“Why Is It So Offensive To Just Say That Transgender Women Grew Up As Boys?”

Trans activist Janet Mock returned to Piers Morgan Live last night to discuss her accusations that Morgan was “transphobic” and tried to “sensationalize” her life during an interview about her new book, Redefining Realness, which sensationalizes her life on her own terms.

Bothered by his reference to her as “a boy until age 18,” Mock spent the evening following her initial interview discussing Morgan’s “bad judgement” and “reductive thinking about gender” on Twitter. Disturbed by claims that he was “cisphobic,” Morgan invited Mock back on his show to discuss how, exactly, he had offended her.

We were anticipating another great “teaching moment,” but Mock’s return to Piers Morgan Live last night rang more like a petty playground argument than anything remotely productive.

“I was surprised,” Morgan begins, “because you never said anything during the interview to indicate you were remotely dismayed with the terms I was using…and the interview was done five days ago. So I ask you, Janet, to explain to me why you didn’t say anything…because I feel pretty peeved about it.”

Morgan continued:

I want to learn why it is so offensive to actually just say that you grew up as a boy and then, because you’ve always felt that you were female, you had surgery to become a woman, to become a real woman as you say in your book. Why is it offensive?

Mock responded, clarifying that this situation was somehow much different than an unoffensive 2011 Marie Claire article profiling her under the title “I Was Born A Boy“:

I think that we need to have a discussion about what gender is and gender expectations in our culture. I think that we are born and we’re assigned a sex at birth. That is something that none of us have control over, but we do have control over our destinies and our identities. We should be respected. It’s not about the past, it’s about who I am right now.

And later on:

Morgan: “Do you dispute that you were a boy?”

Mock: “I was born a baby who was assigned ‘male’ at birth.”

And there you have it, folks. Another media personality learns the hard way that transgender people are more than just bodies.

Get Queerty Daily

Subscribe to Queerty for a daily dose of #activism #janetmock #piersmorgan stories and more


  • deltabadhand

    “Why Is It So Offensive To Just Say That Transgender Women Grew Up As Boys?”

    I have yet to hear that answered in a logical way. So my conclusion is its not authentically offensive it’s something some trans folks like to say when they want attention.

  • Caleb in SC

    I’ve got to agree with Piers Morgan. If it is patently offensive, why not call him out on it when it happened five years ago? The simple fact is that she was biologically born a male. That said, I do agree that there is too much focus among non-LGBT people on people’s biologies and what they do in bed.

  • QJ201

    I was born with a penis and therefore my parents attempted to raise me as a boy, though I always felt I was female and identified myself as a girl.

    Does that answer work for you?

  • Kieran

    Kudos to Janet Mock for making it clear to Piers Morgan that being born transgendered and being born gay are two entirely different things. She’s absolutely right. So why are so many still so adamant about linking the two by referring to the “LGBT community”?

  • damon459

    @Kieran: If the T wants leave the umbrella I’m certain fine with that. The fact is I’m with Piers on this one, it just seems like she wanted more air time to me.

  • tardis

    Morgan is EXTREMELY LGBT friendly. I don’t think Morgan means any harm. Trandengerism isn’t a new concept or anything like that, but it is a foreign concept for open-minded people. I think people are just curious about it.

  • DShucking

    @Kieran: She didn’t need to make the point because he never confused the two. And if this is the way the Ts want to treat their straight and gay allies they are more them welcome to get the fuck off our acronym.

  • DShucking

    If it’s offensive then she should never had said it herself in the Marie Claire interview.

    I’m glad to see a lot of the comments online are actually objective regarding her second visit with Piers. She didn’t school anyone on anything positive. She only schooled viewers as to how evasive, deception, dishonest and condescending she is. He asked her a very simple question which she repeatedly chose not to answer instead using every opportunity afforded her to give canned, inter-community speeches on behalf of the transgender community. She mocked the term ‘surgery’ with air quotes when she in fact discussed her surgery in her book. His simple question was, “Did you say in the interview with Marie Claire that you were born a boy?” and she never answered it because she knows the truth would expose her as a self-promoting hypocrite. If she really cared about her community she wouldn’t be promoting herself at the expense of others she claims to represent.

