Op-ed: Why Janet Mock's New Job Gives Me Hope

Janet Mock's appointment as a contributing editor at Marie Claire is a promising turning point for trans women controlling their own stories in media.

BY Rebecca Juro

July 25 2014 7:06 AM ET

Best-selling author and trans activist Janet Mock was named this week as a contributing editor at Marie Claire, one of the world's most popular fashion, culture, and lifestyle magazines for young women.

Mock, previously a staff editor for People.com, is arguably already the most widely read trans-identified journalist in the United States. Mock’s memoir, Redefining Realness: My Path To Womanhood, Identity, Love, And So Much More made the New York Times Best-Seller List shortly after its release, and Mock has used her newfound celebrity to become an outspoken, visible advocate for trans women in media.

In early 2012, Mock created the hashtag #girlslikeus to promote respect, empowerment, and a sense of community for trans women. In response, trans women adopted the hashtag as our own — and Mock herself as a community icon, representing the best of how we wish to be seen by the rest of the world.

Mock’s ascent to an iconically visible role among trans women was never more evident than when she appeared on CNN’s now-canceled Piers Morgan Live. When Mock expressed her dissatisfaction with Morgan’s on-screen definitions of her as a former man and boy, trans women united behind her in solidarity. Hundreds of women called out Morgan on Twitter for his reductive definitions of Mock. 

Indeed, an ever-increasing community of out and proud trans women see Mock as emblematic of our rise in modern American culture. Rather than being seen solely as caricatures and comic relief, the poised, pointed advocacy of women like Mock has helped trans women demonstrate that we are real women deserving of the same respect, inclusion, and consideration as any other community of modern American women.

While Laverne Cox’s recent acclaim and celebrity as an actress has certainly cast her as a positive role model for trans women, I’d argue that Mock's community leadership is unique and has truly captured our hearts, solidifying her place among trans women as our spokesperson and mainstream media emissary to straight and cisgender people.

But through her writings and her advocacy, trans women know Mock. We know her heart, the core of who she is as a person and an advocate, and we love her for it. I fully expect that trans women will begin buying Marie Claire not only because Mock’s work will appear in it, but also because of what her presence in the magazine says about the inclusion and acceptance of trans women as women by the culture at-large.

Mock tells The Advocate that her new position is a fitting homage to where she started her journey as an outspoken advocate for the authentic experiences of trans women and #girlslikeus.

“Taking this position at Marie Claire is a full circle moment for me," Mock writes in an email to The Advocate. "Three years ago, I first told my story of growing up as a trans girl in the magazine, and it was bold and empowering for a mainstream women's magazine to embrace a narrative like mine in its pages, leading the way towards inclusion of women from various walks of life. That piece changed the trajectory of my life, and I feel now, graduating from subject to contributing editor, is revolutionary, speaking volumes to how we must not only be seen in the pages and on the covers of magazines, but we must actually be in the rooms when those pages and covers are created."

Through Mock's rise as a popular mainstream media figure, we understand that we’re not just witnessing one woman's personal success, but also our own as out and proud trans women who refuse to be hidden or shamed for who we are. "I look forward to bringing my full self to Marie Claire," Mock said, "writing about entertainment and pop culture, social justice and feminism, beauty and fashion.”

Mock connects with the hearts and minds of trans women, and represents us to the rest of the world in a way no one has before. Through her work and her new position at Marie Claire, trans women take yet another step toward full inclusion and respect in modern American culture.

Even for those of us who have managed to secure professional work in mainstream and community media, there’s still a long way to go. Barely a handful of trans women are working professionally as journalists right now, and Mock is certainly the most high-profile among us.

As hard and as long as the path has been to get here, this working journalist, who also happens to be a trans woman, believes that our future success and respect as professional women, along with the widening of our ranks, has never been more assured.

REBECCA JURO is a journalist and radio host who writes about media for Advocate.com. Her work has been published by The Bilerico Project, The Huffington Post, Washington Blade, and Gay City News. The Rebecca Juro Show streams live Thursdays  from 7 to 9 p.m. Eastern.

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