Janet Mock brilliantly demonstrates how the media often fails the trans community

The transgender activist reverses roles and asks: Would a cisgender person ever have to answer questions like this?

By Prachi Gupta
Published April 30, 2014 7:59PM (EDT)

"Do you have a vagina?"

"When was the moment when you felt your breasts budding?"

"Did you feel like a girl?"

After answering these and other similarly invasive questions in a scripted interview with "Redefining Realness" author and transgender activist Janet Mock, Fusion host Alicia Menendez writhed in discomfort, admitting, "I feel now like a token."

"Well right! I think that that's kind of the experience I go through every time I'm in an interview," said Mock.

Mock has been on a media tour over the past several months, promoting her memoir that tells her story of growing up as a trans girl. But, as demonstrated by a now-infamous interview with former CNN anchor Piers Morgan, or by Katie Couric's clueless conversation with Laverne Cox and Carmen Carrera, the media needs a serious lesson on how to interact with the trans community.

Though Mock has been very open about her life and identity in her memoir, she says, "Some of the questions aren’t necessary. Like questions about your body -- why do we need to know that?"

"When I was coming into this I thought we needed to know that as a way of bridging an understanding gap," Menendez admitted. "But when you have the questions turned on you, I understand how much more intimate those questions feel and how they get away from the identity piece of this, which, for me, has a lot to do with my body, but doesn't necessarily for everyone."

For Mock, such personal questions reek of entitlement and privilege. By asking them, explains Mock, you're saying, "'You need to prove to me that your identity and your body is real. And I'm going to ask you these questions because I need to investigate, and really make sure that your identity and your body is real."

Watch the powerful video below:

Correction: an earlier version of this post misstated Alicia Menendez's last name.

Prachi Gupta

Prachi Gupta is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @prachigu or email her at pgupta@salon.com.

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Alicia Menendez Cisgender Janet Mock Trans Community Transgender Video