    People like her are making it difficult for people in my community to support people her in community, which she clearly separates when Piers says, “I have always been a huge supporter of gay rights, lesbian rights, transgender rights..” and her response is a condescending, “Excuse me, transgender rights are not the same as gay rights.”

    Really? Not sure if you want to draw that line in the sand because there are a number of GLBT people who are already more than willing to remove the T from GLBT all together and your crappy, self-entitled attitude is only making them happy to oblige.

  • alphang

    I don’t want to sound rude but it seems like every time I hear about transgendered people in the news, it’s of them being extremely sensitive and/or very offended by the most innocent of statements. I’m not necessarily a fan of Piers Morgan, but to accuse the man of being “transphobic” just because of what he said is a crock of BS. It doesn’t make it easier for anybody to understand transgendered people if they act the way Mock does. I myself don’t know much about transgendered people, and I’m hesitant to try and find out because I’m concerned that whatever I ask will cause a pissy reaction.

  • SnakeyJ

    She seemed a little defensive. She could’ve just said she felt like a woman from birth. I think people need to understand how other people think. Going on a show and then getting upset about it is immature.

  • TerrenM

    I am 100% with Piers on this one as well. She wrote a book to ‘sensationalize’ her path. Then she says he ‘sensationalized’ her on TV. He was COMPLETELY polite and has been an advocate for ALL of us. I feel many of us have to tip-toe around trans people and can never ask questions when we want to understand and learn. That’s all many of us want to do. I believe she is simply trying to sell books by creating an up-roar. The first segment was recorded 6 days ago and when they realized books were not selling, her team wanted to create controversy 5 days later. I find this woman a bore.

  • vancouver14

    you guys aren’t getting it. she may have been born with male anatomy but she was never a boy or a man. she didn’t change into anything when she had her surgery she just more closely aligned her body to her body image. lgbt peoples don’t have to agree on everything but we should be willing to try to understand and open our minds and hearts to each other. we have all been and still are persecuted for who we are and who we love. we are all individuals with much variation from person to person. instead of rushing to condemn and divide maybe we should do a little research and try to understand each other better and appreciate our similarities and humanity.

  • DShucking

    @vancouver14: Then why did she say in the Marie Claire interview that she was born a boy?

  • Fitz

    She could have gone the “let me teach you something” route. Instead she went the “let me find an excuse to find offense when none was intended” way. Very little respect for her on this. Whatever message she has is lost in the grandstanding.

  • TerrenM

    @Fitz: AMEN!

  • Manchester

    Here we go again with the transgender drama. I would agree with her on the “Excuse me, transgender rights are not the same as gay rights” point. It’s not and should not be included under the “gay umbrella” in my opinion.

  • Tookietookie123

    Even as gay people, we’re confused about this topic unless you’re transgendered. We don’t know what to say and not say, it’s like walking on egg shells. Surprisingly a lot of LGB people are transphobic, which is obviously contradictory to our nature, but it happens apparently. We need to unite as a community for the betterment of our community.

  • twilson27

    @DShucking: She did answer him, she said several times that she didn’t write the Marie Claire piece and she responded to it in her book.

  • twilson27

    @DShucking: She didn’t write that article or choose the title – did you see the video clip?

  • Timer

    Janet is male, and despite hormones and surgeries, is still male. He doesn’t seem like a woman to me at all, but rather a super-entitled male who’s insisting that everyone follow his orders.

  • invis85

    I think the major issue here was that she was unhappy how Piers emphasized that she was a boy until 18 and underwent surgery to become a real woman. Yes, that was the process and her experience, but that’s not what defines transgender people, and should not be used to defined who they are/were.

