Janet Mock Shows Us How It Feels to Be Interviewed as a Trans Person

Illustration for article titled Janet Mock Shows Us How It Feels to Be Interviewed as a Trans Person

Time and time again, we've seen reporters misstep when interviewing people who are transgender. Rather than getting to discuss the book, TV show, activism or whatever else it is that they're there to talk about, guests instead face invasive questions about their bodies and personal, private experiences.


Recently, activist Janet Mock — no stranger to this treatment — quite literally flipped the script with Fusion's Alicia Menendez, giving the reporter the opportunity to feel one sliver of the discomfort that trans people often experience when sitting in the interview hot seat.

Mock immediately started out the scripted exchange by condescendingly telling Menendez how beautiful she is, then went on to ask her intimate questions about puberty, her body and when she realized she was cis, all while dismissing Menendez's requests to change the topic.

"That was awful," Menendez expressed when the fake interview was over. "Actually, we wrote a lot of these questions and I didn't know how awful — even when we were role playing them without you, I didn't realize how awful and invasive some of them would feel and how I'd feel now like a token."

"Well, right," Mock responded. "I think that that's kind of the experience I go through every time I'm in an interview — and even the good ones. I feel sort of that I'm carrying the burden of people expecting me to communicate all of these things, but also to give up all this private information about my body and my journey and my life...Some of the questions aren't necessary."

Being trans is not an open invitation for cis people to ask whatever they want, even if it's for the sake of learning and open-mindedness. From now on, let's all try operating from a place of empathy, not curiosity.



I agree completely that questions about bodies and surgeries need to end, but Mock's book is titled, in part, "My Path to Womanhood." The official book jacket says it is a book about growing up as a trans girl.

When you write a book explicitly about your experience growing up trans and transitioning to womanhood, and when you have achieved fame by being a visible trans person, interviewers are going to ask you questions like "When did you realize you were trans?" Writing a book about trans experience and then wanting to talk about....I don't know....the current situation in Ukraine or basically everything except the topic of the book feels naive to me.

Note that I have a different opinion about interviewing someone like Laverne Cox, who is primarily an actress rather than primarily a trans activist.