Matriarch Monday: Janet Mock
Janet Mock (born March 10, 1983) is an American writer, TV host, and transgender rights activist. Her debut book, the memoir Redefining Realness, became a New York Times bestseller. She is a contributing editor for Marie Claire and a former staff editor of People magazine's website.
Janet Mock was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, the second child in the family. Her father, Charlie Mock III, is African American, and her mother, Elizabeth (Barrett), is of half native Hawaiian descent and half European descent. Mock lived for most of her youth in her native Hawaii, with a portion in Oakland, California and Dallas. She began her transition from male to female as a freshman in high school, and funded her medical transition by earning money as a sex worker in her teens. -Source: Wikipedia
Janet Mock is the author of two memoirs, Redefining Realness (2014) and Surpassing Certainty (2017), the host of the conversation series, Never Before, a contributing editor and columnist for Allure, and a feminist intent on tackling stigma through storytelling.
Janet broke ground in 2014 with the release of her first book Redefining Realness, a pioneering and profound memoir which was the first biography written from the perspective of a young trans person. It debuted on the New York Times bestsellers list in 2014 and Janet was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey for Super Soul Sunday. Her second book, Surpassing Certainty, a memoir about the years in her life when she was not public about being trans, was praised by Kirkusas a “defining chronicle of strength and spirit…brimming with liberated self-discovery.”
On January 21, 2017, the sought-after speaker and advocate (who founded #GirlsLikeUsand #TransBookDrive) addressed millions on stage at the Women’s March on Washington, where she urged for an intersectional and inclusive movement that included all women: trans women, undocumented people, sex workers and disabled folk. “I stand here today, most of all, because I am my sister’s keeper…Our approach to freedom need not be identical, but it must be intersectional and inclusive.”
Janet began her media career at People.com (People magazine’s website), where she worked for five years climbing the ranks at Time Inc. from Staff Writer to Staff Editor upon her departure in 2012. She has since produced the HBO documentary The Trans List, where she conducted all interviews and worked with Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. She also created the column “Beauty Beyond Binaries” for Allure.com, which broke ground by exploring pretty privilege, and the interview podcast Never Before for Lenny Letter with Pineapple Street Media, which has featured Tina Knowles-Lawson, Rep. Maxine Watersand Lena Dunham. She also served as a correspondent for Entertainment Tonight(interviewing Queen Latifah, Jeffrey Tambor), a contributing editor for Marie Claire (for which she wrote the November 2016 cover story on Nicki Minaj), and an on-air contributor and host for MSNBC, where she helmed the groundbreaking series, “So POPular!” interviewing Lena Dunham, Salma Hayek, Issa Rae, and Amber Rose, cohosted the 2015 Global Citizen Festival with Alex Wagner and Willie Geist, filled in for Melissa Harris-Perry, executive-produced the original docu-series, “Beyond My Body.”
Born in Hawaii, Janet’s story of growing up trans caught the nation’s attention in a 2011 Marie Claire article. Since then she’s become a millennial media powerhouse. Variety named her one of its 2017 “Power of Women,” TIME called her one of “the most influential people on the Internet” and one of “12 new faces of black leadership” while Fast Company named her one of 2015’s “most creative people in business.”
Janet has been interviewed on Wendy Williams, Late Night with Seth Meyers, Desus & Mero, and Real Time with Bill Maher. Her writing has appeared in Lenny Letter, The New Yorker, Marie Claire, and The Advocate. She wrote the foreword for famed photographer Mark Seliger’s collection, On Christopher Street: Transgender Stories, contributed to the anthology, The Feminist Utopia Project, and has appeared on the covers of Paper, OUT and C☆NDY magazines. The Ms. Foundation, Planned Parenthood, Feminist Press, GLSEN, Shorty Awards and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project have all honored Janet for her work.
A native of Honolulu, Janet attended the University of Hawaii at Manoa, earned her MA in journalism from New York University, and serves on the board of the Arcus Foundation. She lives in New York City with her husband Aaron and their dog Cleo. -source: janetmock.com
The Challenges and Triumphs of Embracing Your Truth
By Janet Mock
"Good morning, Class of 2001!" I shouted from center stage in our school's cafeteria. "I'm Janet, your class treasurer, and I just want to thank you for your votes and your support!"
More than three hundred sophomores applauded as I unwrapped my blue-polished nails from the microphone. The riotous reception signaled my successful reintroduction, and the sight of my fellow elected leaders standing with me at our back-to-school assembly emboldened me. The majority of the people in that cafeteria were aware that they had elected Charles to office the previous semester, but I had known Janet would reign.
I was obsessed with The Velvet Rope for a year straight, letting Janet Jackson's confessional lyrics lull me to sleep and comfort me when I felt lost. I felt that the album was the vehicle onto which Janet finally expressed her full self. I loved her fiery red curls and her equally vibrant smile, features that my friends said I had in common with the singer. I was deeply flattered when they nicknamed me baby Janet, a name that stuck and that I took as my own. There's power in naming yourself, in proclaiming to the world that this is who you are. Wielding this power is often a difficult step for many transgender people, because it's also a very visible one.
To announce your gender in name, dress, and pronouns in your school, place of work, neighborhood, and state is a public process, one in which trans people must literally petition authorities to approve name and gender marker changes on identification cards and public records. Becoming comfortable with your identity is step one; the next step is revealing that identity to those around you.
After that class assembly, I continued to improvise, creating the space I needed for myself in school within a cocoon of supportive friends, teachers, and teammates. Instead of embarking on a series of conversations with high school staff, I let my denim capris, my crown of curls, and my growing bust do the talking. It hasn't been until recently that I have been able to appreciate the brave girl standing on that stage, walking in those hallways, sitting in class, who made herself seen, heard and known.
My presence as a fifteen-year-old trans girl must've been radical to many, but to me it was truth, and my truth led me to form a womanhood all my own. What I failed to realize was that the people outside my home, specifically the school's staff, weren't equipped with the resources and experience to help a student like me. Some of them were unwilling to seek that knowledge and chose to view my presence as problematic. I admit that my approach may have appeared abrasive to some, but I was unapologetic about who I was and never felt the need to plead for belonging in school. Though my entitlement aided my survival, it also created problems.
I can still feel the sting of my chemistry teacher purposefully calling out "Charles" every morning during role call, to the giggles of my peers. To add insult to injury, she repeatedly misgendered me, deliberately referring to me as he and him and refusing to reprimand bullies who shouted obscenities and epithets at me. Instead of taking a leadership role and proclaiming that intolerance would not be tolerated, she chose to turn a blind eye to insults, going as far as blaming me for putting a target on my own back for dressing the way I did. She viewed my gender expression and femininity as unnatural.
Femininity in general is seen as frivolous. People often say feminine people are doing "the most," meaning that to don a dress, heels, lipstick and big hair is artifice, fake, and a distraction. But I knew even as a teenager that my femininity was more than just adornments, they were extensions of me, enabling me to express myself and my identity. My body, my clothes and my makeup are on purpose, just as I am on purpose.