Welcome to the third article in our 2019 Pride Month Series! Each day in the month of June, we will be highlighting a different member of the LGBTQ+ community who we think is a great example of representation and dynamic characterization. We will focus on fictional characters, celebrities, and activists alike — the positive voices within the LGBTQ+ community and in mainstream media.
The next person featured in our series is producer, director, and activist Janet Mock.
The list of accomplishments, awards, and accolades that Janet Mock has racked up in her life is long. If you watch the hit series Pose on FX (and if you’re not, you should), then you know that Janet is one of the writers and producers behind the show. By joining the show, Janet made history by becoming the first transgender woman of color to write for a major television series. And she also became the first trans woman of color to write, produce, and direct a network TV episode (the first season’s 6th episode titled “Love Is The Message”).
— Janet Mock (@janetmock) December 5, 2018
But Janet has been breaking through barriers long before Pose premiered in 2018. She split her childhood between Texas and Hawaii, where her parents lived. She finally settled in Honolulu at the age of twelve, where she was able to flourish, with the help of her supportive mother. In Hawaii, gender is a more relatively fluid term than it is in the lower 48 states. She spoke of her mother’s attitude toward gender in her experience growing up in an interview for The Guardian:
My mom, growing up in Hawaii, saw trans people existing every day. She didn’t know they were trans. She was just like: ‘Oh, that’s such-and-such who lives on the street.’ It was the norm to have people who were not male or female; people who may be in the middle somewhere.
Janet graduated from college in Manoa, Hawaii and then earned a Master of Arts degree from New York University. After having worked as a staff editor for People magazine for five years, Janet came out publicly as transgender in a 2011 Marie Claire article. When the article was published, Janet took issue with the title (“I Was Born A Boy”), because she was born a girl and had no control over which sex she was assigned at her birth. The editor of that piece later expressed regret about the wording of the title and said Janet was right to be offended by it. Today, Janet is a contributing editor for Marie Claire, where she has written about the importance of trans women’s presence in the global beauty industry.
In 2015, Time magazine named Janet one of “the 30 Most Influential People on the Internet” and one of “12 New Faces of Black Leadership.” And in 2018, she was named to Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” list.
Janet is also the author of two books. In 2014, her memoir Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More was published, and it made the New York Times bestseller list for hardcover nonfiction. It is the first book written by a trans person who transitioned as a young person. Janet’s second book, Surpassing Certainty, was published in 2017.
Janet’s accomplishments are staggering and noteworthy. But what makes Janet so intriguing, in my opinion, is her keen awareness that, while she is a leader and trailblazer in the transgender community, her story is not representative of every trans woman’s story. She understands the privilege she has been afforded, through her educational achievements and her physical looks, which gave her the ability to choose when she could come out publicly. Not all trans women have the luxury to do that, and Janet wants to challenge our notions of beauty that are based on cisnormative standards.
Trans women like myself, whose transness often goes unchecked, are conditionally granted access and navigate spaces more safely than trans women who do not pass as easily. Being able to blend in is a gateway to survival, but many trans women do not benefit from my passing privilege or my pretty privilege….
People with privilege do not want to discuss their privilege — whether it’s privilege derived from whiteness, straightness, cisness. But we must acknowledge our privilege if we are to dismantle these systems and hierarchies. We have to be honest, and I’ll start with myself: I am pretty and I benefit from my looks.
Janet Mock is an activist, author, producer, director, and so much more. She has spent her life fighting for the rights of others to claim their space in society, and she has used her success and platform to bring awareness to the challenges the transgender community faces in all facets of life. She is a true role model for all members of the LGBTQ+ community, and we are honored to include her in our 2019 Pride Month Series.