Janet Mock and Laverne Cox visually respond to Piers Morgan's problematic interview.
Op-ed: Janet Mock Slams Piers Morgan for Transphobic Questions, Tweets

By Parker Marie Molloy

Originally published on Advocate.com February 05 2014 11:20 AM ET

CNN’s Piers Morgan hosted transgender advocate and author Janet Mock on Tuesday night's episode of Piers Morgan Live. Since airing, various aspects of the interview have become the subject of scrutiny, which escalated when Morgan himself joined in the discussion on Twitter.

“You used to be, yourself, a man,” Morgan stated at the tail end of a question on the subject of disclosing one’s trans status. Mock, who has identified as a woman since high school, shifted the interview back onto less inadvertently transphobic tracks. Watch the full interview here.

Throughout her appearance on the show, CNN’s on-screen description of Mock read, “was a boy until age 18.” Morgan repeatedly used Mock's old name, and asked what advice Mock would offer to young trans women, and used her former name as an example. Simultaneously, the show’s official Twitter account posed the question, “How would you feel if you found out the woman you were dating was formerly a man?" The official account also used the frowned-upon term, "sex-change surgery."

How would you feel if you found out the woman you are dating was formerly a man? @JanetMock shares her experience now. #RedefiningRealness

— Piers Morgan Live (@PiersMorganLive) February 5, 2014

"It was a reconciliation of myself," says @JanetMock of her sex-change surgery. #RedefiningRealness

— Piers Morgan Live (@PiersMorganLive) February 5, 2014

Mock's interview was pre-recorded, so she had no way of knowing about the graphic or the tweet while she was talking with Morgan. But in an interview with BuzzFeed’s Chris Geidner Tuesday, Mock lamented the media’s fixation on the more sensationalistic aspects of her life.

“My book is not about Aaron or my relationship, but that’s the most sensational thing they want to pull out,” she told Geidner. “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.'"

The Piers Morgan Live segment was in sharp contrast to Mock’s recent interview with MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry. In that conversation with Harris-Perry, Mock discussed her activism, her struggles, and her successes. At no point was she referred to as someone who “used to be a man,” nor was Mock put in a position where she needed to actively debunk trans-specific myths.

The stark difference between the two interviews is telling. Harris-Perry, a GLAAD Award-winner, makes a concerted effort to understand her guests and expand her own personal worldview. Morgan, who is coming up on the ten-year anniversary of his ouster from a British tabloid following a doctored photo scandal, seemed to be channeling Maury Povich, another journalist with a history of trans-insensitive coverage.

In response to Morgan's interview, Mock tweeted a photo of herself with transgender actress and friend Laverne Cox, with the two women giving Piers some well-deserved side-eye (pictured above). She also vented her frustration with the show’s use of the “was a boy” graphic, tweeting, "Get it the f*k together,” and "I was not 'formerly a man,'" asking Morgan to stop sensationalizing her life.

Nuance in media is nearly impossible but I do hope we continue to write the records of our own lives & relay that nuance #redefiningrealness

— Janet Mock (@janetmock) February 5, 2014

.@PiersMorganLive I was not "formerly a man." Pls stop sensationalizing my life and misgendering trans women. #redefiningrealness

— Janet Mock (@janetmock) February 5, 2014

"Was a boy until 18." @PiersMorganLive get it the f*k together. #redefiningrealness

— Janet Mock (@janetmock) February 5, 2014

Morgan, on the other hand, doubled down on his choice of language, taking to Twitter to reiterate his belief that Mock was "formerly a man." He then rattled off a series of insults at those who criticized him, even appearing to threaten Mock at one point. See Morgan's outbursts below: 

Being transgender doesn't give you the right to slur, distort & ridicule someone who supports the issue 100%. Shame on you @janetmock .

— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) February 5, 2014

I'll deal with you tomorrow night on air @janetmock - never been treated in such a disgraceful manner. Be proud.

— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) February 5, 2014

And now she runs to @BuzzFeed to cry foul... I've been played in a disgustingly cynical manner. > http://t.co/hbXCeTM0XH

— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) February 5, 2014

As for all the enraged transgender supporters, look at how STUPID you're being. I'm on your side, you dimwits. @janetmock

— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) February 5, 2014

She was. > RT @blogdiva: DUDE @piersmorgan DID YOU ACTUALLY SAY @janetmock WAS "FORMERLY A MAN"?!?!?! WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?

— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) February 5, 2014

Morgan announced Wednesday morning that Mock will return to his show that evening, so Mock and Morgan can "debate our little disagreement to America," according to Morgan's tweet. Mock responded via Twitter that she's looking forward to a "fruitful discussion." That continuing conversation airs on CNN at 9 p.m. Eastern. 

This debacle isn’t unique to Piers Morgan. CNN has a history of disregarding trans identities. In August of last year, transgender writer Lauren McNamara appeared on CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper to discuss Chelsea Manning. Tapper referred to McNamara as “formerly a gay man,” and repeatedly referred to Chelsea Manning as “he,” “him,” and “Bradley.” When asked why CNN refused to follow the Associated Press style guidelines or GLAAD Transgender Media Reference Guide, Tapper explained that the network has a policy that states that they are to use a person’s legal name when reporting on them.

This is odd, given CNN’s willingness to refer to Lady Gaga (Stefani Germanotta), Perez Hilton (Mario Lavandeira), and Miley Cyrus (Destiny Hope Cyrus) by pseudonyms. Additionally, the network has employed a number of individuals who have chosen to go by something other than their legal name. For instance, longtime CNN employee Larry King (Lawrence Zeiger), and even Piers Morgan (Piers O'Meara), himself. Given this string of inconsistencies, it would seem CNN has applied the “legal name only” policy solely to trans individuals.

 

PARKER MARIE MOLLOY is the founder of Park That Car and works as a freelance writer. She has contributed writing to Rolling Stone, Salon, The Huffington Post, and Talking Points Memo as well as The Advocate. Follow her on Twitter @ParkerMolloy.

Contributor: 
Parker Marie Molloy