Hey y’all. To be honest I’m having a tough time writing this at the moment. Between Missouri, Yale, Ithaca, and even our own college, my mind is anywhere but my classes. In a lot of ways this makes me more upset, the fact that I can’t dedicate time to sit down to think and write about Janet Mock because I’m being pulled in so many other directions. Because she is an incredible woman, and I feel that her book should be a required reading for anyone’s college career.
Anyway, I want to talk about why I found Redefining Realness to be so powerful. For me it was the fact that there was a great deal of struggle in Janet’s life, but there was also a great deal of triumph. And she did an excellent job of highlighting both.
Janet’s father was never accepting of her gender identity until she was much older. He shaved her hair. He beat her for wanting to be a secretary. He made fun of her in front of everyone for burning a cake. This kind of treatment during her childhood made it very difficult for Janet to feel comfortable with her body and her desires.
At the same time, Janet’s siblings were incredibly supportive and helpful during her childhood. Chad never pressured her to act like a boy. At one point Janet even felt comfortable enough to tell him that she was different from him and the other boys, something that her father never would have allowed her to say. Cori also encouraged Janet to embrace her gender identity. Janet retells a story near the end of the book in which she and her siblings attended a wedding as adults, and they felt just the same as any other family. Janet never felt out of place or uncomfortable, and neither did her siblings.
There are plenty of other incidents, some of which went badly for Janet, and others which went well. But I’ll leave it at family, as they are some of the most influential people in all our lives as we create understandings of our own gender identities.
While we read the book some of us said we kept expecting the absolute worst to happen in each chapter. Every time, it was not as bad as we worried it might be. We likely felt this way while reading because we are accustomed to hearing stories which are nothing but one tragedy after another. While there most certainly are tragedies, this creates a narrow view of the lives of trans people. By focusing on the positive parts of her life as well, Janet creates a more organic and realistic story for people to better understand her experiences as a trans woman.