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Unsolicited advice for a newly out People.com editor

Commentary: Trans Progressive

A woman of transsexual experience, Janet Mock works as an associate editor for People.com.

Janet Mock has a career as a writer and journalist; she’s an editor for People.com. She’s young, beautiful and African American. Recently, she came out as a woman of transsexual experience.

Mock came out in conjunction with releasing a video for the It Gets Better project – a video series created by Dan Savage to address the rash of suicides by LGBT youth. She’s filled in some details of her coming out in an article with Marie Claire entitled I Was Born a Boy, where she explained why she came out:

“My coworkers don’t know about my past, mostly because I never wanted to be the poster child for transsexuals – pre-op, post-op or no op. But the recent stories about kids who have killed themselves because of the secrets they were forced to keep has shifted something in me.

“That’s why I decided to come out in the pages of Marie Claire, why I’m writing a memoir about my journey. It used to pain me to hear my birth name, a heartbreaking insult classroom bullies would shout to get a rise out of me. But talking and writing about my experiences have helped me finally accept the past and celebrate the fact that I was once a big dreamer who happened to be born a boy named Charles.

“I hope my story resonates with other big dreamers, lets them know that no matter how huge, how insane, how unreasonable or unreachable your goals may seem, nothing – not even your own body – can hold you back if you are certain and fearless and, yes, even a little ballsy in your quest.”

Janet Mock is now publicly trans – a poster child, as it were. As someone who is publicly trans and a writer too, I’d like to share some information and unsolicited advice with her.

Among those new realities she will experience will be a partial loss of membership in the club of women. There are now going to be a large number of women who will forever now look at her not as a woman, but as a man in a dress. Those will include less than accepting coworkers who will smile to her face, and then viciously rip into her behind her back. And, members of the religious right will likely soon be calling Mock a “mutilated man,” and identify her relationship with her boyfriend as a “homosexual” relationship.

I’d advise her to be aware of these attacks on her womanhood and not take it too personally. As she already knows, she cannot allow western societal sex and gender norms dictate for her who she is and still be true to herself.

Mock will also experience being a celebrity in the T subcommunity of the LGBT community, as well as the broader LGBT community itself. There will be speaking requests. However, as she already knows from working as an editor and journalist in the entertainment field, the people who will want her as a speaker will often see her as a celebrity and not a whole human being.

I would advise her to only speak at, and accept awards from, organizations in which she completely agrees with their missions and visions, and don’t let others succeed in recreating her as a caricature of who she really is.

Janet Mock was born Charles, seen here in seventh grade.

There is tension in transgender and transsexual communities over how to self-identify oneself, and much of it comes from trans women who identify as being of transsexual experience, but not transgender. These women don’t see themselves as having anything in common with drag queens, crossdressers and gender queer people. If Mock chooses not to sociopolitically identify as transgender – she hasn’t publicly identified herself as transgender to this point – I would remind her she was called by the antigay f-word pejorative during her transition.

People outside of the LGBT community often can’t tell gay men, drag queens, genderqueer people, crossdressers and transsexual women apart, and that’s an important thing to remember. If the message that Mock believes in really is a message of “It Gets Better” for LGBT teens, then even if she doesn’t identify as transgender she can embrace the humanity – the human dignity – of drag queens, crossdressers and genderqueer people, as well as pre-operative and non-operative transsexual people. She can fight for gay and non-transsexual, transgender teens even if she doesn’t identify as gay or transgender.

The 2009 death by suicide of the L.A. Times sportswriter who went by the names Mike Penner and Christine Daniels should hold significance for those of us who are publicly trans. I’d advise Mock to be aware there are serious pitfalls of being publicly trans, but the difference Mock knows she will make for trans youth in telling them “It Gets Better” is worth hazarding the pitfalls.



Short URL: http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=9747

Posted by LGBT Weekly on Jun 2, 2011. Filed under Bottom Highlights, Trans Progressive. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

8 Comments for “Unsolicited advice for a newly out People.com editor”

  1. It is pretty arrogant of Autumn, a middle aged white transgender person to think she has the right to advise a young post-transsexual woman of color, who has a respected professional position.

    This is one reason why the “Transgender as Umbrella” paradigm is dead.

    Post-transsexual women of all ages are tired of having transgender people tell us what we must think or how we should conduct our lives lest we face the wrath of the Transgender Borg Collective.

    We do not need your advice Autumn, we are adult women and capable of thinking for ourselves.

    Stop trying to patronize either Janet or the rest of us.

    • I hear you, Susan. As long as gender identity is viewed as a disorder and classified with sexuality disorders, we’re going to have a problem of this “big umbrella”… To me a fetish is not anything close to my experiences of being a transsexual, and I don’t like being compared to or classified with fetishists.
      The DSM needs to change. And pathologizing gender identity needs to stop as well.

    • Not Your Friend

      I have to agree with Suzan Ms Sandeen is the very last person to be giving Janet Mock advice. What does a late transitioned person who lived as a man for over 40 years who served in the Navy have to offer up in terms of advice to someone who effectively never lived as a man for not even a day.

      Honestly Autumn, where do you get off giving anybody advice, where are your credentials? Have you a degree and what jobs have you held since you transitioned. and where did you have your GRS?

      You are from a different place and time your advice has little bearing on the life Janet Mock lives, besides she has completed transition and has the body of a woman.

  2. I’ve read enough of your thinly-veiled threats, and seen what you have done to other people in their personal lives, to come form a judgment about you. You are a bully. And I don’t think you should have any kind of a pulpit to speak to anyone.

  3. And please remember, that even in the LGB community we’re often not seen as people either… There’s a palpable intolerance in the LGB community toward transsexuals and transgendered… It’s getting better, but it’s hard to have sympathy for folks who should know the bile of discrimination and hate and yet practice it on others…

  4. Charles looks far better than Janet. People die to get a femenine look even after being born as a boy. There was no need to change the sex as what Charles received was a GODs gift and he could have become a successful male model in Modelling world.Just think how successful Michael Jackson was in his life.
    Be happy with whatever body God has given to you instead of changing it like changing clothes.

  5. I think Janet Mock has done a grave mistake by doing a sex transformation.
    Many males feel like wearing ladies clothes. Its a common thing not a big deal but taking a step of sex transformation is not advisable.A man will never know what pains a women goes through in her life for example the monthly menstural cycles and many other ailments which are common for females. A womens life may look pretty/colorful outwardly but in reality it not so.

  6. Janet’s legs are clearly indicating that she is a male and not a female.
    So what all things are you (Janet) going to change to look like a female.
    But still i congratulate Janet for showing the world that there is a very thin line between being a male or being a female. She has proved this by being a male and then becoming a female in one single life.

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