    I think we can all agree that people of minority have the tendency to jump on people unintentionally using choice of words that carries the slightest offensiveness, because the minorities need to protect their voice and fix those unintentional yet wrongly emphasized statements. As in Janet Mock’s case…though she used a rude way to bring it to Piers’ attention…

    I think what Piers failed to understand was that her being a boy until 18 because she was assigned the boy gender being born an outer shell (her body) with a penis was not who she identified herself as inside that shell, and transgender people are all about their IDENTITY. So when Piers headlined the whole interview saying she was a boy, he was inherently wrong to all those who experienced otherwise. Saying she was a boy diminishes her identity, and identity is what should have been focused, not her penis. Not an expert in publishing, I wonder how Piers’ team could have headlined it as…

    This is not saying Piers is a big bad Brit. I think people, even avid supporters, fail to see the difference and therefore jump to conclusion that she was a boy because of the penis. But if we could focus on GENDER IDENTITY rather than the assigned gender on a birth certificate, there would be more understanding on the issue.

    Though I think Janet Mock totally failed to deliver why she was offended. She was born a baby sounded stupid and explained nothing.

  • Mel

    @Fitz: Whatever message she has is lost in the grandstanding.

    Every single trans article in the LGB press fits that pattern.

  • inbama

    I love the expression “assigned a sex at birth.”

    Sounds sort of random, like when your sixth grade teacher assigned you to do your book report on Ivanhoe or Little Women.

  • Daniel-Reader

    It is no different than telling a gay youth that they are straight until they experience being gay. No, you are gay from the get-go – no matter how much segments of the outside world wish otherwise. Telling a transwoman they are a boy until they transition via surgery is dismissing their entire existence, as though the outside world has a say in the matter. It is just as offense – I understand why transpeople would find the implication against their very existence insulting.

  • rosalie saladin

    My Uncle Hayden just got a 2012 Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid just by part-time work from a home pc… browse around this website… http://x.co/3qPLl

  • jwrappaport

    Good grief. Piers is an ally and clearly didn’t mean to offend anyone – quite the opposite considering he used his show to plug her book and her message. Attacking well-meaning allies with childish, vulgar tweets is exactly how you don’t win hearts and minds in the fight for equality.

  • viveutvivas

    I get the impression there is nothing anybody can say to or about a trans person without their taking offense. Maybe it is best to stay away from trans people altogether.

  • TheRexVoxian

    I am with Piers on this one. When I first heard of transgenders, when I watched an episode of Degrassi, I was so uncomfortable on the topic and when I finally met one I asked so many questions. People are still shaky on the whole topic of homosexuality, so I’m very sure they are on transgenderism too! It’s something people don’t take in very easily.

    Even, me being a gay person, I didn’t get used to the idea of transgenders very easily. I was a little transphobic, and by transphobic I mean actually scared of transgenders not really hating them at all. It takes a while to get used to for some people, and I do not blame Piers for being curious, because it is probably his first time with transgenders and when it was mine I asked the same type of questions too, and later learned they were a little offensive.

    So please do not blame Piers and I think Janet was too sensitive, and I’m also wondering along with Piers why Janet didn’t call him out on it in the interview, and rather, she’d call her audience, and point in his direction that he is possibly transphobic. Sounds a little suspicious to me.

  • vancouver14

    most of these comments sound like they are from right wing idiots. come on my brothers! if this much ignorance and hostility comes from the gay community how are we ever going to progress. education is key. learn the issues and with that comes understanding. do a little research and try to see why and where other peoples are coming from instead of just speaking blindly from your privileged positions of power. gay rights are human rights. trans rights are human rights. we are all human and deserve respect and understanding not divisive ignorant ranting.

  • the other Greg

    @viveutvivas: Here is a small “polling sample.” The few F-to-M transgenders I’ve encountered have seemed to me to be reasonable, rational people. The few M-to-F transgenders I’ve encountered have all been bitchy, irritable types, jumping at any excuse to take offense.

