Get Excited About Janet Mock’s Project, I AM #RedefiningRealness

Mey’s Team Pick:

Have we mentioned lately how excited we are for Janet Mock’s memoir coming out in just a few days? Well, in case you’ve missed our one million posts on the subject, the book is called Redefining Realness and in it, Mock tells her life story and gets to define her own reality and share her story under her own terms. Since Mock regularly talks about the importance of being true to oneself and sharing your story with others, with the help of her editorial assistant, Erika Turner, she made a tumblr where people from all around the world can submit their own stories and redefine realness for themselves.

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The I AM #RedefiningRealness tumblr asks people to submit their name, a selfie, five words they feel define themselves and their story. Turner will take it from there and put it together in an awesome graphic and tumblr post. So far, the around two dozen people that have submitted cover a wide range of genders, sexualities and ethnicities, and all of them have important stories to tell. The tumblr itself says it better than I ever could:

The book is about discovering, becoming and revealing ourselves to the world. It’s about authenticity and owning our stories in a world that tells us that who we are is wrong, shameful and should be kept secret. We’re banishing this silence together through storysharing.

I AM #RedefiningRealness is a space where readers can share parts of their lives, proclaim and declare their identities and discuss where their journey intersects with the messages in the book.

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I think this is a brilliant idea and one of my favorite tumblrs right now. So get submitting! I can’t wait to see a bunch of Autostraddler’s smiling faces on the site.

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Mey is a lesbian Latina trans woman living in Idaho. Her areas of expertise include comic books, trans issues and pop culture. She has an English Degree, a cat named Sawyer, a tumblr that she uses a lot and a twitter that she only uses occasionally.

Mey has written 160 articles for us.

6 Comments

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    While I respect Janet Mock and think she’s a very positive addition to trans activism, it’s hard for me to not feel “Redefining Realness” when said by a trans person who totally passes and gets a lot of cis props for how beautiful she is just isn’t the same as when it’s said by someone who IS visibly trans (however that is defined by society) and doesn’t get those props and privileges. Yes, she occasionally acknowledges her passing privilege (usually with a quick mention of it) but never really explores how persons without that privilege live hugely different lives than her. I also feel the title of her book plays too much into cis reader assumptions who assume “because she looks cis, we’ll believe her womanhood.” Does that mean Janet Mock doesn’t have a lot to offer society particularly by giving a ‘different view’ of what a trans woman of color is or can be… no. But I do think her media attention largely has to do with cis people’s discomfort with trans people who don’t ‘look cis’ and that needs to be examined because it’s a fundamental part of why cis people continue to be marginalized.

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      Cis-dominated media and cis people who claim to be fans of Janet Mock bear the sole responsibility for objectifying Mock and other trans* women. The obsession with beauty and surgery and “passing” comes directly from transmisogynist cis people, especially the media, the medical establishment, and the beauty industry. Mock and other trans feminist writers have consistently called out the objectifying gaze that cis people project onto trans* bodies, and how it fuels the systemic oppression that all trans* people struggle with. Now whether cis people take heed of trans* criticism of their transphobic gaze is another matter altogether.

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        It’s easy to say it’s all the cis people who objectify Janet Mock and have put her on a pedestal (and again, I think she’s a great possibility-model for many young trans women… this is more about how she’s viewed not about her) but it’s also been many women in the trans community who have literally drooled over Janet. Every post she makes is filled with fangirl fawning comments going on about how beautiful she is (which she is) and how hawt her boyfriend is and her wonderful lifestyle. I’d like to say they’re just happy for her but really it sounds more like internalized transphobia. The “groundbreaking” stuff she’s saying is stuff many trans women activists have been saying for years yet because it’s coming out of her cis-looking face, it’s suddenly a big deal. This behavior happens to some degree whenever there is an extremely passable and ‘cis-looking’ trans woman who is given instant cred… to whit Nikki Arraguz and Paris Lees. I’m not saying those women don’t have a lot to offer the trans community because they do, just that they’re given an instantaneous position of high respect in the trans community, along with paid speaking dates, photo shoots, media opportunities and high visibility in actual publications. Then I can think of a pre-Janet black trans woman like Ashley Love who was given a similar position in the trans community for a period of time only to make a whole lot of messed up statements about “real transsexuals vs. phony transgender cross-dressers.” Don’t we ever learn from this? This nonsense is perpetuating all that oppresses us and, no, I don’t think Janet has addressed it nearly enough in her writings I’ve seen (although i haven’t read her book yet).

