Things have been moving fast for Janet Mock. In the past year, the NYC-based transgender director, producer, and screenwriter has begun work on a couple of Netflix films and began showing people the final version of her feature film based on transgender politics in the West Philippine Sea – and it has Hollywood in a fit of anticipation.
The logline of the script is, “A transgender woman is cheated out of her inheritance, a hotel, and must give up her sexual identity to find work, She is routinely ridiculed working on a fishing boat. The boat is sunk in a naval conflict in the South China Sea. The transgender individual saves the panicked crew by leading them to a remote island.
Riley, a transgender woman, is cheated out of her inheritance, a hotel, and must give up her sexual identity to find work. Her father was a fisherman and faced with starvation, she reverts to a male’s appearance. However, she is still routinely ridiculed working on a fishing boat. She is beaten and subject to abuse. However, the fishing boat is sunk in a naval conflict in the West Philippine Sea – China vs the US and Australians. Riley was a competitive swimmer as a youth and (with her father) was one left in the open water. The panicked crew face grave danger in the open water and in wartime. She could simply leave her tormentors and save herself. However, the transgender woman saves the crew by leading them to a remote island.
— Janet Mock
This story is PT 109 (1963) meets Boys Don’t Cry (1999) set in the Philippines.
- Riley – a transgender woman who rises to the occasion and rescues the men who tormented her.
- Riley’s Mother – loving mother leaves the hotel to Riley so she will have a means of support.
- Riley’s Sister – the hateful sibling who steals the hotel from Riley.
- Nobleza – fishing fleet owner who assists Riley.
- Captain – The captain respects Riley’s knowledge of the sea and survival skills. And gives her responsibilities on the boat.
- Fishermen – Bigoted men beat, torture, and humiliate Riley but later need her rescue and survival skills.
Janet Mock (born March 10, 1983) is an American writer, television host, director, producer and transgender rights activist. Her debut book, the memoir Redefining Realness, became a New York Times bestseller. She is a contributing editor for Marie Claire and a former staff editor of People magazine’s website.
Janet Mock – Early life and education
Janet Mock was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, the second child in the family. Her father, Charlie Mock III, is African-American, and her mother, Elizabeth (née Barrett), is of half Portuguese descent, part Asian descent and part Native Hawaiian (kānaka maoli) descent. Mock lived for most of her youth in her native Hawaii, with portions in Oakland, California; and Dallas. Assigned male at birth, Mock began her transition as a freshman in high school, and funded her medical transition by earning money as a sex worker in her teens. She played volleyball in high school, a sport she had bonded over with her childhood friend Wendi, who helped Janet express her femininity. She chose her name Janet after Janet Jackson. She was the first person in her family to go to college. She underwent gender-confirming surgery in Thailand at the age of 18 in the middle of her first year in college. Mock earned a Bachelor of Arts in Fashion Merchandising from the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 2004 and a Master of Arts in Journalism from New York University in 2006.
Career – Janet Mock
After graduating from New York University, Mock started working at People magazine, where she was a staff editor for more than five years. Her career in journalism shifted from editor to media advocate when she came out publicly as a trans woman in a 2011 Marie Claire article, written by Kierna Mayo in Mock’s voice. Mock took issue with how the magazine represented her by stating that she was born and raised as a boy; she says she was always a girl. Mock said, “I was born in what doctors proclaim is a boy’s body. I had no choice in the assignment of my sex at birth…. My genital reconstructive surgery did not make me a girl. I was always a girl.” In 2014, while promoting her book Redefining Realness, she reiterated that she did not choose the Marie Claire article title, and found it to have many problems. The editor of that piece, Lea Goldman, would later tweet in support of Mock: “To be fair, I do recall @janetmock & @kiernamayo taking issue with our @marieclaire hed, “I Was Born a Boy.” I went with it anyway. #regrets” Mock became a contributing editor at Marie Claire, where she has written articles about racial representation in film and television as well as trans women’s presence in the global beauty industry.
Mock submitted a video about her experiences as a transgender woman to the “It Gets Better” project in 2011 and has written on a variety of topics for Marie Claire, Elle, The Advocate, Huffington Post, and XoJane.
