I just finished Redefining Realness by Janet Mock, a book my roommate Cha bought for me to thank me for being so flexible and helping her out. I figured it would be nice to read about someone else’s transition but it was much more than that. I found myself deeply relating to what Janet went through at times and crying because I knew I felt the same way she did. She talked a lot about self acceptance and vividly takes you through her journey to find it from childhood to coming out after “passing.”
Reading about her transition was so often a glimpse at someone else who is going through the same thing as me. She talked about her lack of self worth and how she sought it from other, something I still feel today. When she came out to her friend in NYC her friend responded, “You act as if you murdered someone!” I couldn’t help but cry knowing I would’ve said it the same way she did.
She left me with so many quotables that I relate to and hold dear to remind me of who I am, where I’m going and how amazing I truly am.
“Sometimes people try to destroy you, precisely because they recognize your power – not because they don’t see it, but because they see it and they don’t want it to exist.
“Mary! Life is uncomfortable. You have to get used to it or you’re going to live your life trying to make people comfortable. I don’t care what people say ab and she humbles herself by reminding us about the number of other trans folks who felt suicidal and were kicked on the streets by her parentsout me because they don’t have to live as me. You gotta own who you are and keep it moving.”
-Her best friend Wendi (who is also trans)
She also talks about a topic many wouldn’t say it but I would argue is very contentious, “passing.” She is envied by her looks and ability to “pass” but talks about the complications of this idea. In her own words she says, “If a trans woman who knows herself and operates in the world as a woman is seen, perceived, treated and viewed as a woman, isn’t she being herself? She isn’t passing she is merely being.” Instead realness needs to be redefined as the book’s title asserts. One of the best ways of doing this is the same way the gay rights movement achieved it, by coming out. This makes the world an easier place for all of us to live, LGBT or otherwise. To free people of the restrictive gender binary we all have to live under. We need to use or visibility to show our power, or to requote a quote from Janet’s book:
That visibility which makes us most vulnerable is that which also is the source of our greatest strength.
Finally Janet tells us about something I didn’t expect to read about, her struggle beyond her gender. Her struggle through molestation, sex work and homelessness. She opened my eyes up even more to the horrible reality that exists throughout this “developed” country. She struggled with homelessness and constant moving for most of her childhood. Being swapped from one parent to the other and moving in with one family member to another. Her mom and dad both clung to their ever-changing partners and often left their children ignored.
Janet learned to go it alone and became a strong-willed little kid that pushed forward to her true self despite never ending barriers. She was defiant and strong, managing to save enough money by herself to fly to Thailand and pay for GCR (Genital Confirmation Surgery). When she did her sex work she had the constant reminder of who she was in her sex work bag. On the bottom of the bag filled with condoms, lube, baby wipes, hand sanitizer and lip gloss was a piece of paper with a quote from Maya Angelou on it saying,” I didn’t come to stay.” And she certainly didn’t.
I personally felt privileged to read her story and amazed at her c and she humbles herself by reminding us about the number of other trans folks who felt suicidal and were kicked on the streets by her parentsourage to tell it fully. She did an excellent job throughout and even humbled herself by pock marking the book with statistics and facts to remind everyone that not one transition story is alike. This book is an excellent read and I would highly suggest it to anyone wanting to hear more about the trans experience as well as the experience of marginalized, minority populations struggling to live their true life.