    Maybe this says more about female hormones than anything else – or rather, the lack of interest many of us here have in understanding or dealing with female hormones!

  • DawnTrans

    As a middle aged trans woman Id like to point out that:

    A) Gay men are not the best allies to the trans community. Yes gay men love drag queens but lets face it guys like born woman, You would rather we be neither seen nor heard from.

    Now onto this Janet Mock debacle. I will be the first to say that Janet should not have gone on any TV program unless she was prepared to deal with drama queens like Piers. In preparing for her appearence she should have laid some ground rules down about what subjects were off limits.
    Laverne Cox shut down Katie Couric offending questions with grace, unfortunately Janet did not do the same with Piers.

    On the subject of born male, yes every M2F transwoman was born with a male body. Arguing that fact is like arguing the world is flat. Perhaps what Janet meant to imply was even though she was born in a male body she knew from a very early age she clearly was not identifying as a male in thoughts mannerisms and felt uncomfortable being pushed into a male gender stereotype.

    Even though I am disappointed in her appearance Im going to state the obvious that Piers is no great ally of the trans community. He’s just another shock jock type program that uses people for bigger ratings. His style of Q&A is more Masculine Drag then honest to goodness interest and empathy that David Frost had when he did his show.

  • alterego1980

    @vancouver14: I think most of the comments hit the mark perfectly. Piers’ unintentional offense, if there was any, was not making a clear distinction between sex and gender ID when discussing her pre-surgery years. But the focus is on why Mock was so incapable of making that simple point. Instead she acted in a ridiculous and petty manner. This obviously struck a chord with others who have come across other trans people who act similarly. And her “performance” wreaked of opportunism to get more air-time.

  • DShucking

    @twilson27: Yes I did see the interview, did you? She didn’t answer the question. Would you like me to repeat the question for you or would you prefer to rewatch the clip yourself?

  • DShucking

    @Daniel-Reader: It’s absolutely not the same. There is a difference here between biology and social construct. Very poor analogy.

  • jojojojo

    Unfortunately it appears that many of the people commenting – much like Piers Morgan – are unfamiliar with the writings of Janet Mock. It is acceptable for someone who is just commenting on this site to maybe make comments about the woman, but Piers Morgan has no excuse as he is (pretending to) position himself as an informed journalist.

    FIRST – We must make the distinction between gender and sex. A person’s sex is assigned to them at birth based on anatomy and biological make-up. Their gender is a social construct which makes Daniel-Reader’s analogy actually a strong one, Dshucking.

    SECOND – It was unfortunate that she did not immediately shut down the invasive questions that were asked about her body and surgery in the first interview, but I do believe her when she says that she was scared. She was being offered a spot on a mainstream talk show which is controlled by and caters to a predominately white, heterosexual audience. Not one of the people posting here can argue that that would not be incredibly intimidating (unless if you are a trans person of color yourself)

    It is really upsetting to see so many in the gay community shut down her complaints without actually researching her work and truly understanding where she is coming from. Gay people want marriage equality? Well, guess what, trans woman of color in particular, are victims of physical violence in this country on the regular. Where’s that media attention? Where is the justice for woman like Islan Nettles, the latest murder victim of a transgender hate crime? Why were Piers’ questions about that and not about what genitals Janet Mock was born with?

    I understand Piers’ confusion, but if the man had spent ANY time actually reading the work of Janet Mock (her book and her work leading up to the book) he would NOT have to question why Janet and her community were upset by the interview.

  • jojojojo

    Edit it is not acceptable for commenters to be making these awful statements, just understandable, given the framework.

  • Spike

    @DawnTrans: “Even though I am disappointed in her appearance Im going to state the obvious that Piers is no great ally of the trans community. He’s just another shock jock type program that uses people for bigger ratings.”

    So did she not know this before she went on the show? BTW, regarding people using people, she wasn’t using him to promote her book?

