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redefining realness 9781476709130 hr


You may, and will, call me Janet.

Review (with Spoilers)

With the start of Part Three comes Janet transitioning and beginning proper hormone therapy. With this, though, it seems a lot of the ease she has had up till now starts to diminish as she tries to push her realness pass simply knowing she is a woman, but giving others the impression she is a cis-gendered woman. Something which causes complications, leads to compromises and forces her to realize that even with the privileges she has, there are limitations to everything.

Characters & Story

In Janet’s 15th – 16th year of age she finds herself ready to fully own her identity to not just herself, or even her family, but the public as well. She comes out as Janet, a name chosen due to the effect Janet Jackson’s “The Velvet Rope” had on her. But, even with her doing well in school, even being named the class treasurer, it seems the good times maybe over and the struggle is going to begin. For while Janet’s mom just goes along with Janet officially becoming one of Dr. R’s patients, her school doesn’t seem as accepting.

After dealing with some bullying due to femininity, even at the hands of her dad, before proclaiming herself as Trans, it seemed that she didn’t get many issues out of being feminine in high school. However, upon announcing herself as Janet, and thinking she has acceptance, she realizes mostly there is tolerance around her, accompanied by some outright refusing to not only recognize her as a girl but to let her be eaten by the wolves when the kids make fun of her. Yes, you got that right, the administrators, and teachers, full-grown adults, allow Janet to be bullied, and even reinforce it.

Still, Janet reminds us how the privilege of having a community, as well as having school be integral as part of her identity, saved her. Though as Janet realized she was very fish, passing even, and some of her trans friends were not, she oddly began to distance herself. This didn’t go unnoticed, though, she does get called out on this, but it seemed to not matter because boys now were approaching her just like they would any girl.

One boy, in particular, Adrian, seemed to be one of her first loves, as well as the one who explains why Mock seemed hesitant toward Aaron approaching her. And while I read this part I felt reminded of the movie Gun Hill Road, starring fellow Trans person Harmony Santana. The reason why is we can see Mock, someone who has never really had the best of relationships when it comes to guys, falling for this cute marine and dealing with the difficulty of revealing what she evolved from. Something which causes issues in the cis-gendered Adrian who immediately starts with the whole “I’m not gay” spiel, and yet finds himself, though only when drunk, having sex with Mock, thus becoming her first.

But, with this, you can see a slight pattern forming in Mock’s relationship with boys in which she seemingly lets those who deny or mistreat her to use her sexually. Be it Derrick who molested her; the boy who she messed around with before she was even ten while playing house; and now Adrian, who spoke of her past form with disgust, until he was drunk and horny, it is hard to not feel for Mock. After all, in her life, she didn’t seem to see many happy and healthy relationships, much less did she really get that type of love she seemingly has always craved. For while her father could be affectionate, as well as her mother, neither was attentive and loved Mock as she seems like she wanted. Something which you can’t fully fault them with, though with her mother putting her men before her kids you could maybe fault her slightly, but all in all, perhaps Adrian was the first sign of why when Aaron approached Mock she was hesitant. For she has been down this road with boys many times before and between heartbreak, molestation, and being used, by the time Aaron came around she had just become jaded and aware of the dangers of not just loving someone, but revealing her full self.

Chapter 12


With her mother hitting the bottom of the barrel, Janet decides to start fending for herself.

Review (with Spoilers)

In Part Three, not only is Janet transitioning physically, but mentally as well. With her body beginning to match how she sees it, she is forced to then look at her environment and take note how that is also transitioning. Her mother is no longer this shiny figure who she longed for as a child; her separation from family is a tad bittersweet, but a blessing in disguise; and with her home environment in shambles, she is forced to quickly grow up once more and show that she is in no way to be the adult that her situation, and environment, expect her to be.

Characters & Story

Janet’s mom basically has become a drug addict because of Rick, and with this comes the same issues that came when Mock’s father descended into the world of drugs. But, while Mock at least had her dad’s girlfriend or family to rely on, with Mock’s mother distancing herself from everyone but her mother, due to her association with Rick, Mock essentially only has Wendi and Cori isn’t hardly mentioned at all. But what can Wendi really provide Mock when her situation is good, but not so exuberant that Mock can do more than spend the night from time to time?

Then, what doesn’t help, is as Mock deals with her mother becoming less stable, this is affecting her getting her hormones. On top of that, as Mock still is trying to adjust to her body, she is also seeking affection, trying to deal with being horny, and having sex for validation of her womanhood and attractiveness. Something which one of her Trans mothers note as she evaluates her situation. For, as Mock notes, there were many sex workers amongst Mock who made a living doing various things for Johns. Some even had quite nice things like houses in the good parts of Hawaii. However, Mock didn’t see this type of work in high standard at first. She was an honor student, who maybe within tough times, but isn’t that desperate.

