VIDEO: Janet Mock Turns the Tables On Interviewer, Asks What It’s Like To Be Cis

Janet Mock Recently sat down with Fusion’s Alicia Menendez and totally flipped the script on how an interview with a trans woman normally goes. Instead of answering a barrage of uncomfortable and unnecessary questions, this time Mock gets to ask the questions. And it is beautiful.

If you’re a trans woman (or any other trans person), you probably know exactly how this feels. Especially if you’ve ever been interviewed or spoken in front of a group. Mock asks Menendez questions like, “What’s one thing people need to know about being cis,” “When did your breasts start budding,” and of course, the classic “Do you have a vagina?”

This video intentionally harkens back to Laverne Cox and Carmen Carrera’s appearance on Katie Couric’s show and Mock’s own appearance on Piers Morgan’s show, and many, many more instances. In both of these examples, the women were appearing on the shows under the pretenses of talking about their projects, but instead had to deal with questions about their genitals, their childhoods as “boys” and other completely inappropriate and ignorant topics.

My favorite part is when Menendez tells Janet that they wrote many of the questions and even role-played them beforehand to test them out, she still didn’t realize that anything was wrong with them. “I thought we needed to know that as a way of bridging an understanding gap,” she said. Mock tells her that she often hears that as an excuse, that “the audience wants to know,” but that it’s almost always just the asker who wants to satisfy their own morbid curiosity. For anyone who was wondering why it’s innappropriate to ask this kind of questions, Mock answers and absolutely knocks it out of the park.

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Many trans women, including Mock, want to be open about their experiences as a trans woman, and Mock is exceedingly so in her book, but still, there’s a line. So, next time you think about asking a trans woman if she has a vagina, please think twice. And then after you’re done thinking, just don’t ask.

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Mey is a lesbian Latina trans woman living in Idaho. Her areas of expertise include comic books, trans issues and pop culture. She has an English Degree, a cat named Sawyer, a tumblr that she uses a lot and a twitter that she only uses occasionally.

Mey has written 171 articles for us.

15 Comments

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    I love this and have so much respect for Janet Mock.

    Maybe this will help people finally understand why it’s ridiculously offensive to ask things like “do you have a vagina?” (Obviously I wish we lived in a world where more privileged people could empathise with marginalised people without some kind of table-turning “what if we do it to you” situation, but it’s a way to get people to at least start thinking about things critically.)

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    I love all the articles that Mey writes. I’m just sayin’. Also, I have to admit I am someone who doesn’t really understand the whole trans thing, I’m not saying I don’t understand you as a trans human but like it was something I wasn’t really exposed to I guess??? Either that or I was living under a rock. I think I came across the term in college and it didn’t really strike me as something that was happening. YES I WAS LIVING UNDER A ROCK. Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say is, thank you for stuff like this because it’s educational for me. It’s something I enjoy reading and learning about.

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    I recently got in an argument with a guy (cisgender, african-american) who claimed that Cis is a slur.

    This in the context of him telling me that as a lesbian and a woman I face no discrimination, harassment, or street danger….I would have been happy to accept that I as a (relatively cisgendered, white) lesbian don’t understand his reality in the context of racism, but no, he doesn’t get to say that he’s also plagued by his identity as a cisgender heterosexual. No, no, very very no.

    To me, cis is a word that exists as an equal and opposite reaction to our labeling of trans persons. If cis people (myself included) cannot handle having the tables turned, maybe we shouldn’t sit before them, acting so strangely..

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    I actually avoided watching this video because I knew it would make me uncomfortable… but I’m glad I did, because as invasive as I’ve recognized these kind of questions to be when directed at trans women, as a cis woman I don’t think I understood HOW invasive it would feel, to have something as personal as your experience of gender pulled apart and “investigated.”

    Janet Mock and Alicia Menendez did an awesome job.

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