    Seems like she’s just a .tra.nny looking to extend her 7 mins of fame for profit. Whatever.

  • jojojojo

    @DShucking: @Daniel-Reader:

    Sorry – I didnt know how to tag before

    Also – @Spike: That word that you so cleverly disguised is hateful. Please use better language if you want any credibility

  • jojojojo

    Lastly, just because you are homosexual or an ally doesnt mean your misinformed comments can’t be unintentionally transphobic.

  • BrianZ

    @DawnTrans: I’m a little disgusted you feel so free to generalize who gay men are, what we think and feel and our preferences to women in general. It makes it clear that _everyone_ has some work to do within and outside the LGBT banner.

    As for Mock: It’s a shame that some very good opportunities to educate were clearly missed. People need information and guidance in learning to accept new things, and slamming the door in their face with an admonishment that something is “private” isn’t going to make many friends. I know the conversation is a very personal, supremely intimate part of life for transgender people however, isn’t that the reason Mock and others are on these type programs, to educate and inform? There is a clear difference in asking for acceptance and understanding, and demanding equal treatment.

  • KDub


  • DShucking

    @jojojojo: In her 2011 interview with Marie Claire, did Janet Shock say that she was born a boy?

  • Fitz

    Nice attempt to deflect. This is not about gay men not getting trans issues. It’s about someone choosing to find offense around every corner, and our (the people here, at least) exhaustion with those junior high school tactics. Piers is one of the good guys, and if she can’t tell the difference between an enemy and a friend, then she should STFU and live her life privately and not speak for anyone else.

  • jojojojo

    @Fitz: This actually has EVERYTHING to do with Gay men’s and LGBT allies’ sensitivity to trans issues. How do you suppose the gay community would react if a gay man who had written a book about his journey/life struggles were to be invited on a national talk show with a LGBT ally for a host, and he was asked more about his sex life (top/bottom?, does it hurt?, etc.), then he was asked about the thesis of his book? At this time, as trans women are receiving more mainstream visibility (see Carmen Carrerra and Laverne Cox on the Katie Couric show), these types of invasive, inappropriate questions should be off-limits and are not yet.

    It was an amazing gesture for Piers to invite her back on the show, and I agree that it is clear that his intentions are purely supportive. Unfortunately, he spent most of this second interview talking over her and not letting her really flesh out her argument. Hence, the backlash.

  • DShucking

    @jojojojo: Wrong. That was not the reason for her backlash. She was not answering the question, repeatedly. You can look on most gay and liberal sites about this and the consensus is that her behavior was both appalling and a detriment to her cause.

  • jojojojo

    @DShucking: you are completely right. The backlash against Janet Mock was in response to her inability to answer that one pesky question. She did not do a good job at providing an accessible understandable way to make Piers feel better about the context in which he sensationalized her body. The backlash I was referring to was the backlash against Piers who approached the conversation guns a blazing and did not allow much room for discourse so that he could actually learn why what he did was wrong.

    If you are looking for an easy answer to the question that is highlighted in the headline of this article, the only thing I can say is that there is no simple answer. Context is very important in the matter, which is what she tried to highlight by saying that she was assigned a male sex at birth, attempting to delve in to the sex v. gender topic, before she was interrupted by Piers again. Also, not to mention the numerous times she had said that not only did she not write the Marie Claire article but she critiqued it for this very reason.

    As far as the consensus you speak of, we clearly follow different writers. I found TJ’s article to be very helpful


  • jojojojo

    Oops! *this* – not TJ’s … Damn auto correct. Peace

  • DShucking

    @jojojojo: My god you are thick. The ‘pesky’ question was related to her credibility, that’s why she wouldn’t answer it. I think you have zero ability to be objective about this subject but I’m going to give it one more shot. In her interview with marie Claire did she say that she was born a boy?

  • jojojojo

    @DShucking: Yikes. Please no hostility! I’ll try once again and give the answer you’ve been waiting for. Yes she did.

