Janet Mock: “Loving My Reflection Is an Act of Everyday Rebellion”
Janet Mock has long held a career in media – perhaps most famously for her work as a director, writer, and producer on FX’s “Pose,” for which she made history as the first openly trans woman of color hired as a writer on any television show.
She’s also an outspoken advocate for queer folks of color. This past May, in honor of APIA Heritage Month, she partnered with Diageo to host Blend Out by Diageo, a celebration that raised a glass to multihyphenate creators who refuse to blend in by showing up as their authentic selves.
In a year that has seen unprecedented anti-trans legislation and violence, POPSUGAR is highlighting the perspectives of trans and nonbinary folks throughout Pride Month. These leaders are sharing ways they protect their joy, reminiscing on moments of gender euphoria, and suggesting how allies can support the LGBTQ+ community right now. Explore all of our coverage here, and read Mock’s story, in her own words, below.
I’ve written two memoirs – “Redefining Realness” and “Surpassing Certainty” – about many moments of gender euphoria, but one of the firsts was connecting in girlfriendship and sisterhood with my best friend Wendi, with whom I grew up and transitioned together through the halls of our high school in Hawaii. We are both mixed Kanaka Maoli (indigenous Hawaiian) trans women and were able to explore, share, contrast, and expand our ideas about our bodies and gender in sisterhood – together.
The journey of self-love never ends.
We would sit and flip through magazines like Vibe and Teen People, we would watch MTV together and mimic Destiny’s Child and all the video vixens, we would get glammed up in our CoverGirl and Wet n Wild cosmetics and do little photo shoots, we would perform to Spice Girls at school dances – we did everything! Having that community with another trans sister was pivotal for me – not only was I able to have a reflection in her, but I also knew that I was not the only. I was not alone, and that has been a building block for my own confidence and self-love journey. I wish that sort of communal experience for every single young person, regardless of their gender or sexual identity.
I feel a sense of deep love and appreciation for my self and my experience every single day. Some days are tougher than others – I, too, battle with my image and my body and with what people have to say and their expectations and limiting beliefs. The journey of self-love never ends, and I want any trans person reading this to know that after you “transition,” we must all still do the work of fully embodying and living our most authentic and real self. But I feel such pride in my journey and am so grateful to the ancestors and elders who’ve paved the way – from Marsha P. Johnson to Miss Major Griffin-Gracy – and I feel so grateful for all the experiences I’ve had – the euphoric and the frustrating – because they’ve brought me here, to a place where I get to live my absolute best life, grateful to have breath, a heartbeat, and a body to house the abundance that I am.
All I have to say to those who do not want us to exist: we do, honey.
When it comes to our current political climate, it’s important to remember that it has never been safe for trans folks to exist in our culture. We need that context – these attacks are not new. Look at the Compton Cafeteria protest and the Stonewall Rebellion: trans folks have always been under the glare and gaze of cis folks who are too afraid to look deep within themselves and even start to question all that they’ve assumed about gender and sexuality. When you see wrong and feel wrong, use your voice, your influence, your assets, and your privilege to right those wrongs. Don’t let any of it stand on your watch – your complacency is complicity.
For me, and for my ancestors who’ve come before and my siblings resisting and living their best lives today, just waking up, looking in the mirror, and loving my reflection is an act of everyday rebellion, and yes, resistance in a world and culture that puts a target on my back merely for existing and being f*cking beautiful and powerful.
And all I have to say to those who do not want us to exist: we do, honey. And guess what: I know who I am; now do you?
– As told to Lena Felton