Trans Woman Janet Mock Redefines Realness in New Book

by Winnie McCroy

EDGE Editor

Wednesday February 5, 2014

Trans woman Janet Mock releases her new memoir "Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More" this week with readings and book signings in select markets. EDGE spoke with Mock and asked her to share some of the highlights of her book.

EDGE: What prompted you to write this memoir?

MOCK: I wrote "Redefining Realness" because not enough of our stories are being told, and I believe we need stories that reflect us so we don't feel so alone. Mainly, I wrote the book to raise awareness about girls like myself, to empower them by giving them a story that reflects them -- a story I did not have growing up; and to use my experiences to amplify the struggles plaguing an often invisible community.

EDGE: What are some of the feelings common to trans people going through their transition?

MOCK: There is no universal trans experience, as there is no universal woman or human's experience. My experience is mine and what I've noticed through sharing space with other young trans women is that we experience much of the same sexism and misogyny that cisgender women face. We are street harassed and catcalled, we deal with domestic violence and sexual assault, we are dismissed and objectified. These are commonalities shared by all women.

As for shared experiences for trans women specifically, I think we all understand how much gender policing, the devaluing of femininity and the matter of assigned sex at birth shape how people misunderstand and dismiss trans women, often invalidating our identities as women.

EDGE: How did you manage to get through the rough patches of your life and emerge on the other side unscathed?

MOCK: I have not emerged unscathed. The traumatic experiences in my life have helped shape me, and they are with me everyday. The only difference now is that I have moved past them and have survived them and can now give language to those experiences and hopefully shed light on some uncomfortable and unspoken truths.

EDGE: What advice can you share with young trans people about living their truth?

MOCK: I would tell them that their identity is real and valid and that nothing is wrong with them. I would tell them that life is a long journey and though it seems like becoming and revealing their true selves feels insurmountable that all they must concentrate on is ensuring they are safe and comfortable with themselves. I would advise them to cancel out all the noise from detractors, even from their parents and loved ones, and seek out solace and affirmation from folks who truly hear and see you -- as you know yourself to be. You deserve to be affirmed, you deserve to be seen, you deserve all the happiness, all the joy.

EDGE: Why should trans people read your memoir, and why is it important that non-trans people also read it?

MOCK: People should read this book because stories allow us to know one another and learn from one another. What I have been able to do with "Redefining Realness" is offer an intimate, raw, honest lens into the experiences that have shaped me and contextualize those experiences to shed light on the many barriers that face those of us who do not live single-identity lives.

This book is not just for trans women and/or women of color, this book is for anyone seeking to learn about the complexity of identity, about how systemic oppressions push marginalized women into unstable positions, about how we use our voices to set the record of our own lives, all wrapped up in the framework of this young woman’s coming-of-age. And if that didn’t convince you, bell hooks said my book "is a lifemap for transformation -- for changing lives."

EDGE: What are the biggest obstacles that remain for you today?

MOCK: Combatting the skewed images and misconceptions created and perpetuated by the media, ever since Christine Jorgensen became the media’s first "sex change" darling in 1952. The media has sensationalized trans lives in an effort to gain viewers and readers. And trans people’s lives have always been framed in this way. Yes, it’s garnered us visibility but also spread much misunderstanding.

What excites me is that trans people are creating the media, the stories, the records of their own lives by telling their own stories, and I’m dedicated to this daunting task of using storytelling to combat those pervasive images and stereotypes.

Mock’s upcoming tour dates include a March 11 reading at New York University, and an April 23 reading at Barnard College in New York. For a complete list of national events, visit

For more information about "Redefining Realness," visit,

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.