On Monday, Elite model Carmen Carrera (a popular contestant on the reality show RuPaul’s Drag Race) and actress Laverne Cox (Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black) sat down with Katie Couric on her ABC show Katie. Arguably the highest-profile transgender women in the entertainment biz today, they’re also outspoken activists on trans rights and issues. Unfortunately, Couric seemed unable to get beyond a schoolyard fascination with the women’s “private parts,” as you can see in the video above.
A discussion of Carrera’s modeling career quickly descends into series of tone-deaf questions from Couric about her surgeries. As this great piece at Autostraddle puts it:
Things started to seem a little odd when the viewers kept being reminded about Carrera’s transition by being shown pictures of her in bandages and mentions of her transition at every chance. Later when Couric introduced Carrera, she said that “she was born a man and that’s why she’s on our show,” making it very clear that she’s only interesting because of her transition…However, the real trouble started when Couric started to ask Ms. Carrera if transitioning was painful because of all the surgery that she had to go through. Carmen looked a little confused and responded by talking a little about her nose job and breast augmentation and that’s when Katie pounced. She immediately asked if Carmen’s “private parts” are “different now.”
At this point,Carrera literally shushes Couric, and explains her problem with media stories on transgender issues. “They always focus on either the transition or the genitalia, and I think there is more to trans people than just that.”
Cox agreed. “That preoccupation…objectifies trans people and then we don’t get to deal with the real lived experiences. The reality of trans people lives is that so often we’re targets of violence. We experience discrimination disproportionately to the rest of the community and our unemployment rate is twice the national average…When we focus on transition, we don’t get to talk about those things.”
Throughout the segment, Cox and Carrera demonstrate incredible grace under fire, eloquently countering Couric’s repeated line of questioning about their surgeries and anatomy with some real talk about issues of safety and discrimination against trans people. The whole clip is well worth a watch.