I was first introduced to Janet Mock via Twitter in 2013 sometime. I hadn’t read the 2011 Marie Claire article, so at that time I knew absolutely nothing of who Janet Mock was or what her journey was; just that she was tweeting humorous and witty posts on the same television show I was watching. She replied to a tweet of mine so I followed her like I have hundreds of other people on the social network. Early this year (2014), Ms. Mock was a guest on the Melissa Harris-Perry show on MSNBC discussing her to-be-released memoir, Redefining Realness and her work as a trans activist. That’s when I started to pay attention beyond just our shared like of all things Scandal.
I read Redefining Realness in May 2014 while on vacation, but haven’t taken the time to write down my feelings on it until now, over 4 months later. I had a plethora of feelings while reading this memoir. How do I critique someone’s life story and how they choose to tell it? In truth, I can’t and I won’t even try to do so. Instead, I’ll tell you how/what Redefining Realness made me feel.
The writing was at times journalistic – relaying stats and other sociological facts about the trans community. Some factoids I knew about already, others I did not. At others times, I felt as if Ms. Mock was speaking directly to me…like girlfriends discussing life over red wine. [In my head, we are girlfriends and I’m privy to all her curly hair secrets but that’s neither here nor there.]
I have close friends and family who identify as LBGTQ, but I’m none of those things myself. I’m a cis heterosexual Black woman in my 30s (a bit older than Ms. Mock). By no means has my life come without its own societal trappings and hardships, but I can’t begin to relate to the internal and external turmoil trans people, like Janet Mock, endure in order to live life as their authentic selves. Perhaps that’s why I was intrigued by Ms. Mock’s memoir in the first place as I’m always looking to learn outside my own bubble.
I didn’t expect to feel kinship and commonality to Ms. Mock’s journey into womanhood. Somewhat naively, I didn’t expect to be nodding my head and thinking, “I remember feeling that way too” or “this/that person reminds me of my own loved one” as I read this book. What Janet Mock’s memoir reaffirmed (for me) is that we are more alike than we are different regardless of our wrapping. Ms. Mock tells a story that ALL women, especially women of color, can relate to and understand on some level, regardless of the bodies we were born in.
Ms. Mock holds nothing back in her memoir. Her words are captivating, honest and courageous in their telling. Redefining Realness at points broke my heart and then reinvigorated my spirit that humans can overcome adversity.
I’m immensely thankful to Ms. Mock for sharing her story with the masses and I wish her much success as she continues to “write” the rest of her life’s journey.