In 2012, Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, signed Mock to her first book deal for a memoir about her teenage years, which was released as Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More in February 2014. It is the first book written by a trans person who transitioned as a young person. Redefining Realness made The New York Times bestseller list for hardcover nonfiction and contains her personal memories often alongside statistics or social theory. Mock writes her book is about her personal experience as a trans woman of color. In the author’s note, she writes she is aware of her privilege in writing this book and telling her story. She states in the author’s note, “There is no universal women’s experience”. Feminist critic bell hooks referred to Janet’s memoir as, “Courageous! This book is a life map for transformation” while Melissa Harris-Perry said, “Janet does what only great writers of autobiography accomplish—she tells a story of the self, which turns out to be a reflection of all humanity.”
Shortly after signing her book deal, Mock left her position as an editor at People.com where she had worked for more than five years. Mock went on to host TakePart Live and her own culture show, So POPular!, on Shift. Mock has stated, in a Q&A with Tribune Business News, that her heroes and influences have been women writers such as Zora Neale Hurston, Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, and Toni Morrison. While taping So POPular!, she continued to work with MSNBC as a guest host for the Melissa Harris-Perry show, host of the Global Citizen Festival and covered the White House Correspondents Dinner’s red carpet for Shift. She is also a special correspondent for Entertainment Tonight.
In April 2015, Oprah Winfrey invited Mock to be a guest on Super Soul Sunday for a segment titled, “Becoming Your Most Authentic Self” where she discussed “proudly and unapologetically” claiming her identities. In September 2015, Mock was invited back to join Winfrey’s Super Soul Sessions where Mock discussed, “Embracing The Otherness.” In 2016, Mock was named to Oprah’s SuperSoul 100 list of visionaries and influential leaders.
In addition to Super Soul Sunday, Mock has appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher, Melissa Harris-Perry, The Colbert Report, and The Nightly Show. She is featured in an LGBT documentary, The OUT List, which screened on HBO on June 27, 2013. She is also featured in a 2011 documentary called Dressed.
In 2012, Mock started a Twitter hashtag to empower transgender women, called #GirlsLikeUs, which received attention from several queer-media sites. Also in 2012, she gave the Lavender Commencement keynote speech honoring LGBT students at the University of Southern California and delivered the commencement address for Pitzer College in 2015. She also served as co-chair, nominee, and presenter at the 2012 GLAAD Media Awards.
In June 2013, Mock joined the board of directors of the Arcus Foundation, a charitable foundation focused on great ape conservation and LGBT rights.
In 2014, following the conviction of activist (and transgender woman of color) Monica Jones, Mock joined a campaign against a Phoenix law that allows police to arrest anyone suspected of “manifesting prostitution”, which targets transgender women of color. Mock tweeted, “Speak against the profiling of #TWOC [trans woman of color], like Monica Jones. Tweet #StandWithMonica + follow @SWOPPhx [Sex Workers Outreach Project – Phoenix Chapter] now!”
Also in 2014, Mock was featured on the fifth anniversary cover of C☆NDY magazine along with 13 other transgender women – Laverne Cox, Carmen Carrera, Geena Rocero, Isis King, Gisele Alicea, Leyna Ramous, Dina Marie, Nina Poon, Juliana Huxtable, Niki M’nray, Pêche Di, Carmen Xtravaganza and Yasmine Petty.
Her book publisher, Atria, announced in March 2016 that Mock was working on her second memoir with them. Surpassing Certainty, published in 2017, promised to “pick up where Redefining Realness left off – chronicling ‘the journey of finding her way, her voice, and her purpose in her 20s through a series of first experiences.'”
Mock wrote a cover story for The Advocate on DeRay Mckesson, titled “Why DeRay Mckesson Matters”, as well as Marie Claire’s November 2016 feature on Nicki Minaj, titled “Nicki Minaj Is Here To Slay.”
On December 5, 2016, “The Trans List” aired on HBO. The film was produced by Mock along with director Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. Mock also interviewed the cast, which features eleven prominent transgender figures: Laverne Cox, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, Buck Angel, Kylar Broadus, Caroline Cossey, Shane Ortega, Alok Vaid-Menon, Nicole Maines, Bamby Salcedo, Amos Mac, and Caitlyn Jenner.
In 2016, Mock wrote the foreword for On Christopher Street: Transgender Stories, a book of photos and stories by famed photographer, Mark Seliger.
In 2017, Surpassing Certainty, Mock’s second memoir was published. The book’s title is an allusion to Audre Lorde, who wrote, “And at last, you’ll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.”
