The Background: Janet Mock is a 30 something mixed trans woman from the island of Hawaii born and raised as a misunderstood child raised alongside her transgender best friend. After turn 18 and “transitioning” to her satisfaction she too moved to the land of opportunity, New York City where she met her now husband Aaron. Janet went to NYU for graduate school and worked and developed career as a writer and reporter before being out as transgender. After the article featuring Janet was released she decide to write her first book telling her own story becoming a New York Times bestseller.
The Problem: While I do find Janet Mock to be far less problematic than Laverne Cox (I want to emphasize FAR LESS), I still find her being referred to as an activist troubling though I think could comfortably refer to her as an advocate.
Honestly Janet Mock just confuses me a lot. She has said before she doesn’t want her life to be sensationalized and has even shaded media outlet for sensationalizing her story, but after years of following Janet Mock and her work I’ve come to the conclusion that’s exactly what her story is, sensational. The woman started hormones when she was what? between 8-14? Her best friend in youth was trans, something, I’ve never heard of, and she had all of these medically affirming surgeries by the time she hit 18 or 19? Though I read her book the details are kind of blurry to me because everytime I hear her speak the story and details seem to shift a bit (no shade just my experience and I genuinely could be misinterpreting). Her family accepts her, she now has a husband, a black man at that, a degree and a rapidly advancing career. I do appreciate her being vocal and saying Caitlyn Jenner does not represent her or her experience, but news flash I don’t think Janet’s experience is very reflective of 80% of the trans women I know.her life then and now is fairly privileged not to discount from the hardships she did endure growing up. I don’t know many black trans women with degrees, accepting and affirming families, early access to medical care, “fully transitioned” and cis blending before 21 and I maybe know of one other black trans woman with a husband. But Janet has been married twice. Like Caitlyn Doesn’t present her, Janet doesn’t present me or dare I say us.
Janet I’m sorry to say specifically your personal life as a transwoman seems to exactly sensational. It hits all the marks of a great story. The difficult childhood you navigated with you trans best friend and by your first legal birthday you blended into society being perceived as a cis woman in every way with all of the medical affirmations you desired. Then you moved away to the land of possibility New York City where you met the man who’d eventually become your husband dancing in a club and just as you were living your life you were outed in a very public way through a magazine sparking your celebrity that you so eloquently shifted right into by writing your first book.…….While your journey was obviously difficult as life is for everyone and especially trans women the reality is your story is indeed sensational no shade but let’s call a spade a spade. Even the sex work (which I’m sure the actual experience was traumatic as hell, I can’t imagine) served as an unexpected plot twist that had everyone who read your book rooting for your happiness in the end. Your life has been quite the experience.
The Trans List documentary she made seems to be far less foolish than Laverne Cox’s The T Word, but it’s inaccessible. An HBO documentary made for trans people, but the gag is you have to have access to HBO, HBO is not a standard television channel it isn’t even a standard cable channel. How do you make a documentary for folks who do not have the access to watch it? I literally just got access to watch the documentary the day this writing was published. Maybe I’m mistaken and the documentary wasn’t actually made for trans folks and perhaps it’s for cis people, but if this is the case the question is even more relevant……..What are you doing for trans people?
To Janet’s credit she sent did donate several (I believe over 100, but I cannot remember) copies of her first book to places that would be accessible to trans folks and when I asked for an autographed copy of her first book for a friend I received the autographed copy free of charge, I’m not sure if that was because we’ve met on multiple occasions and she knew who I was or if it were because she does that for anyone who has the nerve to ask.
Seeing Janet actually speak every time she speaks it does seem evident that she is continues to weigh and balance personal life with her advocacy which I can also attest to being a great challenge, but it’s also important to recognize that activism and advocacy comes when it comes and you are need when you are need and it’s not always at a convenient time or glamorous or comes with a red carpet, television time or a check. Black trans women need her to be the person she proclaims to be.
In essence the fact that her gateway into celebrity was being a black trans woman who wrote a book about her experience as a trans woman and now she is so quick to move run along and move on saying that she wants to be recognized for things other than being trans which is valid, but this is where she came from and being trans is how she (in many ways chose) to make her name in media. She needs to own and respect her claim to fame.