Well, at least until things became so sporadic with her mom giving her money for hormones that sex work became an option. Plus, considering how she would mess around with guys for free, why not monetize the transaction? But, even amongst all this, Janet has a conversation with us, and young girls like her, who may be going through what she did. For while sex work is perhaps one the eye-opening parts of the chapter, the heart of it deals with her perception of womanhood and how it was formed. Be it how she saw her mother, as a mother, girlfriend to Rick, and care provider, or those girls like her who were sex workers, or just around to hang out. How they helped her develop who Janet Mock is truly the main point, with the sex worker bit is just to remind us that as put together as Mock may appear to use now, it wasn’t without some struggle.

Making for a chapter in which as she speaks upon her story, there is a moment of reflection and also a slight lecture. Not in a preachy way, but more so her trying to relate to her younger self once more and in the process try to explain her actions. Not because she feels she must to validate herself, but so girls like her, and us cisgendered to a point, can understand the desperation a person can have in the situation she was in, as well as understand that not all were desperate.

Collected Quote(s)

“Self-definition has been a responsibility I’ve wholeheartedly taken on as mine. It’s never a duty one should outsource [and] it’s okay if your personal definition is in a constant state of flux as you navigate the world.”

— Redefining Realness: Part Three/ Chapter 12 – Page 172

“I was ashamed to define our situation. Speaking about our experiences with poverty and homelessness would have made it too real for me. I was living it, surviving it, and had no strength to define it.”

— Redefining Realness: Part Three/ Chapter 12 – Page 167

Chapter 13 Is Missing

From skimming through it (this book is probably one of the few I’ve kept after reading), it is about Mock’s junior year and when she learned gender reassignment surgery was a possibility through a fellow trans sex worker.

Chapter 14


In a rather short chapter, pretty much the focus is on the year 2001.

Review (with Spoilers)

2001 was a major year for Mock for many reasons. It seems to be the year in which she found herself enamored with Beyoncé and seemingly relating to her look; it is the year Aaliyah died. Something which seems significant for this beautiful, talented, and sweet girl died without reason; and then there was the World Trade Center attack.  The combination of these three, though certainly odd out of context, made it so Mock realized that her mortality isn’t at all guaranteed, and if she wanted to fulfil her dream, become comfortable in her body, and look damn good after all is said and done, she had to get serious.

Characters & Story

This chapter very much feels like a transition chapter. It doesn’t go into some deep story, nor really gives a loaded lesson. It just summarizes the fall of 2001 and its importance to Mock. From the two tragedies of the fall, the rise of her love for Beyoncé, and the reason behind her doing sex work full time. For, with her recently graduating from school, with a scholarship to the University of Hawaii, she essentially remained stuck in the place which refused to let Charles go. And bad enough she is teased by peers she knew since Middle School, but there remained that issue of being uncomfortable with the thing between her legs.

But, as a sex-worker, it is what the clients wanted, and what the clients liked would allow her to pay for her surgery. So, despite the utter disgust she associated with men fetishizing her, it seems she began to accumulate the money needed to head to Thailand, perhaps within just a couple of months. She notes, though, as always, there remains a certain amount of privilege, or luck, when it comes to her story. Especially with her more so being uncomfortable with her genitals, and not in such disgust that she would resort to self-mutilation.

From what it seems, though, the big transition is just around the corner. Which saddens me for as much as I like reading about her life pre-transition, I think there maybe a serious lack of her life post-transition. Something which sort of bugs me after all this talk about realness and being fish, as well as she wanting to escape her past. At the same time, though, I think the reason I feel this way is because I keep forgetting that Mock isn’t in her golden years but is in her early 30s. Which perhaps is the main reason I feel like the story will feel incomplete. If just because it is still being written.

Chapter 15


With Janet now in college, she speaks, in detail, about the final stretch to her transition which heavily involved sex work.

Review (with Spoilers)

To be quite honest with you, I may speed up finishing this book because I am just continuously fascinated by the complexities of Mock as a person. For, like the recently passed Dr. Angelou, even in Mock’s years, there is such a wealth of living that has been done. And even with her story, thus far, summarized into a little over 250 pages, it is difficult to not sort of want to drop your jaw a bit. For, as much as Mock considers herself privileged, if not just plain lucky, you can tell she was meant to do something. Even if it was to be a beacon for fellow trans people. Because the way she paints this picture of her surviving, often while facing rape, drugs, and assault, you know something out there was keeping her safe.

Characters & Story

For the majority of the chapter Janet really goes in depth when it comes to her being a sex worker. The stories deal with good customers, one really bad one, her rules and procedures, and how she found a way to do sex work four nights out of the week, and still maintain a 3.8 GPA at the University of Hawaii. But, with the idea of being an exception comes some reflection as Mock has done throughout the book. For you can see as she retraces her steps, states facts and figures, that there is a realization that she was one lucky girl. She had a family which accepted her, though acted rather indifferent in many areas; she had a best friend running the streets with her; and despite doing sex work, there is no mention of STDs, she never got arrested, and seemed to mostly have good customers.