The television show Pose premiered on June 3, 2018, on FX. Mock is a writer, director, and producer on the show, and is the first trans woman of color hired as a writer for a TV series in history. It follows the lives of five trans women in the New York ballroom scene in 1987. Pose “looks at the juxtaposition of several segments of life and society in New York: the rise of the luxury Trump-era universe, the downtown social and literary scene, and the ball culture world.” The series has been congratulated for casting actual trans women in trans roles and for accurately depicting a unique queer subculture. In 2018 Mock directed the episode of Pose titled “Love Is the Message”, thus making her the first transgender woman of color to write and direct any television episode.
In 2019, Mock signed a three-year deal with Netflix giving them exclusive rights to her TV series and a first-look option on feature film projects; this made her the first openly transgender woman of color to secure a deal with a major content company.
Janet Mock’s Honors and Awards
In November 2012, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project gave Mock their Sylvia Rivera Activist Award.
Mock was included in the Trans 100, the first annual list recognizing 100 transgender advocates in the United States, and gave the keynote speech at the launch event on March 29, 2013, in Chicago.
On November 14, 2013, Mock was honored as a member of the OUT100, Out’s 100 “most compelling people of the year” and introduced Laverne Cox as the recipient of the Reader’s Choice Award at the event. She was also named one of Good’s GOOD 100 for “Building An Online Army to Defend #GirlsLikeUs.”
Mock was included in the video accompanying the Google Doodle for International Women’s Day 2014.
In April 2014, GLSEN presented Mock with the Inspiration Award at the GLSEN Respect Awards and in October, the Feminist Press honored her activism at the Women & Power Gala.
In 2014, Mock also was included as part of The Advocate’s annual “40 Under 40” list, as well as their list of 50 Most Influential LGBT People in Media. That year, she was also included in the annual Root 100; this list honors “standout black leaders, innovators and culture shapers” aged 45 and younger, and Planned Parenthood presented the Maggie Award for Media Excellence in “Social Media Campaign” to Mock for her work in creating a powerful and safe space for trans voices online and beyond through her #RedefiningRealness Tumblr page.
In 2015, Time named her one of “the 30 Most Influential People on the Internet” and one of “12 New Faces of Black Leadership” and Fast Company included Mock as one of 2015’s “Most Creative People in Business.”
In February 2015, the American Library Association honored Redefining Realness with the Stonewall Book Award. Later that year, Mock’s book was nominated as a Lambda Literary Award finalist in the category of transgender non-fiction and The Women’s Way awarded Mock with their Book Prize.
In June 2015, Mock received the inaugural José Esteban Muñoz award from CLAGS: The Center for LGBTQ Studies – an award that is given to an individual who promotes Queer Studies in their work or activism.
Along with Tiq Milan and Candis Cayne, Mock accepted an award in honor of Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera’s lives and work at the 2016 LOGO Trailblazer Honors. She referred to Johnson and Rivera as her “fairy godmothers because they created the blueprint for our liberation.”
Mock was included in Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2018.
In 2019, Mock received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Drama Series at the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards for her work as a producer on season 1 of Pose. She was nominated for this award again in 2021 at the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards, as well as being nominated for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series, both nominations are for her work on season 3 of Pose.
Mock lives in New York City. She married photographer Aaron Tredwell in 2015. The couple filed for divorce in February 2019.
In February 2014, Mock joined Piers Morgan Live on CNN, for a face-to-face interview. After the show aired, the interview resulted in a Twitter feud between the Piers Morgan Live team and Mock. She accused them of “sensationalizing her life” by focusing on her personal and physical life instead of her new book, Redefining Realness. Mock told BuzzFeed that Morgan did not “really want to talk about trans issues, he wants to sensationalize my life and not really talk about the work that I do and what the purpose of me writing this book was about.” Morgan received criticism from the LGBTQ community, resulting in Mock’s second invitation onto the show. Morgan attempted to understand the root of the criticism as Mock explained the problem with the way trans people and their lives are represented in mainstream media.
To address the controversy, Mock appeared on The Colbert Report on February 18, 2014, where the host skewered Morgan and gave Mock space to speak about her book, advocacy and the need to listen to trans people when they declare who they are. In an interview with Fusion’s Alicia Menendez, Mock and Menendez “flipped the script” and used the Morgan interview as a teaching lesson by putting Mock on the questioning end of the interview to flip the conversation around gender. Mock as the interviewer asked Menendez to prove her gender with questions like “do you have a vagina” to prove that she is cisgender, interrogating the ways in which trans people are questioned by the media.
In March 2016, Mock canceled a speech at Brown University after students protested the invitation by Hillel, an organization with explicitly pro-Zionist views.