Last night, Piers Morgan invited transgender activist and all-around awesome person Janet Mock on his show for a segment to discuss her new book _Redefining Realness._ In promos for the segment and throughout the segment itself, Piers Morgan repeatedly sensationalized Janet’s story, referred to her as having previously been a man, and discussed her genitals. So much wrongness here. After the segment, he was repeatedly called out for the things he said and responded by doubling-down on his words and even calling those upset by him “stupid” and “dimwits,” all the while trying to maintain that he is an ally. He topped it all off with a threat to “deal with her” on tonight’s show.
For the record, I don’t think Piers Morgan is transphobic, per se, but the words he said were, indeed, transphobic and full of privilege. Rather than approach trans issues without bias as a true journalist should approach any story, he chose sensationalism and the same path taken time and again by the media. When called-out for the incorrect and hurtful things he said, he didn’t apologize like a respectable, open-minded, and accepting person would. He continued to speak from a place of privilege and even tried to play the victim. He called names and dismissed.
This is not how to be an ally to an oppressed group. When you are truly an ally, you stop talking and listen. You recognize your mistakes and your privilege (privilege isn’t bad by default, but it’s important to recognize that being cisgender gives you exactly seventeen metric shit-ton of privilege). You apologize when you are wrong. You realize it is not your place to speak for those to whom you are an ally. Your role is to allow them to speak and boost the volume and power of their voices, not yours. If a member of an oppressed group says your words are problematic, you don’t have the right to dispute that. You don’t get to define what is and is not transphobic or bigoted. This is not just for trans issues, this goes for any form of oppression and inequality. The oppressive group and members of the oppressive group do not get to define the oppression or decide what is hurtful and problematic.
Most of all, as an ally, you treat others with respect and as human beings. You accept that they have a different lived experience which you may not be able to understand and you should not claim to have any authority to speak about or define.
Mistakes happen, it’s okay. For the most part, people will forgive you if you accept that you made a mistake, apologize, and try to be better going forward. Unfortunately, people consistently refuse to take ownership of their mistakes. Instead they deflect and dismiss. This has been happening a lot recently: Joss Whedon, Katie Couric, Jared Leto, Grantland, and even jokes about Justin Bieber’s mugshots. The list goes on and on, but these are just things which stand out from 2014 alone and I’m not even including things related to political issues and legislation.
To get back to Morgan’s specific claims that Janet Mock and other trans women were formerly men, I have to just stand up and say…
No, I was never a man. Not now, not ever.
For 29 years, I wanted to be one and I tried really hard to be one, but I just wasn’t a man. To most people, I identified myself as a man, it’s how I wanted them to see me at the time. To many who were closer to me, however, I was a little more open about not really knowing what I was. I knew I wasn’t a man, but I didn’t want to accept what being a woman meant (i.e. transition). Instead, I allowed myself to exist in the in-between. Being transgender and living as such in this world is scary and dangerous. I didn’t think I could handle it. I didn’t want to try.
However, the thing with trying to be something you’re not is that it rarely works out. It’s difficult. It involves a lot of lies. It was exhausting. As much as I wanted to relate to men and my male friends and feel like them, I just didn’t and couldn’t. I didn’t feel like one of them and I didn’t see myself as one of them. I wasn’t one of them. I wasn’t happy at all. I hated myself.
I wasn’t born a boy (or even a man…which is odd to pop out as a fully formed man). It was a role pushed upon me.
None of this was simply just something I felt, but it was a deep-seeded internal sense of who I was that was conflicting with how the world saw me and who I was expected to be. Back then, I wanted to be what the world wanted from me. I wanted to be a man. I didn’t want to be a woman. I was living a lie and pursuing my desires to just be what everyone wanted from me and said I was. This was the lie. This was the deception.
When I finally realized I needed to let that go and accept the person I truly was, my internal discontent withered away. I allowed myself to be free and found internal happiness.
Trying to be something I wasn’t nearly drove me to suicide. If I ever was a boy or a man, why did trying to live as one nearly kill me?