First and foremost, I’d like to apologize to the staff over at Media Matters because it really must be truly awful having to work for an organization that requires a staff to be perpetually offended by something, anything, 24 hours a day. It’s also terrible to look like you don’t regularly shower, but no reason to dwell on that.
The Media Matters people have a lot of quality goals: They obviously want to annihilate Fox News and they like to police the internet for anything they deem inappropriate or offensive. This week they went after transphobes like CNN’s Piers Morgan, who dared to pose ordinary questions to Janet Mock, a trans woman who wrote about her life experiences in her new memoir. Morgan, who is not transphobic, mind you, asked questions any journalist might have asked.
Mock went on Morgan’s program this week to promote her book. But after answering questions that were at the root and nature of the memoir, she vilified him because a CNN chyron said she was formerly a boy. Which, in fact, she was.
After Media Matters went after Morgan, predictably, they came for me, because I defended him. They are the language police, the morality police and the thought police all wrapped into one. No doubt they have swear jars they almost never contribute to. No doubt they have lists of politically correct words and thoughts they study and memorize and quiz one another on whenever Fox News is on a commercial.
Media Matters “reporter” Luke Brinker writes, “Daily Caller gossip scribe Betsy Rothstein used the transphobic slur ‘tranny’ to describe transgender activist Janet Mock, defending Piers Morgan against charges that his February 4 interview with Mock sensationalized Mock’s story and stating Mock’s new memoir wouldn’t ‘even exist if she had not been born with a penis.'”
Guess what? Not everyone is offended by the word. Not even drag superstar Ru Paul. In fact, Media Matters would do well to have Paul come and visit and stop being so tightly wound. As Paul once told HuffPost, “It’s ridiculous! It’s ridiculous! I love the word ‘tranny.’ And I hate the fact that [Lance Bass] apologized. I wish he would have said, ‘F–k you, you tranny jerk!'”
Actress Chloey Sevigny has also had a run-in with the word. In “Hit or Miss” on DirectTV, she played a pre-op transexual contract killer. In an interview on HuffPost, she said she got “reamed out” by The Advocate for saying “tranny.” She said of her character, “I guess I referred to her as a tranny a couple of times and that’s a no-no in the community. I felt really bad! Nobody had ever told me. … Reee-donkulous. You can’t say anything anymore.”
To Brinker’s credit, he reprinted a lot of my story. That’s good, because I don’t regret it. Mock, a “transgender activist” as Media Matters calls her, is also a transgender who was born a boy by the name of “Charles.” Janet, as she now calls herself, had sex reassignment surgery when she turned 18, but identified as a female long before she went under the knife in Thailand.
But that’s where my gratitude ends. Brinker went on to attribute beliefs to me that I don’t believe at all, nor did I say in my piece. Brinker, in full, hands-on-hips, I’m so offended mode, wrote that my “apparent belief that Mock couldn’t possibly have truly identified as a woman until she underwent a surgical sex change reflects the very sort of ‘reductive thinking about gender’ Mock decried in a February 4 interview with BuzzFeed’s Chris Geidner. But Rothstein’s focus on Mock’s genitalia is standard fare at the rabidly transphobic Daily Caller, where even transgender high school students are considered fair game for journalistic ridicule.”
I can’t speak for the publication – that’s not my role. But I can speak for me. My “apparent” belief? Brinker never bothered to ask, so let me tell you my actual belief. I never said Mock couldn’t have “truly identified as a woman” until she underwent surgery. Nor do I think it. And just in case the good folks over at Media Matters have sensors on my brain to read my thoughts, I completely believe that Mock identified as a girl from age 6, as she told CNN.
But I also believe that she was not physically a woman until the surgery.
Some go further. Some people believe adamantly that her DNA makes her genetically a man no matter what surgery she has, no matter how she identifies and that genetically she will always be male. In my piece I described covering transgender lobbying days on Capitol Hill and explained that I fought with my editor about the use of proper pronouns. My editor wanted them based on chromosomes. We went round and round. As I wrote, “I felt strongly that calling a person who felt she was a she ‘she’ was the proper thing to do.”
I covered Mock’s genitalia because she discussed it on CNN and it was at the crux of her beef with Morgan. I wrote, “Would the book even exist had she not been born with a penis? Of course not.” And somehow, according to Media Matters, that’s a “transphobic” thing to say. If that’s true, then writing a memoir laying out the most intimate details of your existence, of being born a boy but identifying as a girl and having surgery to become female, was probably not the best idea.
Journalists I respect don’t inflict their ideals on everyone and then deem you “transphobic” if they disagree or approach things in a different manner.
Please, Ru Paul. If you’re listening, Media Matters needs you.