After appearing on "Piers Morgan Live"on Tuesday night, transgender activist and writer Janet Mock returned to the CNN show on Wednesday night to discuss the Twitter feud that erupted between herself and Morgan following the initial segment, as well as the nature of the outrage surrounding the interview itself.
After her first interview with Morgan aired, Mock took to Twitter to accuse Morgan of "sensationalizing" her life, largely taking issue with text that appeared on screen saying Mock "was a boy until age 18" and Morgan referring to her as being "formerly a man."
Morgan did not take the claims lightly and a subsequent social media firestorm ensued with Morgan on the receiving end of, and engaging with, an immense amount of criticism from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
Morgan invited Mock to return to the show on Wednesday night and the ensuing 16-minute follow-up debate was heated with Morgan largely questioning why he had been "vilified for being transparently supportive of [Mock]" and Mock's decision not to correct the CNN host on misgendering her at the time of the first interview.
Mock sought to clarify the transgender community's frustration during the debate:
I think that one of the number one things with trans women, specifically, is that so much of our lives are open to dissection and illegitimacy and investigation and we're constantly questioned ever since we're very young that who we are is incorrect, wrong and should be kept secret... these are issues that I think we need to give trans people space to tell their own stories... I did not correct you [on misgendering] because I was scared... and I think that was probably incorrect of me.
Throughout the course of the debate, Morgan also attempted to not only understand the outrage surrounding the packaging of the previous interview, but also provide a teachable moment for viewers as to why the transgender community found the interview itself so offensive. "I want to learn why," Morgan questioned, "it is so offensive to say that you grew up as a boy and then, because you've always felt that you were female, you had surgery to become a woman -- become a real woman, as you say in the book. Why is it offensive?"
In response, Mock attempted to convey the reality of the lived experiences of transgender people in Western culture, including the way trans bodies and lives are often talked about on mainstream platforms:
I think that we need to have a discussion about what gender is and gender expectations in our culture. I think that we are born and we're assigned a sex at birth -- none of us have control over [it]. But we do have control over our destinies and over our identities -- and we should be respected. It's not about the past, it's not about what surgeries I may or may not have had, it's not about how I disclose my gender to people -- it's about who I am right now. I'm Janet Mock, I'm author of 'Redefining Realness' and I'm a fierce trans advocate and I will continue to be exactly that -- that's what I was on this show to do. If I spoke out every single time that someone called me out of my name or labeled me as something that I'm not, I would not have time to advocate for the fierce and urgent issues in my community -- issues of poverty and joblessness, of a lack of healthcare, of violence -- verbal and physical violence -- against trans women
Opinions on Twitter following the debate were varied:
i watched the second piers morgan interview with janet mock and i was just screaming at how rude self-absorbed and arrogant he was being ugh
— Aurist (@Aurist) February 6, 2014
Piers Morgan just schooled Janet Mock in debate
— Lizzie House (@lizziehouse) February 6, 2014
— Antonia E D'orsay (@tonidorsay) February 6, 2014
After watching Piers Morgan's follow-up with Janet Mock I'm perplexed.
— Cuba Cooning Jr. (@RonLimeZNN) February 6, 2014
However, what many viewers seemed to find the most issue with was a CNN panel assembled to dissect and debate Mock's initial interview and the ensuing outrage from the LGBT community -- and the fact that the panel included no transgender commentators. Watch the panel below.
(Warning: some comments made during this panel discussion may be triggering.)
Viewers used Twitter to express their outrage over the fact that none of the three commentators debating the legitimacy of a transgender woman's claims were transgender themselves.
I don't understand why the panel Piers Morgan convened to discuss Janet Mock didn't include a single trans* person.
— elle (@ellehoneybee) February 6, 2014
— Branden Asemah (@BrandenAsemah) February 6, 2014
However, despite the panel's problematic lack of transgender representation, its most remarkable moment comes towards the end of the segment when Morgan shares that he has, throughout this process, come to understand the distinction between sex and gender, thanks in part to smart comments made by Mock and, during the panel discussion, by Marc Lamont Hill, a HuffPost Live producer and host.
"I think that the point Mark is making, which is the point that Janet made, is this -- there's a difference between sex and gender," Morgan stated. "Gender identity is incredibly important to people who go through through the transgender [inaudible]. I have learned more about that during the past 24 hours and I think it's important to know about that because it matters to the people who go through that."After the second interview, both Morgan and Mock used Twitter to offer their thoughts on what had transpired:
Well, I think we both learned something there. A valuable debate. @janetmock
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) February 6, 2014
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.
— Janet Mock (@janetmock) February 6, 2014