Janet Mock gets a lot of notes online from fans. But it's not the typical "I love your work" fare.
It's declarations like:
"Through Janet, I’ve learned to love me more."
"Every time I see Janet I am inspired, renewed, and fulfilled."
"I had the pleasure of meeting Janet Mock a few months ago and she has forever changed me."
These are a few of the many recent messages sent to the transgender activist and author of Redefining Realness, a book chronicling Mock's experiences growing up as a transgender woman. Her book came out in February, but Mock's work as an activist started in earnest in March 2011. That's when she publicly declared herself a trans woman in a Marie Claire article. She's been an outspoken proponent of the trans community ever since.
The public and media have been slow to understand the trans community, even as the LGBT community becomes more accepted as a whole. For example, Mock's Marie Claire article was given the headline "I was born a boy." But Mock says that's incorrect—she wasn't born a boy, but was assigned a boy's body at birth. That important subtlety is often missing from the discussion.
On the Internet, LGBT individuals can take control of their own stories. Mock is doing her part to tell her story and the stories of others like her, too. She has done Google chats, created a Tumblr (where she invites people to contribute their own stories) and is active on Twitter, launching the hashtag #girlslikeus to show an inclusive, expansive range of girls and women.
In Redefining Realness, Mock writes that "Being exceptional isn’t revolutionary, it’s lonely. It separates you from your community. Who are you, really, without community?" But online, Mock gets to stay revolutionary and create community at the same time.