Katie Couric found herself facing a situation where she objectified and insulted transgender model Carmen Carrera, during an interview which left Couric stumbling for the right words and the best way to broach tender topics. Laverne Cox jumped to Carrera’s defense immediately following the interview, forcing Couric to re-evaluate her position on the subject of transgender lifestyles and LGBTQ rights in general. Katie came to realize that she knew very little about what transgender people go through, so she sought to correct that with a little help from National Geographic and a new series, Gender Revolution.
Katie Couric Asked Carmen Carrera The Wrong Questions
Ms. Couric began her exploration of the transgender person’s experience in 2014 when Carmen visited her talk show Katie. And, as The Daily Beast reports, she learned through an awkward experience that some topics are still very difficult to discuss. During the interview, Couric asked Ms. Carrera about transitioning from male to female, showing special interest in the surgeries and physical procedures involved.
“Was the whole process painful, physically, for you,” asked Couric. “Your private parts are different now, aren’t they?”
Carrera wasn’t Katie’s only guest. Laverne Cox, star of the Netflix hit Orange is the New Black and a trans person herself, was next to appear on the talk show and took the opportunity to tell Couric that asking about the surgery objectified Carrera. Cox added that dwelling on that aspect negates the hardships transgender people go through in their daily lives.
By the next day, the media had taken the reigns from Cox, calling out Ms. Couric for her “invasive” and “really offensive” questions about her transgender guests.
“When some people were very critical, of course it hurt me,” Couric said. “I felt terrible.”
Gender Revolution: Katie Couric’s Answer To The Transgender Question
Katie wanted to make amends for her cringeworthy Carmen Carrera interview, but, as USA Today reports, the Katie producers weren’t open to inviting Carmen or Laverne Cox back to the show so soon after that first incident. Unwilling to give up and recognizing that there were many others interested in learning more about the transgender community, Ms. Couric teamed up with National Geographic to produce Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric.
The two-hour documentary explores the vast array of issues facing transgender persons through interviews with sex and gender experts, trans men and women, and college students who identify as belonging to categories that exceed standard binary gender roles.
“I tried to be the Everyperson and ask the kind of questions that those who are not very familiar with the topic would ask: How does a child know with certainty that he or she is different than the gender they were assigned at birth? How can the partner of someone who transitions stay with that partner even though they’re now a different gender identity? What are the biological underpinnings? It’s a lot for people to wrap their heads around,” says Ms. Couric.
Gender Revolution attempts to tackle issues by putting human faces on those individual stories so often seen in the media, yet never truly explored on a personal level. For instance, Katie speaks with a family raising a 5-year-old transgender girl to bring greater understanding to that situation. Couric also interviews a family in which the husband/father has recently transitioned and is living as a trans female.
Ms. Couric hopes that, by putting a face on the transgender community, the majority will begin to understand that trans men and women are largely similar to the rest of society with hopes, dreams, and fears of their own. Katie adds that there’s no going back. As gender identity becomes more widely explored through programs like Gender Revolution and on social media, Couric says society will have no choice but to accept broader definitions for gender.
Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric will air Monday, February 6, on the National Geographic Channel.
[Featured Image by Brad Barket/Getty Images]