Of course though, there is always that one person, in any situation, which provides a wakeup call. For Janet, it was one john in a van who reminded her that as much as she thought she had autonomy in her sex work, she sort of didn’t. The law didn’t validate her line of work, nor was there compassion from the police, and with her mom just glad that someone else was providing money, you can tell the put together Janet was largely raising herself. For while she did have Wendi and the rest of the girls, you have to remember that being trans is just a part of her identity and isn’t totally consuming. For just as much as she is trans, she was still a child. One which needed guidance, stability, and safety which seemingly was never consistent.

But, luckily for Mock, she had endurance, luck, and intelligence which got her through many situations and kept her from trapping herself. And to not be in awe of Mock at this point, well unless you have gone through what has and more, I could only assume that you are an apathetic douchebag.

Collected Quote(s)

“When your self-identity and self-worth are tied up in how much money you can make and how many men want you, it can be scary not to rely on that identity; it can be hard to let it go and not know how to define your worth for yourself. Unlearning all I had been taught about who I was, what I could imagine for myself, what I felt was possible, and my tenets on love and sex and trust have been my biggest lessons. I’m still learning.”

— Redefining Realness: Part Three/ Chapter 15 – Page 220


“I had no villain, no one person to blame for my circumstance, so for years I blamed myself. This lack of a villain initially made it difficult for me to look at my younger self with compassion.”

— Redefining Realness: Part Three/ Chapter 15 – Page 212


“At the time, I didn’t have the capacity to care what others thought. I was going to do what I needed to do regardless of anyone’s input.”

— Redefining Realness: Part Three/ Chapter 15 – Page 211


“Kindness and compassion are sister but not twins. One you can buy, the other is priceless.”

— Redefining Realness: Part Three/ Chapter 15 – Page 207


“Our society criminalized underground economies like sex work, and deep moral biases and stigma make even the most liberal folk believe that these actions are a moral failure of the individual rather than the workings of a system.”

— Redefining Realness: Part Three/ Chapter 15 – Page 205-206

Chapter 16


We learn how Mock got that final bit of money for her reassignment surgery.

Review (with Spoilers)

Like with the last chapter, Mock is utterly raw in her depiction of desperation to correct her gender and give herself a new sense of realness. But, in pursuit of that, she left the world an everlasting image of her desperation which seems to still haunt her.

Characters & Story

One of Mock’s kindest jonhs, Sam, introduces her to Felix, a local porn entrepreneur who films himself having sex with a very young Mock. And, being that Mock is trying to not seem like an exception, but one of the girls, she goes into enough detail for you to get the point. Be it her posing in lingerie, being came on, or her looking in retrospective with a tinge of, I wouldn’t say disgust but, perhaps pity. Mock paints herself as a girl desperate to fulfill her dreams at the expense of her body, and maybe even her mental state.

Though, as with many chapters, Mock presents an educational side to her journey. Which more so focuses on objectification of women in porn more than anything. And even then, the main focus is how she didn’t fully understand at the time, outside of Sam’s warnings, how what she would be doing would be permanent. Outside of that though, there isn’t any statistics, maybe some insight on what she may have learned from other trans girls who may have done porn or something like that. If just because this very short chapter seems like something she probably couldn’t bring herself to write, but maybe just told Aaron to write down what she said.

Collected Quote(s)

“My decisions are my decisions, my choices my choices, and I must stand by the bad ones as much as I applaud my good ones. Collectively, they’re an active archive of my strength and my vulnerability.”

—           Redefining Realness: Part Three/ Chapter 16 – Page 221

Chapter 17


In what looks like the final chapter before Aaron’s response, Mock talks about the surgery and not just the recovery of her body, but her family as well.

Review (with Spoilers)

I was so pissed with how short that last chapter was that I decided to do two in one day. Not just because this is the surgery chapter, but because I wanted to know more about the post-surgery life. Mock has been building up to this surgery for so long that I wanted to learn about the pay off. Hear about her trying to pass, find love as a post-op trans woman in New York and etc. Unfortunately though, it seems we skip about a decade and all the adjustments her family had to make are sped through. Never mind we don’t get to know more of Janet’s life before Aaron but after leaving Hawaii. But, maybe I speak too soon for there seems to be one chapter left, which honestly I don’t know if I can keep myself from reading until next Thursday.

