Last year, Piers Morgan interviewed Janet Mock to talk about her book on her path to womanhood. In the interview, Morgan mistakenly said Mock, a trans woman, was born a boy, and lived as a man until she was 18 (when she had gender confirmation surgery).
The entire interview remained very pleasant, and Mock did not jump at any opportunities to point out Morgan’s errors. According to Morgan’s account that Mock never disputed, their interaction during and after the interview was very cordial. There was no mention of any offense taken.
Five days later, Mock tweeted that she was disappointed by the interview, and that Morgan sensationalized her story. She spoke openly (and quite condescendingly) at how she thinks that Morgan needed to get it the fuck together.
Within 24 hours, Morgan invited Mock back to his show in what I felt was a continued tone of sexism and transphobia (albeit an unwitting one). In the second interview, Morgan declares his intention that he wants to understand why he was vilified online after what he felt was a very supportive interview with Mock. He points out that Mock said absolutely nothing about any glaring errors in Morgan articulating Mock’s experience. She kept quiet after the interview, stayed that way for five days, then took to Twitter to express her disappointment. When Morgan confronted Mock on why she said nothing, she said that she was scared.
Both Morgan and Mock have since moved on from this episode.
While I do not dispute that Morgan sorely needed direction and information, I am confused as to why Mock missed the opportunities to help Morgan see his error. Mock calls herself an activist on trans rights, so I am unsure why she kept quiet in the face of her identity being misgendered.
Yes, Morgan might have benefitted from reading Mock’s book prior to the interview (it seems that he hadn’t), and his writers might have been good to brief him on talking points before the show. (For crying out loud, material on this is flooding the internet.) There is that massive responsibility on Morgan’s side if he claims that he is a staunch supporter of equality. However, Morgan clearly did not do his homework, and it puzzles me that Mock did not do her job, either.
Far be it for me to dictate how a trans woman should react about this (and I recognize that it is my privilege as a cisgender man that allows me to think this), but I feel that Morgan does make a salient point about how surprising it is that Mock pretended that nothing was wrong in the face of available opportunities for education. I was watching the interview, and I felt uncomfortable at all the misgendering that was taking place. I was surprised myself that Mock did not address these issues then. For a person who calls herself an activist, Mock certainly did not make use of the moments of education that Morgan patently needed.
That being said, I cannot even begin to imagine how Mock must have really felt during the interview. She may have genuinely been scared, and this might have affected her ability to think clearly. Mock is a trans woman of color, and the power dynamics between her and Morgan are complex. Also, the compounded microaggressions that built up until the interview might have influenced her decision not to say anything. This is not something that Mock addressed or articulated in the interview (something that I feel Morgan may have a role in), so I am still unclear as to what happened.
That being said, I am not sure that Morgan took away as much as he should from the experience.
This is actually sadder:
Also to be read as cis people discussing trans experience.
(Pretty much what I am doing now, too, yes. I am mansplaining. The irony is not lost on me.)
ETA: After the second interview, Mock apparently talks about her feelings during the first interview with Morgan. (I guess my guess was right.)
Key take-away: Every opportunity to learn from each other is good. It will be uncomfortable (especially if the matter is unfamiliar to another person), but an interaction in a positive direction of learning will be helpful. Our co-existence need not be adversarial.