Redefining Realness Summary & Study Guide

Mock, Janet
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Redefining Realness Summary & Study Guide Description

Redefining Realness Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion on Redefining Realness by Mock, Janet.

The following version of this book was used to create this study guide: Mock, Janet. Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More. New York: Atria Books, 2014. Kindle Edition.

Janet Mock, a transwoman of Hawaiian and black descent who works in celebrity journalism in New York City, begins her memoir by describing the day her “coming-out” story was published in Marie Claire magazine in 2011. She then moves back to 2009, when she first begins dating a man named Aaron. Their relationship blossoms quickly and Mock builds up the courage to tell him her story. She then proceeds to recount her story for the reader, beginning with her childhood Hawaii.

Part One of the memoir opens in Honolulu in 1989, where Mock lives in public housing with her Grandma Pearl and attends first grade. Her parents have a strained relationship due to infidelity and drug addiction. While Mock was born as a boy named Charles, she knew from a young age that she was really a girl. She has two older sisters, Cori and Cheraine, and two younger brothers, Chad and later Jeff. Soon, their mother decides to send Mock and Chad to live with their estranged father in Oakland. Seven-year-old Mock does her best to be the perfect son for her father but struggles to fit the prescribed gendered behavior expected. The teenage son of her father’s girlfriend, Derek, notices Mock’s femininity and vulnerability and for the next two years, sexually abuses her. By the time she is 10 years old, and Derek has tired of her, she begins developing crushes on other boys. For example, she plays house with a 12-year-old boy named Junior (Mock as the mom and Junior as the dad) and soon begins kissing and performing oral sex on him.

While Mock struggles with isolation, confusion over her gender and sexuality, and pressure to conform to a role she was born prescribed to, her father struggles with a developing crack addiction. Mock and her younger brother are forced to reconcile their idealized image of their father with the reality of the man before them. Soon, the violence and harsh conditions of their poor, predominantly black neighborhood increases, and their father soon decides to move them to Dallas. Mock has fond memories of time spent at her Grandmother Shellie’s family ranch with her aunts and cousins, particularly during her time in the kitchen while the women of the family talked and cooked. She also develops a friendship with a stylish and vibrant girl named Makayla, and during their time together Mock constructs an alter ego as Keisha. During a spring break spent with her aunt and cousin Mechelle, she develops a crush on a boy named Jamie, and they start spending time together while she goes as Keisha. When her father finds out, he begins questioning her sexuality, accusing her of being gay, and cutting her long hair off. By 1995, Mock and her brother are summoned back to Honolulu by their mother.

In Part Two, 12-year-old Mock returns to Honolulu and is reunited with her mother and sisters. They live in a predominantly Filipino neighborhood and are racially discriminated against for their perceived blackness, despite their mother’s native Hawaiian origins. She excels at school, bringing home great marks and developing a love of literature and writing. At first, Mock tries to be the perfect son for her mother in order to earn her love and attention. But by 13 years old, she becomes best friends with a trans girl named Wendi. With Wendi’s confidence, support, and friendship, Mock gains the confidence and clarity in her gender identity and begins dressing like a girl, growing her hair long, wearing makeup, and looking at drag queens for style inspiration. She struggles with body image issues though, as she develops in puberty, causing her anguish that her body does not reflect who she is inside. When Wendi turns 16 years old, she begins hormonal replacement therapy and shares her estrogen pills with Mock, who begins developing breasts within weeks.

In Part Three, by 15 years old, Mock asks her mother and siblings to call her Janet and begins going by this name at school as well. However, she keeps the fact that she is taking hormones a secret from her family. The administrators and teachers at her high school give her a difficult time, calling her into the office to reprimand her for garnering attention for wearing girls’ clothes. Once she turns 16 years old, she asks her mother to take her to Wendi’s doctor to start taking hormonal injections as well and her body begins to further transform. She begins dating a boy named Adrian and after telling him that she was “born with the wrong parts and [is] waiting to have surgery to change that,” he briefly rejects her, but after they reunite, she loses her virginity to him.

In the meantime, her mother rekindles her relationship with her ex (the father of Mock’s older sisters), Rick, who is violent and abusive. Their drug addictions escalate, and their financial situation deteriorates, and they are forced into a period of homelessness. To pay for her hormones and to save for her genital reconstruction surgery, Mock falls into sex work on Merchant Street, a district known for attracting men who are looking transwomen. Despite her acknowledgment that some sex workers engage in this work in an empowered and intentional way, Mock feels as though she was groomed for it as a survivor of child sex abuse and due to her financial vulnerability. After Rick is arrested, Mock’s mother finds work and rents an apartment for the family. Due to repeated discrimination, Mock transfers to a more welcoming and supportive high school.

After further work on Merchant Street and a brief and regrettable foray into pornography, 18-year-old Mock saves enough money for her surgery and flies to Thailand. Her doctor is kind and patient and the nurses take good care of her. After the surgery is successfully completed, Mock marvels at this latest stage of her transformation, which has allowed her to feel as though her body mirrors her. She also reflects on the gift of affirmation and support that her family gave her. Finally, Mock concludes her memoir by returning to New York in 2009, when she is 26 years old, the day that she told Aaron the truth about her past. Their relationship continues to develop, and he accepts her lovingly, giving her the support and encouragement that she needs to tell her story. This book is dedicated to him.

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