2013 Mautner Project Gala
Mautner Project and HRC Join Together to Support Women’s Health
March 4, 2014
DC Kings 14th Anniversary
DC Kings Celebrate 14 Gender-Bending Years
March 6, 2014

She Came to Liberate the Girls

A conversation with Janet Mock

Janet Mock - Photo by Aaron Tredwell

Janet Mock — Photo by Aaron Tredwell

By now many of you have heard of the one and only Janet Mock, a brand new, New York Times best selling author with her recently released book, “Redefining Realness.  The book has quickly charted to #19 on February 23. “Redefining Realness” is Janet’s memoir of her path to womanhood, identity, love, and so much more.

At her recent book signing in Washington, D.C., Janet was surrounded by the frenzy of media and press interested in tugging at her story. I simply wanted to chat with her like we were old friends, and hug my sister for her bravery.

As we sat down, her energy was perfectly inviting and calm. Her beauty was almost overwhelming, and I’m not just talking about her luscious curls, which by the way are amazingly fabulous. I’m speaking about what oozed out of her. She shows confidence, self-love, and comfort with her journey.

Knowing that she had a room full of fans hungry to catch a glimpse and a word of encouragement from her, we jumped right into the interview. My first question was about how she stayed grounded with the whirlwind of attention surrounding her. Her answer was simple.  She spoke affectionately of her boyfriend Aaron, her cockapoo, and the family members who know her for her, not Janet Mock… just Janet. They keep her grounded in reality, in love and in who she is.

It is obvious that Janet is not interested in embracing the title of “role model”, but understands there is some responsibility in living a public life. In her later presentation, she stated that she is not an activist but a writer. Yet and still, she knows that her fans and sisters listen. She understands that there are young women just like her that need encouragement and connect to her because it validates their journey and gives them hope. She’s also keenly aware that she has to find a balance between speaking in parables of empowerment and just being a balanced woman who likes to tweet about Beyoncé and the Real Housewives of Atlanta. She doesn’t want to just be an image of Janet; she simply wants to be, Janet.

Janet Mock signing book in DC

Janet Mock signing a book for Michelle.

When asked ‘what she would say to her 16-year-old self?’ there was a long inward pause. After laughing about an answer that Lady Gaga gave Oprah when asked the same question, she simply said, “I would tell her that she was doing exactly what she was supposed to be doing, to tap into herself and continue to quiet the noise around her.”  I loved this answer because it was so accepting of the journey and validity of all experiences as part of her bigger picture of greatness. Essentially, she would tell her 16-year-old self that she was perfect just the way she was, and for me, that was incredibly powerful and affirming.

What Mock is doing is huge. She is revealing her life story for the world to view on a platter. In her transparent memoir she talks of her personal struggles and triumphs that I won’t disclose here because you need to pick up her book and read it for yourself.

I asked her if she was prepared for everything that has happened since the release of her book, the interviews that have been both affirming and ignorant, the travel, the storytelling, and constantly being on the go. According to Mock, she is as prepared as she could be. She took her time writing her book, three years to be exact. The release of her book ended her need to ever have to explain herself again, to anyone. It was about getting it out into the open but also telling her story in her own words, from her experience.

She spoke about being in the eye of a hurricane, almost protected by those around her that shelter her from a lot of the storm. She takes steps to protect herself. She doesn’t read the reviews or comments on social media, but does read reviews and tweets from people who have been with her for years. Those people that she knows have a deep love and loyalty for her, her message and her success. In that she gets to experience a public appreciation for this journey without the Internet trolls or self-serving meanies who only want to hurt people.

We also spoke about how the level of transparency has affected her. Since it was a three-year journey, she was able to process it step by step. First the conversations with her boyfriend and her family, then she sat down with herself and her computer to just write and let it all out. Those efforts turned into a proposal that was received and edited with care and sensitivity. So for Janet, each step peeled back one layer at a time. By the time the book was released she was ready to have the conversations around it and understand how others related to it. Oddly, public consumption of it wasn’t really the prevalent thought, but more the interaction of community.

Being a bibliophile herself, she understood the emotional relationship readers have with their books, so her personal revelation to the world wasn’t so scary. Readers generally have a caring engagement with books they read, so she felt safe. She knew that if someone took the time to read her book, they would receive its message and support it.

Mock’s eyes lit up as we talked about her home life and her guilty pleasures of being enthralled by the Real Housewives of Atlanta, binge watching House of Cards as we could not believe what Frank Underwood did to Zoe; and we just laughed. Mock’s laugh is as beautiful as her energy. I think this was my favorite part of the entire conversation…well, except for the hug.

I was lucky enough to have a conversation with Mock’s boyfriend, Aaron Tredwell. You could see how proud he is of Mock and how he loves being by her side during all of the success she is having with the release of her book. We talked about their goals of being a NY Best Seller but how he could not believe it happened so quickly.

In my opinion, it happened so quickly because there was such a thirst for the conversation.  There is huge population of us that have been primed for the lines to be removed between gay and straight, cis and trans, male and female. We simply want to understand other people on a more intimate level and connect with them in a way that just makes us better human beings. So many of us are ready to love each other, just a little better, by learning from others.

I asked Mock what she wanted her legacy to be, she simply said, “To liberate the girls”, and while I know it was mostly directed to her trans sisters, I want to say to Janet…thank you. Thank you for your transparency, your honesty, and your willingness to lay it all out for the world to see. I hope that she sees that in her vulnerability, she liberated us all.