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

Overall, I enjoyed reading Janet Mock’s memoir Redefining Realness. The title is interesting because the phrase, “redefining realness,” is the focal point of many controversial issues including race and gender identity, if you really think about it. Society likes to determine what is considered the “real” version of something in order to categorize it more efficiently. The book’s title is not negative though; in fact, it made me think about what the “realness” that Mock refers to. The term “realness” is being used here to talk specifically about what constitutes a “real woman,” since Janet Mock is a transwoman. Obviously Janet Mock is a real person, gender aside, but what makes someone value one type of woman over another? Generally in society, a woman’s value is determined by her biological gender, however, this leads to a lack of recognition among the trans community, which can be overt of more covertly hidden within our own subconscious prejudices.

The most interesting part about the memoir, besides the varying horrible events Mock encountered has a child, were the Hawaiian cultural elements that were interspersed throughout the book. Mock’s first real encounter with another transwomen was her friend Wendi. One day, Wendi come up to her at school and asked if she was mahu. As a native to Hawaii, Mock explains that mahu is a Hawaiian term for “people who embody both male and female spirit. In fact, Mock’s Hawaiian upbringing and supportive family contributed greatly to her smooth transition, but it was not without many trials and tribulations.

My only qualm with the book was Mock’s somewhat judgemental perception of other trans women who physically appear to be “female” and those who do not, since it may not be as easy for others in transition to physically appear “female.” Mock explains the privilege that comes with being able to “pass,” even if that privilege seems a bit ironic. I highly recommend the book. Mock’s experience shows that creating your own passage in life can come with detours, distractions and hurdles. Still, Mock overcame a lot in her life and should be admired. Furthermore, a her passage is not only travelled by herself, but other trans teenagers, male and female. “Redefining Realness” is Mock’s story, however, it serves as an experience to be shared with everyone in hopes of producing action and change.

-Kara Ogilvie

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