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The Life-Shaping Moment Transgender Icon Janet Mock Had In Kindergarten

05/26/2015 10:54 am ET | Updated May 26, 2015

In 2011, Janet Mock, a successful People.com editor, came out for the first time as a trans woman. Only a handful of people knew that she was assigned male at birth, a secret she kept closely guarded for much of her early adult life. Ready to speak her truth, Mock detailed her journey to becoming her authentic self in a profile piece for Marie Claire magazine and more fully in her 2014 bestselling memoir, Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More.

In her recent interview with Oprah on "Super Soul Sunday," Mock reflected on some of her most defining moments, including one that she experienced at a very young age. Born in Honolulu and named Charles after being assigned male and labeled as her parents' first-born son, Mock says she knew as early as age 5 that she had a different truth.

In kindergarten, Mock says cubbyholes in her classroom were assigned to each student based on gender: blue for boys, red for girls. "I remember that was the first time in my life where I was told, 'This is where you're supposed to be,' she says. "'This is the box, the literal box, where you are supposed to exist in' -- even though I had an inclination or a wanting to draw towards the boxes that said 'Darlene' or 'Kawehi,' all the girls that were my friends who I played hopscotch with and played jacks with."

Being put in that blue box labeled "Charles," Mock says, was a decision she didn't make for herself. "There was I guess a chasm between that, between wanting to step across that line that I knew -- I knew from everyone else was wrong to even want to cross that -- and to go and remove that name, put a new name there, and put my shoes in this box," she says.

Though Mock wanted a red box like the other girls, she already felt a pull at that young age holding her back. "But the interesting thing is also I knew it was wrong to do that," she says. "That's how much I had internalized all of the messages around me."

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