Monday, July 6, 2015

Redefining Realness by Janet Mock

I can't quite recall how I got to hear about this book, but I have a vague recollection that it was probably my Amazon app on my iPhone that recommended this book to me. That was one brilliant suggestion I must say. I got a good friend to buy it for me after she offered to buy me a book. 

Well, what can I say? You should go read this book. 

*Spoiler alert!*

Janet Mock is a transgender journalist and activist who was assigned male at birth. The book opens with her meeting the man of her dreams in a club one night in New York City (NYC) and was quickly faced with the decision of whether to reveal her past to him.

The first chapter starts with a memorable incident where a young boy Charles and his playmate were in a backyard playing "Truth or Dare". Charles chose a dare and his friend challenged him to put on his grandma's dress which was hanging on a clothesline near them, run to the end of the road in her heels and run back.

He did so, was caught, and disciplined by his grandmother and father. The latter told him that that's not what little boys do.

Charles grew up and was separated from his father when his parents divorced. A while into the story, his mother decided to send him and his younger brother back to their father when she found a new beau and decided to settle down with him. 

Life with his father was difficult. He could not excel in the sports his father forced him to try. It was here that he was sexually abused by Derek, a teenager that lived with them and was the son of the woman Charles' father was with at that time. That was his initiation into the world of sex.

It was also around then that he began dressing as a girl and even attracted the attention of an older boy by becoming "Keisha".

When his mom requested custody of the boys, Charles was overjoyed. It was in Hawaii as he lived with his mom that he met Wendi in school. He initially rejected her friendship because he wanted to be the best boy he could be for his mom and leave his alter-ego behind. But he soon became firm friends with Wendi.

She was starting on hormones and gave some of it to Charles who was more than happy to begin transitioning at 14.

Later, to fund her bottom surgery, she decided to use sex work to achieve that aim.

It's heartbreaking to read.

Well, she finally got her surgery done in Thailand, finished up her undergraduate degree in Hawaii and moved to NYC for graduate studies. She continued working there but was out to no one.

Eventually, she opened up to a colleague of hers before she met the man in the club she felt was "The One". Aaron seemed to have a difficult time after she came out to him, but eventually came round and supported her as she gave an interview to Marie Claire which was her coming out to the world.

This is a refreshing and educational read that gives one insight into the life of a transgender person of colour. Being biracial, she faced her own set of challenges that were intertwined with growing up trans. The intersectionality is interesting and she highlights the plight of trans women of colour who often end up doing sex work because of discrimination from every quarter.

I felt so much for her reading it. You probably will too. Go get your copy today.

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