Janet Mock, Writer, Producer & Director
Janet Mock is making her pen the most potent weapon in fighting for transgender rights. Her two bestselling memoirs shine a light on growing up transgender and as a writer for the TV series “Pose,” she’s bringing dimension to lives all too often stereotyped and sidelined.
JANET MOCK: I've always known that I was a girl. I didn't have language to pinpoint why. But I just remember being labeled and being told who I was.
But my gender wasn't the only thing that was pointed out to me. I grappled with harassment, both for my race and also for my gender. For any trans person, one of the most pivotal times in your life is when you're in puberty and your body begins to change. And at that time I was just really lucky to cross paths with a young trans woman who was in my same grade. I remember Wendi kind of passing-- or really, not passing by me, but prancing by me at the playground. And she just kind of said, basically, I know who you are, and stop pretending.
And in calling me out, she brought me in and offered me a safe space to just really figure out who I was, and to do that in friendship and in sisterhood.
I learned pretty quickly that all we want to do is to be listened to and to be truly heard and to be seen. Listening to people's stories, and having the power to then frame those stories and contextualize them really became what I wanted to do in life. I started reading magazines. And it was through Wendi. She had subscriptions to "Teen People" and I got "Vibe". And those two magazines at the time meant everything to me.
"Vibe" was edited by this openly gay man, and he put Destiny's Child on the magazine. And Beyonce was framed as the Supremes, as Diana Ross, and it was so legendary. And I remember then being, like, wow, if I was an editor of the magazine, I would have made such a bold choice, too. Then it got into my brain that oh, not only do I want to write, but maybe there's a way for me to make a living out of this.
For so long, I think I hid behind popular culture and hid behind the stories of very famous people, in a way, to survive, and not on my own. In late 2010, there was these rash of LGBT suicides and bullying and harassment that became kind of like the story of the moment, that a lot of people were standing up and telling their stories about when they were young and when they were ostracized and when they were bullied.
And there was no adult trans people that I was seeing in media telling their stories. I had a story to tell, not only about growing up trans, but also growing up as a black child in a world where young people and poor people and LGBT people are not given the resources to truly thrive in the world.
I was afraid of doing the job that I had not ever done before. But I just knew that I should be in the writers' room to write a series that, for the first time, centers trans women not as the sidekicks or as the martyrs who died to teach the cis gender characters what it means to be brave and to be oneself. I do the work that I do so that girls everywhere growing up like I did not only see themselves, but realize that they, too, are deserving of an audience and deserving of being heard. They are the heroines. And they are the heroines that I've been looking for.