Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More by Janet Mock

July 6, 2016
Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More, Janet Mock, Book Review, InToriLex
Published By: Atria Books on February 1, 2014
Format Read: Paperback
Genre: Nonfiction/ Autobiography/ Trans
Series: Standalone
Source: Purchased for Boston Radical Women of Color Book Club
Rating: STARS
Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More
In 2011, Marie Claire magazine published a profile of Janet Mock in which she stepped forward for the first time as a trans woman. Those twenty-three hundred words were life-altering for the People.com editor, turning her into an influential and outspoken public figure and a desperately needed voice for an often voiceless community. In these pages, she offers a bold and inspiring perspective on being young, multicultural, economically challenged, and transgender in America.

Welcomed into the world as her parents’ firstborn son, Mock decided early on that she would be her own person—no matter what. She struggled as the smart, determined child in a deeply loving yet ill-equipped family that lacked the money, education, and resources necessary to help her thrive. Mock navigated her way through her teen years without parental guidance, but luckily, with the support of a few close friends and mentors, she emerged much stronger, ready to take on—and maybe even change—the world.

This powerful memoir follows Mock’s quest for identity, from an early, unwavering conviction about her gender to a turbulent adolescence in Honolulu that saw her transitioning during the tender years of high school, self-medicating with hormones at fifteen, and flying across the world alone for sex reassignment surgery at just eighteen. With unflinching honesty, Mock uses her own experience to impart vital insight about the unique challenges and vulnerabilities of trans youth and brave girls like herself.

Despite the hurdles, Mock received a scholarship to college and moved to New York City, where she earned a master’s degree, enjoyed the success of an enviable career, and told no one about her past. She remained deeply guarded until she fell for a man who called her the woman of his dreams. Love fortified her with the strength to finally tell her story, enabling her to embody the undeniable power of testimony and become a fierce advocate for a marginalized and misunderstood community. A profound statement of affirmation from a courageous woman, Redefining Realness provides a whole new outlook on what it means to be a woman today, and shows as never before how to be authentic, unapologetic, and wholly yourself.


We can all benefit from educating ourselves more about what it means to a Trans person in our society. Janet details her evolution from being a boy who knows she's a girl, to living in her truth and learning what that is. It was really jarring to imagine having to hide facets of your personality, because society doesn't believe you should have them. The violence that is committed against Trans people shows the high intolerance our society has for difference. Janet weaves her life's story with educational statistics, and quotes that help highlight the lived experiences of Trans youth.
"I didn't have the words to define who I was, but I recognized me and often chose to dismiss her with the one question that pushed me to put the mask back on: Who will ever love you if you tell the truth?"
Janet's life was not an easy one, but she was determined to be successful despite the many challenges she faced. Growing up in Hawaii where she was fortunate to have a Trans community that offered her support, she took advantage of the resources that were available. Janet's family reacted to her transition in varied but ultimately supportive ways. In addition to her discovering who she was gender wise, she also had to grapple with the challenges of being a person of color.  The use of humor and a very honest description of who Janet is, was refreshing and kept me engaged in the narrative. 
"To embody "realness," rather than performing and competing "realness", enables trans women to enter spaces with a lower risk of being rebutted or questioned, policed or attacked."
This book tackles very serious topics including substance abuse, poverty, sexual abuse and domestic violence. Janet was able to use her lived experience to find success, but it was clear that she paid a high cost to exist as herself. The story line did jump around a bit, but overall it worked well. For those of us who aren't marginalized in our society, the story telling of the often ignored, should fuel us to create safer spaces for everyone. This book definitely offered me that inspiration. I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy reading about diverse lived experiences and learning  more about Trans community's of color.


Janet Mock is a writer and founder of the trans women's movement, #GirlsLikeUs. She is the author of Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More. Her work has been lauded by the Anti-Violence Project, the Center for American Progress, and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. A graduate of the University of Hawaii, she has an MA in journalism from New York University, worked as an editor at People.com, and appeared in HBO’s The Out List. Find out more at JanetMock.com.

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