Redefining Realness by Janet Mock

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Summary

Redefining Realness is not only an interesting biography of Janet Mock's life, but also serves as a plea to not overlook the many underprivileged trans youth in our communities today, especially minorities like herself. Mock informs us that many young trans people are often estranged from family members or the targets of physical abuse. Suicide is more prevalent in the trans community, and it is oftentimes more difficult to sustain a support network. She also advises parents how to interact with and better understand and support their child.

Mack was born in Hawaii of Hawaiian and black parents who were very poor. We learn that her father was a drug addict and that she was sexually abused by a stepbrother as a child. Mack was lucky in the sense that she grew up in Hawaii. In Hawaiian culture, there is a gender role known as "mahu." Mahu is a term that means "third gender" that refers to people with both feminine and masculine traits. According to Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, a mahu who teachers Hawaiian studies and hula in Oahu:

You’re someone in the middle. That’s all it means.

Since Mack grew up in Hawaii, she lived in a culture that already had a flexible view of traditional gender roles. Mack also had a teenage friend who was trans, so she had support from someone who knew exactly what she was going through. Mack eventually met other trans people and formed a support community around herself. She also desperately wanted reassignment surgery, and with no way to finance it, turned to sex work. She later meets and falls in love with a man and realizes that she must be completely honest with him about her past. Finally, Mack discusses the notion that trans people deserve to be treated "normally."