    Please don’t ignore context though as mentioned multiple times above.

  • DShucking

    @jojojojo: Thank you for admitting what Mock would not. Her entire argument fails because of that one fact. It was all for self-promotion. No respect.

  • jojojojo

    … Or ignore all context and discredit the woman’s efforts. Whatever works for you.

  • DShucking

    @jojojojo: I know the context. She tweeted her outrage for the Piers Morgan show stating some of the same things she stated herself. It was an incredibly respectful interview and she shat all over it to promote her pubic profile. That’s the context.

  • SteveDenver

    Morgan is playing ignorant and stupid (maybe not “playing”) so Mock will have to defend her position.

    The real answer: If you don’t know, you shouldn’t have a show because you’re insensitive and dense.

  • DShucking

    @SteveDenver: Yes, that’s the way people will learn about the issue. By ignoring it because we’re afraid an activist will be offended by logical inquiries.

  • Tracy Pope

    Uh oh. I didn’t know that word was something that would be flagged. My second comment ever here on queerty and I’m already in trouble.

  • inbama

    Every other group has an n-word or two that you can rightfully expect people not to use.
    These women want to control everything that comes out of your mouth.
    She’s beautiful, but it must be like being married to Susie Greene in “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

  • DawnTrans

    @DawnTrans: I’m a little disgusted you feel so free to generalize who gay men are, what we think and feel and our preferences to women in general. It makes it clear that _everyone_ has some work to do within and outside the LGBT banner.

    Apparently you haven’t read the comments by your brethren here, but my comment isn’t only about whats written here its about 40 years of being around this (cough cough) community.
    There never was and never will be a great love between the L the G the B or the T. Each and every one of those groups over the past 40 years has been stepping on each others toes pushing their own agenda. Trans issues have always taken a back seat as far as the gay contingency is concerned.

    So as far as being disgusted goes frankly prissy I dont give a damn!!!

  • DShucking

    You know, the gay community has got to take some responsibility for the defensive, outraged reactions by these trans activists. We’ve been hypersensitive for a long time, beyond the point that we should be so angry about every little thing. We still do it. The trans community learned from our example and it’s nothing to be proud of.

  • Tracy Pope

    @jojojojo: I’m going to try this again…

    Why is that word offensive to the trans community?

    I have two friends who are trans (MTF and FTM) and I’ve worked with drag queens in the entertainment business. Not one of these people in two distinctly different communities ever thought of that word as anything but a description for a drag queen or heterosexual man who likes to dress as a woman. None ever considered it a term – in any form or capacity – in relation to trans people. What changed? Who decided it referred to trans people?

  • jojojojo

    @Tracy Pope: I agree that it is very confusing. I think that it is not specifically the word that is on trial here though. It is the way the show framed her presence/fame as a medical oddity more so then as an activist or voice for her community. Yes, it is very important to educate the people who are unaware of what a transgendered person is and to help them understand, but the way the show packaged her interview for the public made it seem almost like a freak show, accompanied with tweets asking, “would you be ok finding out if the woman you were dating used to be a boy.” The questions were very inappropriate and alienating and honestly would not be tolerated for cis-gendered guests on his show.

    I really wish Piers had taken the opportunity when he invited Janet back on the show to allow her to freely speak and delve in to the issue more deeply. The twitter backlash was ugly and unnecessarily hostile, so I do understand why he was upset, but he had an opportunity to learn something in this conversation. Instead, he talked over her demanding an apology. It can be very difficult for LGBT allies like Piers, coming from a state of privilege (be it race, gender, sexual orientation, or all three in this case) to take a back seat and just listen sometimes. But that really is the only way that we learn, when it comes to the touchy subject of oppression.

    We all have a lot of learning to do, and I’m glad that Janet was offered this opportunity. Hopefully, it will inspire people to try to educate themselves about the state of trans rights in society and reconsider how certain actions and words can inadvertently hurt a person.

Comments are closed.