Redefining Realness by Janet Mock

/ posted in: Reading

From the time she was young, Janet Mock knew that she identified much more with girls than with boys. Her family life was difficult. Her mother had children with several different men starting as a teenager. When she divorced Janet and her brother’s father, she sent them to Oakland from Oahu to live with him so she didn’t have to introduce young children into a new relationship. Their father was a drug addict who could not hold a steady job. He was very sensitive to the feminine tendencies of his eldest child and tried to discipline them away.

The children were sent back to Oahu as teenagers and Janet met another trans teenager named Wendi. Together they investigated Honolulu’s trans culture. Hawaiian culture has historically embraced gender fluidity so they had role models ranging from a hula teacher to sex workers.

Wendi started hormone therapy at 16 and got Janet some pills also. After self medicating for a while, she was able to get under a doctor’s supervision for hormone treatments. She decided that having gender reassignment surgery was a priority for her and made a goal to earn enough money to do that while in college.

This is an eye opening story about what it is like to be young, transsexual, mixed race, and poor. She had a very supportive family and a school with programs for LGBT kids that were amazing. She knew people going through the same journey she was. But, her poverty made it difficult to access health care and led her to make some dangerous choices.

The book begins with the story of her meeting a man who she loved and trying to decide how to bring up the subject of her past with him. It shows the fear that is involved with talking to people about this subject.

It also discusses what it means to be “real.” People talk about trans women as not being real women. She says that she also gets flack from some other trans women because she started hormones at a young age and now looks like a “real” woman. They say that she doesn’t have to face the discrimination that they do because she is not easily identified as trans.

As far as I know, I don’t know any trans people in my everyday life but I do have a coworker with a trans child.  This child came out to my coworker and her husband about a year ago when she was getting towards the end of high school.  I was impressed by the lack of drama that occurred.  She told us one day that they had had a discussion about it and then she started referring to her daughters instead of her son and daughter and that was that.  Coming from a very conservative religious background, I always expect parents to lose their mind over anything that seems controversial or out of the norm.  It was nice to see that not happen.

This is a good book for people who don’t have a lot of exposure to trans issues.