Katie Couric and the Genital Obsession

laverne cox
Latest posts by Nick Gomez (see all)

I hope I’ve grabbed you with the Rowling-esque title, but while my word play is whimsical, the story is not.

Katie Couric, a well known American journalist, had on her talk show two trans* women by the names of Carmen Carrera (RuPaul’s Drag Race) and Laverne Cox (Orange Is The New Black). However, instead of using this opportunity to create a thoughtful and fair discussion of transgender people and the adversity they face, she thought she’d just keep asking about what their genitals looked like and about the procedures they’d gone through. Thankfully, the two guests were more than happy to do that for her and made some excellent statements to the public, while making it clear that questions such as Katie’s were a distraction from other issues.

I couldn’t possible say for certain that Katie Couric meant her questions to be probing and rude; she did tell Carmen that she wasn’t going to ask her more questions about her genitalia, but that’s definitely how they came across. Transition is a very personal process that affects both body and mind. As Carmen put it, ‘you go through the emotions, you go through just allowing yourself to be a woman.’ When Carmen was asked about her genitalia; something no person should ask another in an interview,  she shushed Katie saying ‘I don’t want to talk about that because it’s really personal… I’d rather talk about my modelling’, adding that it’s important to be ‘showing people that after their transition there is still life to live.’

When Laverne was brought onto the show, Katie tried to bring up the topic once more, making Carmen ‘recoil’. Laverne first praised Carmen for making her stand, adding her own thoughts that ‘the preoccupation with transition and with surgery objectifies trans people’.

I agree, what’s more important is how the world and the communities around trans* people treat them. Laverne was more than happy to quite confidently reel off statistics for unemployment and examples of the kind of physical abuse that affects trans* people, telling of a particular trans* woman, Islan Nettles, who was beaten into a coma and later died when those wolf whistling her realized she was trans*.

Katie’s talk show slogan is ‘talk that matters’ and that’s what the viewers got, despite Katie’s efforts. Laverne sums up so much of how we see each other, when she says ‘by focusing on bodies we don’t focus on the lived realities.’ True and important words to remember.

You can watch both women’s interviews below: