I like to think of myself as a pretty firm believer in giving people the benefit of the doubt. When somebody says they’re an ally to the LGBT community, for example, I believe that they’re telling the truth. Now, that doesn’t mean they know everything about our community or are immune from making mistakes, but I can at least believe they’re well-intentioned and simply need to be told why they’re wrong, and what they can do to correct themselves.
But boy, is Piers Morgan trying my belief.
If you haven’t heard, trans activist Janet Mock went on Morgan’s show last week to discuss her new book, Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More. The interview itself wasn’t all that explosive, but Mock went on Twitter after the segments aired to express her disappointment in Morgan’s treatment of her. Chryons on-screen stated that Mock “was a boy until 18” and was “formerly a man,” which isn’t an accurate description of how Mock identifies herself, and Morgan himself largely dwelled on pre-transition parts of Mock’s story in a similar manner.
Morgan’s response? An increasingly caustic series of tweets directed at Mock and her defenders. He called himself a “victim of cisphobia,” which is about as valid an argument as a conservative claiming to be the “victim of heterophobia.” He invited Mock to come back on his show live the next night, and their debate again focused primarily on Morgan’s belief that at one point, Mock was a boy.
There are plenty of issues to get into with this whole scenario, so I can only touch on a few this week. But I think it’s important to highlight those issues, however briefly:
1) In the wide range of LGBT issues, trans issues are very different from LGB issues. Trans people go through a different set of experiences than gays, lesbians and bisexuals. Trying to conflate all of the issues together can lead to a lot of confusion regarding trans issues, simply because gay issues tend to get more attention.
2) Within the community, by and large, we tend to be the most aware of our own issues. I think that’s understandable, since our issues are the most immediate to us. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work to educate ourselves on what others in the community face, and that’s especially true for trans issues. We all need to be respectful of other people’s experiences, and not act like we can’t learn from others.
3) While Mock’s supporters did tweet some nasty things to Morgan, Morgan’s equally nasty responses were largely aimed at Mock, who was fairly respectful in her comments to Morgan. While it’s not exactly surprising, given Morgan’s propensity for creating feuds out of thin air, it’s not the way an ally should behave. Or anyone, really. Telling someone that you know more about their experiences than they do is so wrong-headed, it shouldn’t require any explanation for why it’s wrong. But to be clear: it’s a safe bet that, for example, a trans person is going to have a better idea than an ally of what it means to be trans.
I can only hope that people who call themselves allies will use this as a learning experience on how to not behave as an ally, because with allies like Piers Morgan, who needs enemies?