Transgender advocate and writer Janet Mock agreed to do her first mainstream interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan on Tuesday, to discuss her critically acclaimed book, Redefining Realness. It didn’t go so well. Criticism from Mock and the transgender community led to a second interview on Wednesday, which, in the eyes of many viewers, didn’t go any better.
Morgan’s initial interview with Mock drew scrutiny for its apparent focus on the details of her gender transition—and fixation on the fact that she was previously identified as male—over the substance of her book. He repeatedly referred to Mock’s birth name, and referenced “when she used to be a man.”
In the second segment, Morgan inquired about Mock’s disclosure of her gender to the man she is currently dating. Only the last two minutes of the interview were dedicated to questions about Mock’s advocacy for transgender people—the entire theme of her book.
In a Tuesday interview with Buzzfeed, Mock 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.”
Defensiveness about what Morgan called “abuse” from Mock’s supporters carried into the Wednesday interview. Morgan had spent the hours before the segment striking back at those who accused him of being “transphobic,” by calling them “cisphobic.” “Cis” is a term that refers to people who identify as the gender assigned to them at birth.
He insisted that he didn’t want the interview to be hostile, but again, repeatedly focused on Mock’s assigned gender at birth—the same offense for which he was criticized after the initial segment.
“Do you dispute that you were born a boy?” he demanded.
Mock responded, “I was born a baby, not a boy.”
After the interview, she tweeted, “To my community, I hear you, see you and love you. Thank you for reminding me that I am not alone and I stand alongside fierce folk.”