Piers Morgan has been accused of being “utterly offensive” after he joked about Caitlyn Jenner’s gender reassignment surgery during a TV interview.
The controversial host was also said to have gone “too far” and asked whether or not Jenner enjoyed having sex with women.
Transgender campaigners labelled Morgan “the worst kind of bully”, ahead of the episode of Life Stories which will be broadcast tonight on ITV.
Olympic gold medal winner Jenner underwent gender reassignment surgery last January, almost two years after she revealed her decision to transition from male to female.
During the interview, Morgan pulls out a toy model of a male track and field athlete and quizzes Jenner on the physical changes she has undertaken since her transition.
While pointing to the genital area of the model, he quips: “Obviously, certain areas we know about.”
Jenner starts to answer the question but breaks off to reprimand Morgan, to which he smiles and shrugs his shoulders.
“You made a comment there and that’s why you’d get in trouble,” Jenner tells him. “You just said, ‘Oh, certain areas’. That, to a trans person, is disrespectful. You don’t make a joke about that.”
After asking why it is inappropriate to comment on or joke about a trans person’s genitals, Jenner gets visibly angry and replies: ”Because it’s not funny. It’s life. It’s part of my life and it’s a very serious part of my life.”
Morgan then asks: ”Can’t life be funny?”
Jenner replies: “I take that very seriously and so, out of respect for myself and the community, it’s not something that you joke about. It’s something – as I said before, this is serious stuff. People die over this issue.”
Morgan also asks Jenner if she considers herself to be entirely a woman and probes her about her sex life.
“Tell me if I am going too far, but do you have sex now?” he asks, to which Jenner snaps back: “You are going too far, it is absolutely none of your business.”
This clash with Jenner follows a spate of high-profile controversial exchanges between Morgan and the trans and non-binary communities in 2017.
In September, amid a row over institutionalised racism, he called trans model and campaigner Munroe Bergdorf an “insufferable creature”.
And in May last year, on an episode of Good Morning Britain, Morgan told trans couple Fox Fisher and Owl, who are both campaigners and filmmakers, that he did not understand gender neutrality and asked them if he was able to identify as an elephant or a black woman.
The couple said that Morgan needed to learn respect when it comes to talking to trans people and about trans issues, and to “get a new hobby”.
“Regardless of what people might think of Caitlyn Jenner, she deserves dignity and for her privacy to be respected,” Fox, who uses gender-neutral pronouns, told The Independent.
“Piers also insistingly asked me about my genitals when I was on Good Morning Britain, even though it had absolutely nothing to do with the topic at hand. Piers needs to learn how to respect the privacy of trans people. Just because we are ‘out’ doesn’t make us public property. What we have in our pants really isn’t anyone’s business except for our sexual partners.”
Juno Roche, transgender campaigner and author of Queer Sex, told The Independent than Morgan was “the worst kind of bully” and called to account ITV and other media organisations who allow transphobic views to be aired.
“At the cliff face of misogyny are the men who feel able, among other things, to belittle trans women by asking them about their genitals and sex lives,” she said.
“We should all be terrified of this intrusive vileness put forward as free speech as it demeans us all. I’m sure that Morgan pictures himself as almost godlike in his right to ask the questions that others won’t, but in truth he is the worst kind of bully – the bully who convinces themselves that they’re doing good on behalf of the masses.
“Trans bodies have boundaries and trans lives have edges that deserve respect. Long gone are the days when I or any other trans person would feel forced to say, ‘Ask me anything you want if you don’t understand.’
“I think he is utterly offensive, but as offensive are the platforms that promote him and consider him good viewing or good reading – they are utterly complicit in bullying.”
According to LGBT+ charity Stonewall, more than one in four trans young people have attempted to commit suicide while 72 per cent have self-harmed at least once. Meanwhile two in five trans people have been attacked or threatened with violence in the last five years.
Paul Twocock, director of policy at the charity told The Independent: ”The media, especially the national media, has an important role in setting a respectful tone when talking about people’s identities.
“At the moment, across sections of broadcast, print and online media, we are seeing a barrage of targeted transphobia and lazy stereotyping that is having a deeply harmful effect on trans people around Britain.
“Many trans people face daily abuse across all areas of their lives – at work, on our streets or when trying to access services most people take for granted. Everyone who cares about equality has a role to play in standing up and being visible allies to trans people. We need to listen to and hear the voices and experiences of trans people from across society, and move away from misleading and sensationalised headlines that only create more confusion and mistrust.”
Lauren Simpson, a spokesperson for trans advocacy group Trans Actual, added: “Obsessing about trans surgery in that way is like when a homophobe can’t stop talking about the details of gay sexual practices. It’s ignorant, offensive, and almost always rather embarrassing to everyone who isn’t an equally obsessive homophobe or transphobe.
“Surgery isn’t what trans people are all about and when somebody like Morgan obsesses about it, this actually says much more about what is going on in the transphobe’s or homophobe’s mind than it says about LGBT+ people.
“It’s pretty clear Morgan is using Jenner as a proxy to attack trans people in general. Just like how, in past decades, his type would attack a gay celebrity as method of attacking all gay people. It’s part of the same old anti-LGBT+ agenda, revived for one last gasp.”