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          I feel like you’re giving Janet Mock way more privilege than she actually has. Remember, no matter how beautiful she is, she’s still a trans woman of color, she’s still black. Just take a look at other black trans women like Islan Nettles, Kelly Young and Eyricka Morgan. They were all gorgeous and I think a lot of people would agree that they “passed” better than a lot of trans women, but that didn’t stop them from being beaten and murdered. I honestly find it a little baffling that you are saying that cis society is going to listen to and embrace a black trans woman, no matter how beautiful she is, over white trans women. For a cis analogy, look at how many more people see Lena Dunham and Tina Fey (two beautiful women who are considered “plain” by hollywood standards) as feminist icons and listen to the things they has to say compared to how many people see Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj as feminist icons. While the latter are praised for their looks far more than the former, the mainstream media and society definitely celebrates Lena and Tina for their “feminism” way more than it celebrates Beyoncé and Nicki for theirs.
          Now, I’m not saying that there isn’t some privilege that comes from being traditionally attractive, there definitely is. But there’s also a lot of oppression that comes with being a trans woman of color, especially being a black trans woman. But I think it completely diminishes Janet’s work, and objectifies her as both a woman and a woman of color to focus so much on her looks and to say that the only reason she gets the attention she does is because of the way she looks. That’s an argument often used to discredit women of color, and again, especially black women. If it was really all about looks, wouldn’t Jenna Talackova, a literal beauty queen, be the one we keep on talking about on here? Janet’s looks may have helped her get noticed, but it’s her words, her work and her mind that have made her someone we still want to pay attention to.
          I for one, am happy that we have trans women of color like Janet Mock and Laverne Cox in the spotlight of current trans representation. I’d much rather have trans women of color who address intersectionality and the fact that Latina and black trans women face much higher rates of violence and discrimination than white trans women be the ones that people are listening to rather than white trans women who have degrees in gender studies but who haven’t been pointing those things out.

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          “wouldn’t Jenna Talackova, a literal beauty queen, be the one we keep on talking about on here?”

          Actually, Jenna Talackova is of First Nations background and, in fact, she has been given her own reality tv show in Canada’s E! network.

          “But I think it completely diminishes Janet’s work, and objectifies her as both a woman and a woman of color to focus so much on her looks and to say that the only reason she gets the attention she does is because of the way she looks.”

          I’ve never said it’s the only reason. But I do say it’s too big a reason. There are long time African-American trans women activists like Earline Budd, Monica Roberts, Valerie Spencer and Miss Major who have been hugely ignored by media… even LGBTQ media. If it was all about thoughtfully and passionately speaking out about politics and intersectionality (both important subjects) why didn’t anyone give a damn these women have been speaking out for years? Janet comes out in a mainstream fashion magazine, gets immediate media attention and is booked to make speeches about the trans community almost immediately (after living in stealth for 12+years). What’s wrong with this picture? Again, you’re ignoring I’m not talking about Janet nor placing a value on her as an activist, writer or commentator, I’m talking about how cis media, Gay Inc. and many in the trans community value passability, attractiveness and especially, cis-normativity over pretty much anything else. On a more minor level, someone like Buck Angel gets some of the same ‘instantly ordained cred’ in the trans men community (although he’s recently been doing his best to lose that).

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