Last night, Piers Morgan had trans advocate and author Janet Mock back on his show for a followup “interview” after her appearance the night before ignited controversy on Twitter and across the blogosphere. The first interview, which aired Tuesday night, featured a chyron at the bottom of the screen which misgendered Mock as having been a boy for 18 years; Morgan also misgendered Mock a few times during the interview, and repeatedly asked questions that focused on Mock’s surgery as when she became “a real woman.” To quote Avital Norman Nathman in her post on the subject yesterday, “That is not only incredibly reductive regarding gender, but missed the entire point of Mock’s new memoir, Redefining Realness: My Path To Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More about her road to girlhood, which began far earlier than one moment in Thailand at age 18.”
After the pre-taped interview aired, Mock tweeted a few criticisms about the segment and where it went wrong. Her supporters and fellow trans people also tweeted their complaints to Morgan’s attention, but instead of engaging with that criticism in a thoughtful manner, recognizing his mistakes and apologizing for misgendering Mock, Morgan was dismissive of criticism because, in his view, all it means to be an ally is saying you’re one.
This is, of course, ridiculous. While it’s great and all that Morgan doesn’t hate trans people and is purportedly in support of equal rights for all, that doesn’t absolve him of being corrected when he displays an obvious cis-centric view of gender. Real, authentic, genuine allies make it a priority to educate themselves on the issues faced by those they claim to support; thoroughly reading Mock’s book is just one example of how Morgan could continue his education in being a ally to trans people. Actually listening to the criticism of his segment — instead of whining about the indignity of being corrected by the very people he offended — would have been another.
Last night, Morgan invited Mock back on his show to discuss the issue, but ultimately used the allotted time to yell at Mock for being mean and ungrateful for his “support.” Mock handled herself with incredible grace, strength and poise in the face of Morgan’s truly embarrassing display, routinely refocusing the conversation on what matters — trans people’s identities and lives. She also explained that she didn’t say anything at the time of the interview because she was scared and wanted to be a good guest. She generously explained that her criticism was of the segment and the show’s overall handling, not explicitly Morgan himself. She also reiterated that the goal of her book is to help trans women and girls; doing so includes correcting people like Morgan when she is misgendered and misrepresented, because doing so empowers others without her platform to do the same in their lives.
Morgan, unfortunately, showed a completely inability to even hear what Mock was saying, repeatedly interrupted her, barely letting her get a word in edgewise. If anything, Morgan’s behavior was, top-to-bottom, an education in how NOT to be an ally to trans people. For example…
1. Declare that you’re an ally and then stick your hand out for the cookie you so deserve. Hello? Getting hungry and impatient over here…
2. Use whatever gendered terms you’d like and then scoff when you’re corrected. I mean, what’s the difference between being “born a boy” and being “born a baby assigned a male gender” REALLY, right bro, I mean, girl or whatever you’re calling yourself these days? Details details.
3. Focus on the truly important and sensational details — genitalia. I mean, this all comes down to penises and vaginas, and where you stick ‘em, right? “Nuance” is just another word for boooooooorrrrrrrrringgggggg.
4. When criticized by a large group of less privileged people who you claim to be an ally for, don’t take it as opportunity to learn. Instead, think about how you’re going to turn the conversation back around to what’s really important — yourself, your feelings and how you’ve been victimized by their anger.
5. Really drive the point home that you’re a victim in all this. I mean, have these trans people ever experienced what it’s like to be hounded, harassed, devalued, and misrepresented? Obvs not!
6. Interrupt, shout at and dismiss all attempts to explain where your ally-ship went wrong. Ugh, why aren’t these ungrateful people apologizing and baking you more cookies? You’ve been so good to them!
7. Offer unsolicited advice on how they can behave better the next time a wonderful ally like yourself deigns to give them the time of day. After all, not every ally will be as generous as you.