really exploded into the cultural landscape and I couldn t begrateful for the passion, kindness, and strength she I m not the biggest fan of memoirs per se, and many trans memoirs are pretty dry, redundant, and focused on white trans men I even am a white trans man but most of them exhausted me I transitioned about 14 years ago, have worked around the queer community for nearly 20 years, and have recently felt a bit jaded and exhausted by the work But in the past year, Janet Mock has really exploded into the cultural landscape and I couldn t begrateful for the passion, kindness, and strength she s brought to the conversation I ve been following her on twitter and was excited for the release of her memoir I knew she was a talented writer so it wouldn t be hard to read, but I wasn t expecting to be so moved, to have my heart expanded, to laugh at the recognition of myself and friends and family on the page, and to even have old fears and hurts dug up and transformed within myself This is a book I wouldn t hesitate to give to cis folks to help understand the journeys of trans people, but I also would encourage trans folks to do themselves a favor and spend a few hours with Janet Mock s book, it could help reinvigorate your heart and transform your own story


  2. Heather K (dentist in my spare time) Heather K (dentist in my spare time) says:

    I ve been interested in Redefining Realness My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love So Much More by Janet Mock for quite some time, so much so that I bought the book in paperback a rare thing for me I was hoping that the book would blow me away, and it truly did I consider myself well educated on trans issues, though obviously I m approaching them from an outside perspective I ve read at nearly three dozen books with transgender main characters, fiction romance, mostly and non fiction, an I ve been interested in Redefining Realness My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love So Much More by Janet Mock for quite some time, so much so that I bought the book in paperback a rare thing for me I was hoping that the book would blow me away, and it truly did I consider myself well educated on trans issues, though obviously I m approaching them from an outside perspective I ve read at nearly three dozen books with transgender main characters, fiction romance, mostly and non fiction, and countless articles in an effort to learn and grow in my understanding of sexual expression and sexuality However, this book really showed me some biases I didn t even know that I had and helped me see things from a really fresh, powerful perspective Parts of the story were very hard for me to read, mainly dealing with Janet s childhood sexual abuse and neglectful parents though perhaps neglectful isn t the right word, though their behavior horrified me , but it also gave me a necessary understanding of where Janet came from Janet really blew me away She is a powerful woman, and she made some points that resonated deeply with me, mostly about not viewing passing trans people as somehowsuccessful or closer to a goal which I didn t even realize was a bias of mine before reading She also really changed my view of sex workers forever, especially those in the trans community I was really blown away by the fact that Janet was a star student and merit scholarship winner, yet still had to do things she felt ashamed of to survive, something that challenged my viewpoints a great deal Though this review seems to focus on my take from the story and my personal growth as a reader and human being, I think that this book is essential reading for anyone who wants to knowabout a LGBTQIA icon and inspirational human being