Characters & Story

After putting into words she was trans at a young age, Mock finds herself in Thailand ready to become, as her doctor says “more happy.” With this she goes through the surgery, and even makes a friend by the name of Genie. With Genie’s introduction comes an alternate story of someone who lived the life handed to them more for others than themselves. Genie was an accomplished engineer, a parent, and married to a lovely woman for more than 14 years. But, as time went on it became harder to deny who she is, and in one false swoop of revealing her truth, there went all the privileges that came with being a white male.

Her job was taken away, her family ostracized her, and luckily a trans support group, and savings, allowed her some saving grace. And the reason for this story is to set a parallel universe. One in which Mock didn’t have to do what she had to in order to get to this point. How life may have been for her in a alternate universe. One in which she had access to money, some sense of white privilege, and while she doesn’t paint Genie as having a lesser struggle, she does paint it as Genie’s own path to get to the same point Janet is.

And really, as Janet begins wrapping up this book with that one last lecture about the regrets of those who didn’t get to transition into later in life, she begins summing up her post-op years. Whether it is how her relationship with her mom became better once the idealism of her mom being her protector, life giver, and etc evolved into just being a friend; how she learned to accept her dad for who he is as her dad accepted her for who she became; how despite it all, her mother and father truly may not have been the best, but did prep her for this journey she shared with us; and lastly, how she evolved as a woman who finally felt a bit more whole. A part I wished was fleshed out into a possible part four, but I guess the journey to the transition might have been the main point of the book more so than the life sense.

But, one thing remains: How Aaron reacted. Which, due to them being together still, we know means he accepted the story. However, what isn’t known is what his first reaction was. Did he come to learn to love her, or was it off the bat? Did all this romance weaken a bit due to Janet’s past? Oh, I may sneak the next chapter to cure my curiosity and just schedule the last chapter to be posted next Thursday.

Chapter 18 – New York, 2009


And so the book may have come to its end, but Janet Mock’s story continues.

Review (with Spoilers)

As expected, Mock’s initial arrival into New York is glazed over as the focus becomes solely on Aaron and his reaction, and actions after, to Janet revealing her story to him. Which, to me, play out like how many romance films go. Something which I have to admit I kind of wanted more details on, but with this being Janet’s closing statement on her life until fairly recently, you can see she wanted to end things on affirmations and reminding us that as integral as her transition was, this doesn’t mean we, as loving readers, should erase all that came before, and surely will come after. For, as I might have said before, being Trans is but a part of Janet’s identity, and not the whole summary of her person.

Characters & Story

After Janet finished her story, Aaron gives her a hug and you are given the idea he is so in love he just accepts her as she is. Thing is, while Mock makes it seem like he overall is a good dude, and didn’t care about her being trans, I must admit I am given the impression he had to work through that. For as much as Aaron mentions how he has been a serial monogamous for years, and really wanted to work on defining himself, the way the picture is painted it makes it seem like he became quite an ass after the reveal and became while he would be seen with her in public, and their intimacy did grow, he wasn’t as aggressive anymore to be in her space.

But, everything ends well for them. Making the rest of the chapter a sped through version of her revealing her past to others such as Mai who hired her at; her dealing with the post-reveal when it came to the Marie Claire article; and her trying to convey the difficulty of creating a sense of community within the LGBT community which seems more focused on white cisgendered people, than those who hare trans, and/or people of color.

And that perhaps is the educational part of the chapter for she really takes to task the difficult of being amongst this sort of progressive community which doesn’t put a lot of QPoC at the table. Like the idea of “Coming Out.” Something which Mock makes it seem was damn near the mission for the organizations she worked with, but without these organizations recognizing the difficulty that presented for some. Though perhaps the biggest thing she goes in on is the idea that Trans people also can be adhered to this idea of being in the closet. For, as you can imagine, she isn’t fond of the idea of sexuality and gender being put side by side. If just because sexuality isn’t visible while gender, on the other hand, is. And with the idea of Trans people “coming out” brings the idea that like cisgendered people, their lives before coming out was some sort of lie or façade.

As for the rest of the chapter, including the Acknowledgment section, there is a mix of Janet thanking close friends, literary idols, and just being thankful for those who paved the way to make her getting to this point a bit more easier.


As I said in a earlier chapter, this book deserves to be compared to the like Maya Angelou if just because it paints the scenery and people to the point where it feels like you were someone who knew of Janet at various times of her life, and came across this book and got those missing pieces filled in. And with how intimate and revealing the story is, it feels less autobiographical and like an intimate conversation. One in which just as much as her story is being told, she interjects to make sure you don’t prejudge her as she notes her privilege, and she reminds you, as you put her up on a pillar, that not only does she not belong there, but you need to recognize those you are trying to make her an exception of. Making for an overall book which surely is one of my favorites. I mean, pretty much the only books I love more than this are Maya Angelou’s and maybe Iyanla Vanzant’s autobiography. If just because Vanzan’t biography had self-help elements which are less preachy than how her show is.

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