Arts & Entertainment
3 min

Janet Mock in her own words

Xtra asks the New York Times bestselling author five curious questions

Janet Mock is the author of Redefining Realness. Credit: Atria Books

A few weeks into her book tour for Redefining Realness and fresh off a decisive victory over Piers Morgan on television, Janet Mock has been demonstrating left and right that she has a mouthful of words for all occasions: welcoming, sharp, tender and tough. But see for yourself. Here is the New York Times bestselling author and renowned speaker in her own words about visibility, passing, media and her fabulous hair.

How she gets her hair so fabulous (as a queer publication, we had to ask) . . .

Part of it’s just the texture, how it grows out of my head. But I have a stylist, at The Little Hair Shop in NYC, who cuts and colours and takes care of my curls. @hairstylistkris is his Twitter handle.

People’s feelings about her and Laverne Cox as black trans women being the most prominent spokespeople for trans communities . . .

I don’t really pay attention to it. I’d rather speak about the violence that trans women of colour face. I would rather speak about the systemic oppressions that force a lot of trans people of colour and low-income trans folks to the margins. This is one of the first times in modern culture that trans women of colour, who often get talked about — statistics-wise and so on — are doing the talking, centring our experiences. But if there’s a backlash, it’s because we’re recentring the marginal right into the headlines. There’s a lot of discomfort about that. When white folk talk about trans issues, it’s considered a universal experience. When people of colour talk about trans issues, it’s seen as a very small slice of the picture.

The questions she wishes interviewers would ask her . . .

What’s been very interesting to me is that a lot of these interviews have not been about my book. Except for my Melissa Harris-Perry interview, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it was a woman of colour who saw me actually as a person and a writer rather than a mouthpiece for the trans movement. I’ve written this very personal but also very politicized book, but I’ve not been able to speak as a writer. Since my media moments with white, cis, hetero men, I’ve been asked over and over about white, cis, hetero men even though my work centres around trans women of colour and poor trans women.

On who she hopes Redefining Realness will soothe and comfort . . .

Using the term inclusively, but: The Girls. Those girls know who they are. The book is very much about my girlhood and how I come to womanhood. It’s a celebration of my girlhood. And a lot of cis black girls and a lot of trans girls and a lot of trans girls of colour who aren’t black have found and seen themselves in the text, even though our experiences may have been different. That’s who I want to soothe: the girl who may have been touched without her consent, the girl who was told she shouldn’t be a girl, the girl who was told she was the wrong kind of girl, the girl who just wants to sit and read and write. That’s who I want to take care of.

On the most surprising thing about her book coming out . . .

The girls that I wrote it for showing up to signings and telling me what the book means to them. It’s great to talk about them in theory: “These girls, they’re out there, that’s who I wrote it for,” but it’s a whole other thing when they’re standing in front of you, crying, telling you how much the book means to them. But I mean, I can’t even imagine what it would be like to sit and talk to Zora Neale Hurston and have her sign my book and tell her how much it meant to me. So for me it’s a huge full-circle moment — I remember sitting in the library, reading these women’s books and just feeling so much possibility and hope. Now I’m privileged to be able to do that for other women.