John M. Becker

Janet Mock: Piers Morgan 'Sensationalized' Me

Filed By John M. Becker | February 05, 2014 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: CNN, interviews, Janet Mock, Laverne Cox, Piers Morgan, Redefining Realness, trans, trans bodies, transitioning

janet-mock-piers-morgan.jpgAuthor and trans advocate Janet Mock says that CNN's Piers Morgan Live "sensationalized" her life and her story in a pre-taped interview that aired last night.

Mock appeared on the show to discuss her new memoir, Redefining Realness, but the framing of the interview was problematic from the start. When Morgan introduced Mock, he said to her, "Had I not known anything about your story, I would have had absolutely not a clue that you had ever been a boy, a male."

Mock has never identified as male.

Morgan, who followed that up with "...which makes me absolutely believe you should always have been a woman," seemed to be unaware that by labeling Mock with a gender under which she has never identified, he was misgendering and erasing her. But he wasn't the only one: the onscreen bar just above the news crawl contained Mock's name and the text "Was a boy until age 18."

Again, Mock has never identified as male.

Predictably, the conversation then veered into surgery. Morgan asked Mock to take viewers through what it felt like to say to herself "'I'm going to go through properly with this and become a woman and have a transgender operation.'" (Because, ummm, womanhood and gender are "properly" defined by body parts?)

Mock responded beautifully, emphasizing that that was just one step in her long journey into the fullness of her true self -- "a reconciliation with myself," as she put it.

As the segment wound down towards a commercial break, Morgan brought up the subject of Mock meeting and falling in love with her boyfriend in 2009. His teaser went like this:

"But there's something you have to tell him -- something pretty big you have to tell him that he doesn't know, which is that you used to be, yourself, a man. After the break, we'll find out how you told him that news and how he took it."

For the third time, Mock has never identified as a man. Ever.

More, and video of the interview, after the jump.

The first nearly two minutes of the second segment were devoted to discussion about Mock's disclosure to her boyfriend -- how hard it was, what she said, how he took it, etc. And the show's Twitter account asked viewers this rather salacious question:

AAAAAH! Not a man!!

After the segment aired last night, Mock voiced her disappointment in an interview with BuzzFeed:

"He's trying to do info-tainment," Mock told BuzzFeed Tuesday night. "He doesn't 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."

Mock told BuzzFeed that Morgan's interest in her conversations with her boyfriend and the show's identification of her departed sharply from the story she seeks to tell.

"My book is not about Aaron or my relationship, but that's the most sensational thing they want to pull out," she said. "They're not talking about my advocacy or anything like that, it's just about this most sensationalized ... meme of discussion of trans women's lives: 'We're not real women, so therefore if we're in relationships with men we're deceiving them.' So, it just feeds into those same kinds of myths and fears that they spread around, which leads to further violence of trans women's bodies and identities."

The interview aired during a book launch party for Redefining Realness. Mock and the party guests, including Orange Is the New Black star and fellow trans advocate Laverne Cox, watched and were not impressed. Mock and Cox tweeted out a reaction photo of them giving Piers Morgan some serious side-eye:

The interview caused a major backlash from trans people, allies, and Mock's fans, many of whom took to Twitter to express their frustration with Morgan. But Morgan fiercely disputed charges of transphobia:


The criticism clearly got under Morgan's skin, and he accused Mock of ginning up a controversy to sell her books and implied that she's somehow personally responsible for every one of her supporters' tweets:


Then Morgan pledged to respond to the controversy tonight on air:

Morgan's still tweeting about the whole episode this morning:

For her part, Mock has not responded to the controversy, except to issue a tweet asking her followers what they thought of the interview.

Watch Morgan's interview with Mock below, and sound off in the comments section. What do you think of the interview? What about Mock's and Morgan's conduct afterwards? Do you think this whole situation can turn into a teachable moment, like Laverne Cox's recent interview with Katie Couric, or has it already gotten too ugly?

For my part, I don't doubt Morgan's sincerity -- as Zack Ford points out, he's an outspoken supporter of the LGBT community. But he and his team definitely botched this one, and his online conduct after the interview is incredibly unprofessional.

Here's hoping that when Morgan "deals" with Mock tonight, he eats a slice of humble pie, admits that he screwed up, and apologizes.

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