  3. Evelyn Woagh Evelyn Woagh says:

    Note It has been three years since I read and reviewed this book Re reading my review and the comments now, I think there are a couple points where I was bit too relentlessly critical, even a bit petty For the most part I still hold my disagreements and opposition But for context, I would like to add that at time of reading, I was homeless And the best thing people could offer me were useless transgender memoirs, rather than something practical to me like money and safe housing Part of my Note It has been three years since I read and reviewed this book Re reading my review and the comments now, I think there are a couple points where I was bit too relentlessly critical, even a bit petty For the most part I still hold my disagreements and opposition But for context, I would like to add that at time of reading, I was homeless And the best thing people could offer me were useless transgender memoirs, rather than something practical to me like money and safe housing Part of my criticism is influenced by this, and yet my viewpoint is no less valid as a criticism of misdirected narratives and conventional ways of thinking about transgender people, and the typical disregard for our population as one in constant, increasing crisis I have a problem with how assimilation afflicts and fractures my community when those who could be radical representatives and are in a position to lift up their community members, instead accumulate capital for themselves and abandon the rest of us.Further, the negative reactions I have received for this review simply delve into character attacks, transphobia, and transmisogyny against me I m sure there s a way to disagree with transgender people on certain issues without perpetuating the same attitudes and dynamics that are killing my people I first heard of Janet Mock many years ago from her article I read it around the same time CeCe Mcdonald was kidnapped by police, so it was an awakening time for the politics of my then vague transness Now, though, when reading this for my studies in college, I realize my fears that Janet Mock wrote a bourgeois memoir.From the very first sentences advertising about buying dresses she didn t need and reading things on her Iphone, I knew I was delving into a rich people s book Now, I hoped she had presented this beginning to suggest she grew out of it, yet she hardly develops to oppose the materialization of her world Soon, all the way to the end, I found she is shallow, weak, materialistic, body shaming and body policing, and hardly the trans radical this community needs She wants to get married and be subservient to men, while others like her are fighting for their very lives At one point she says I wish he d just lean over and kiss me already how about you tell him you want to kiss, to practice common consent, and if affirmed then do so yourself There are repeated slurs throughout this book, which she is self entitled to exploit as a way to show everyone how offensive these slurs are There s loads of repetition, wherein she talks about the slurs used against her mostly words which don t apply to her and therefore she has no right to use , about how her perception of women is that they are subservient to which she suggests has changed, and yet is proven false with how she acts around men , and every once in a while trophy mentions something about intersectionality and racism.At one point, she even suggests that only transwomen fought in battles like in compton and nyc This is extremely offensive, and copies the same behaviour of rich gay white cis men who say only THEY fought there The point is WE ALL FOUGHT Why Because no matter how many reforms we fight for or how many of you get married, we re all targeted for being different and will always be attacked so long as we re different, and we ll especially be attacked by those in power police.Another thing I find particularly insulting as a transperson is her perpetuation of and support for the idea that it s a transition for us others the family too This is a pathetic loathsome thing a transperson can hear from others trying to justify their misgendering and misnaming And yet, she remains subservient to her patriarch father who has never respected her, and she believes she should feel bad about how she avoided her abusive, addicted, ignorant father and gave him an ultimatum, for her safety She feels bad about how her father and the rest of her family are mourning her old self She has clearly internalized transphobia.A simple reason I dislike Janet Mock and her book so much is that Janet Mock is bourgeois She has had many privileges despite her background and identity, most importantly an accepting family except her father She mentions queer youth homelessness the most important issue for me once at the end, and this as with her mentions of intersectionality and so on, are just an afterthought She fixates on trans bourgeois issues like surgery to the point of endangering her own life just to get it, only to perpetuate hierarchy and transphobia by feeling better than the non transitioned folks who don t pass in the system of oppression like she does She does what I ve found many transwomen and any person of gender with dreams of assimilation seem to do create a hierarchy of self entitled attention wherein her group is said to be the most oppressed and most important, when this is destructive and untrue Her views of body shaming, transphobia, classism, her wealth and attention, all distract the community and the world from the ongoing crises of homelessness, violence, and death happening against these amazing and variant people I don t care about the life of ignorant rich people be they trans or cis I care only about the lives of those who struggle most the youth these people abandon as they pull the camera closer to their selfish faces This book is not radical enough, Janet Mock is not radical enough, and many queer people and young people as a whole will continue to suffer in devastating poverty because of it


  4. Wart Hill Wart Hill says:

    A beautifully written, achingly honest story of one woman s struggle to understand, achieve, and own her truth.Janet Mock, I salute your courage and your honesty Thank you for writing this I hope your story reaches Trans people and especially Trans women everywhere.


  5. carol. carol. says:

