Janet Mock is an author and activist for trans rights. She recently reentered the spotlight of popular culture when she appeared on CNN’s Piers Morgan Live, where she was brought on to discuss her book, a memoir entitled Redefining Realness. However, instead of a book discussion she was confronted with inappropriate questions and comments about her body and her physical transition. In a recent interview with Alicia Mendez Tonight on Fusion – which a link will be provided at the end of this article – Janet Mock was asked to turn the extremely invasive questions that transgender people are faced with on a near daily basis around on Mendez to prove that sometimes curiosity is not a good enough reason to ask a question.
The interview on Piers Morgan’s show seemed cordial and professional, but it was easy to see that Mock is uncomfortable with the phrasing of some of the statements Morgan makes.
In Mock’s memoir, she is very open about her life and her experience transitioning to a body that she felt comfortable in. According to the interview with Mendez, Mock says she can understand why people feel that these inappropriate questions are okay to ask. Nevertheless, the fact remains that they are very common questions that are often posed by strangers to transgender people.
In response to the questions that were asked and the comments that were made by Morgan, Alicia Mendez requested that they be reformulated to be directed at cisgender people – people whose gender assignment at birth matches the gender they feel themselves to be; the questions are rapid-fire and undeniably inappropriate, especially the questions about the body and genitals, or pubescence. These are not questions that are acceptable to ask people who haven’t undergone a gender transition. Thus, the question arises as to why so many people think they are okay when the person in question is transgender.
Mock attributes this fundamental lack of understanding as to what is appropriate to ask a transgender person, to the idea in society that trans identities are somehow not legitimate and therefore must be investigated, dissected, and proven true or false by cisgender people. This, of course, is absurd when it is laid out like this; but for many people it may not even occur to them in the moment that what they are doing is offensive and ignorant.
The interview between Janet Mock and Piers Morgan sparked ferocious debate on Twitter over the way Morgan’s account was promoting the segment. Mock was personally insulted by the tweets and responded to them in kind, which prompted Morgan to invite Mock back onto the show to clear the air. Unfortunately, the discussion became very heated and emotional very quickly. Neither Morgan nor Mock was willing to see the other’s point of view.
With this new interview on Alicia Mendez Tonight, it is clear that she did not walk away from the experience on Piers Morgan Live with a negative view. Rather, Janet Mock found an innovative outlet which provided her with a way to turn the invasive questions and comments around to show just how inappropriate they are whether the interviewee is transgender or not, and to use that segment as a highly valuable teaching moment.
Opinion By Robin Syrenne