Janet Mock on How to End the Transgender Inquisition

Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation
April 30 2014 2:27 PM

Janet Mock Delivers Scathing Critique of Transgender Interview Tactics

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Transgender activist Janet Mock.

Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for AdColor

One of the more productive elements to emerge from the publication of transgender activist and author Janet Mock’s book Redefining Realness and the related media tour has been raising awareness in both journalists and audiences about how NOT to interview individuals on the trans spectrum. As we saw in examples ranging from Katie Couric’s inquisition of Carmen Carrera and Laverne Cox to Mock’s own crass experience at the hands of Piers Morgan, journalists often focus far too much on body parts and other intimate questions at the expense of engaging with their subjects as human beings.

In case some people still haven’t gotten the memo that this kind of prurient interrogation is inappropriate at best, Janet Mock and Fusion host Alicia Menendez have created an excellent video that ought to help.

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The segment features Mock interviewing Menendez about her “cisgender identity,” asking after the existence of her vagina and when she noticed her breasts “budding.” Menedez is clearly shaken, admitting that she had rehearsed some of those very questions before the real interview. The women process the encounter:

Mock: Some of the questions aren’t necessary. Like questions about your body—why do we need to know that?  

Menendez: When I was coming into this I thought we needed to know that as a way of bridging an understanding gap. But when you have the questions turned on you, I understand how much more intimate those questions feel …

Hopefully this video can help others reach that kind of understanding as well. 

J. Bryan Lowder is a Slate assistant editor. He writes and edits for Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section, and for the culture section.

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