    I ve been interested in this book ever since hearing Janet Mock talk on The Colbert Report segment here I loved her willingness to laugh at herself, her attempts to focus the disconcerting Colbert, her willingness to articulate identity issues on a show that specializes in sarcasm Only in her late twenties, she s written the story of her process of gender identity to date in Redefining Realness, an autobiography that is occasionally as telling for what is included as minimized.Redefining Rea I ve been interested in this book ever since hearing Janet Mock talk on The Colbert Report segment here I loved her willingness to laugh at herself, her attempts to focus the disconcerting Colbert, her willingness to articulate identity issues on a show that specializes in sarcasm Only in her late twenties, she s written the story of her process of gender identity to date in Redefining Realness, an autobiography that is occasionally as telling for what is included as minimized.Redefining Realness starts with an Author s Note, an Introduction, and finally an untitled preface of New York City, 2009, and her decision to share her past with a boyfriend who has become very close As she takes a deep breath into disclosure, the narrative dives into her past, transitioning to Part One, Honolulu, first grade 1989 Having been born with male genitals, Janet was named Charles after her father, but recalls feeling female gendered since her earliest years She relates a story where a childhood friend, Marilyn, dared her to put on a dress hanging on the clothesline It became a Big Deal, with Grandma catching her, her sister tattling and her mom having a Conversation The anecdote becomes a point to begin educating the reader about the process of gender definition, the cultural norms that assign items as gendered hair, clothes, walk, etc and how they are reinforced through our daily acts The juxtaposition of the intellectual deconstruction with her life events foreshadows a pattern continued through her narrative Janet segues into her parents history, her witnessing of her dad s ongoing affair, her mother s discoveries leading to suicide attempts and dissolution of the marriage The separation precipitated Janet s dad moving to Oakland and, once her mom was pregnant with a new child and in a new relationship, Janet joining him The rest of the narrative covers time in Oakland with her dad and his addiction issues, and the move to Texas and his family Part Two begins with Janet s return to Hawai i in 1995 Throughout her moves, Janet relates moments where her gender identity was a struggle Part Three begins with her claiming the name Janet out loud to her high school as a sopho, and the steps that followed as she becameout about claiming a female identity and seeking to make her identity a biological reality.Two completely random observations Interestingly, though Janet doesn t overtly discuss it, many of those early gender moments are centered around hair, whether admiring the silky long hair of her mother, or her father punishing her by taking her to the barber for a short haircut I found it particularly interesting as hair is a powerful touchstone in African American culture, and Janet seemed to seize on it as part of establishing her femininity Second, Hawaiian culture and perhaps culture of the late 90s seems to be farcomfortable with gender ambiguity than most areas in America.What can you say about someone s heartfelt autobiography I m not qualified to judge anyone s life what I look for in autobiography are the moments of emotional honesty that cut to the heart of human experience, that acknowledge the complexity of what it means to be human with all of our good intentions and sad mistakes Mock s autobiography largely succeeds here, although with an emotional brevity that somewhat limits the feeling of engagement.I appreciated Mock s attempts to transcend the specifics of the individual experience, reflecting on the larger social issues that contextualize her experience For instance, in the section where she discusses her childhood sexual abuse, she also relates some facts about sexual abuse offenders In the section on sex work, she also integrates discussion of defined womanhood as well as the economics of survival sex work At times, the deconstruction provides excellent insight into the situation from a cultural perspective at other times, it makes for sweeping generalities that minimize the emotional complexities Occasionally, the pieces also feel a little bit Gender Studies 101, although I acknowledge my intellectual exposure in the genre is greater than many readers , it lacked some of the subtlety and finesse I expected from someone blurbed by bell hooks.More disappointing are a couple sections that are minimized, particularly the less than one page mention of losing her virginity at the age of sixteen I don t think it is voyeurism as much as wanting to know how she negotiated an emotionally loaded experience in any human s life, beyond a passing note of, weeks later, I lost my virginity But memory is tricky, and in my own case, what I think I remember about my own experience is no doubt different than my memories of it in my twenties, and then again in my thirties Is it fair to ask that Mock share it I don t know, but for most of us, gender is tied up in sexuality, and in Mock s own story, she makes it clear that while it is related, it is also complicated I think I wished forof those sorts of discussions than experiences of buying her first lip gloss or hanging at the MAC makeup counter.By the end, I admired Mock s willingness to share so much, to acknowledge the times she was perhaps understandably focused on her survival at the expense of others the very definition of adolescence , and to recognize and celebrate her multiple identities Very briefly, as part of her narrative of the sex trade, Mock acknowledges with amazing honesty kindness and compassion are sisters but not twins to have compassion for these men would mean that I d have to know them and they would have to know me It proved a telling line, although likely not quite in the way she meant it I found at times she was very self critical, sounding unforgiving for perspectives I d attribute to the arrogance of youth I give her credit I don t know that I d ever publish an entire book exposing my childhood as well as innumerable coming of age vulnerabilities I hope she can find some compassion for herself


  6. Danika at The Lesbrary Danika at The Lesbrary says:

    This would actually make a great introductory book if you want to learnabout trans issues or want to give it to someone you know Mock is careful to explain concepts and doesn t assume the reader is familiar with vocabulary or basic premises It s also, of course, well written and honest even in extremely vulnerable, difficult moments Definitely recommended.


  7. Tori (InToriLex) Tori (InToriLex) says:

    ind this and other Reviews at In Tori LexWe can all benefit from educating ourselvesabout what it means to a Trans person in our society Janet details her evolution from being a boy who knows she s a girl, to living in her truth and learning what that is It was really jarring to imagine having to hide facets of your personality, because society doesn t believe you should have them The violence that is committed against Trans people shows the high intolerance our society has for differen ind this and other Reviews at In Tori LexWe can all benefit from educating ourselvesabout what it means to a Trans person in our society Janet details her evolution from being a boy who knows she s a girl, to living in her truth and learning what that is It was really jarring to imagine having to hide facets of your personality, because society doesn t believe you should have them The violence that is committed against Trans people shows the high intolerance our society has for difference Janet weaves her life s story with educational statistics, and quotes that help highlight the lived experiences of Trans youth.


  8. Diana Diana says:

    Fantastic memoir of a woman who was confident in her gender identity from a young age but struggled with family dysfunction, poverty, gender dysphoria and racism Am absolutely brilliant study of trans living in the United States I learnt a lot about trans phobia, appropriate language and everyday acceptance.


  9. Karina Karina says:

    It was great getting to know someone I admire so much on a deeper level An incredibly raw story of finding one s own most authentic self.


  10. Ross Blocher Ross Blocher says:

    In Redefining Realness My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love So Much More, Janet Mock opens herself up, exposing her most vulnerable memories and struggles, to provide encouragement to those going through similar situations and build understanding and empathy in those who aren t spoilers and sexual themes ahead She doesn t hold back on the details of repeated abuse as a child, which she is clear to disentangle from her sexual identity and attraction those were both fixed well before th In Redefining Realness My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love So Much More, Janet Mock opens herself up, exposing her most vulnerable memories and struggles, to provide encouragement to those going through similar situations and build understanding and empathy in those who aren t spoilers and sexual themes ahead She doesn t hold back on the details of repeated abuse as a child, which she is clear to disentangle from her sexual identity and attraction those were both fixed well before the abuse took place She talks about growing her hair out and taking on the experimental identity of Keisha at 10 There s the first boy who shows interest in her as a girl, followed soon thereafter by cruel retribution when her father cuts her hair She befriends Wendy, a fellow traveler who tells her about hormone injections, and connects Janet her new name, chosen as an admiring nod to Janet Jackson with a helpful doctor After that, it s a challenge to find money to afford the regular injections and their steep 10 price tag It s not the kind of thing insurance covers, were that even an option Not wanting to burden or include her family in the process, Janet finds a community of trans sex workers who accept her They share their knowledge and affirm her changing body, and after much resistance she also begins to sell access to her body Janet shares the memorable stories some positive, some banal, and one particularly terrifying I m filled with a spirit of vengeance just thinking about it She details the steps she took to avoid some of the most common pitfalls, and where she learned to put her foot down.This all begins as Janet is still an under age high school student The money helps pay for her needs and niceties and occasional help to her suspicious family , but her primary goal is to save up for gender affirmation surgery Janet makes clear that this is not for everyone, but it s right for her she wants a body to match her identity The fact that she passes easily as a woman is a point of reflection and even struggle for Janet she is attractive, and often feels set apart from others within the trans community by her actions and theirs It s complicated, and Janet shares the challenges of perception and expectation coming from all directions There s also the fraught process of dating men, and she talks about her relationship with Aaron She is thrilled when this handsome man falls instantly for her, but then struggles with when and how to reveal her truth to him The desire to be honest with him conflicts with the fact that she doesn t owe apologies for who she is The march toward intimacy conflicts with his expectations The typically vulnerability of establishing a relationship is heightened by the fears of a negative reaction, which in many situations can be violent I won t spoil how that one turns out, but it s a fascinating, multi stage process.At this point in the story, Janet is maintaining a 3.8 GPA, and wins a scholarship that positions her to move to New York and get a master s degree in pursuit of a writing career She crosses the finish line in her financial goal by accepting a role in a pornographic film, something she regrets and wishes she could expunge from this story and her past Instead, she soldiers on and gives us the details, and reflects on how our actions follow us in the age of the internet She also shares the details of surgery, which I will also leave for the book to detail.The story ends shortly thereafter, but Janet carries on as a confident and successful woman sharing her experience and advice in writing and on screen I m thankful for her candor, and learned a lot from her story The beauty of books is that they allow us to vicariously sample another s life, and this is a sterling example of that principle Janet narrates the audio book, so I recommend that as a great way to dive in