Karl Stefanovic apologises after ignorant transgender joke


Karl Stefanovic has made an on-air apology after referring to transgenders in a derogatory context following a Nine News incident in Rio.

Referring to a brush with crime by Christine Ahern he joked about Hugo Weaving’s character from Priscilla Queen of the Desert asking, “I know that you have gone to see the police about this tranny. We have a confit made up and we know they don’t all look the same. Is that the tranny they are talking about it?”

The Today show host has now apologised saying, “As we all know, I can be a complete tool, right? Well, yesterday I was worse — I was an ignorant tool,” he began.

“I pride myself, in my own weird way, of being across things. Yesterday I wasn’t. Yesterday, I got it very wrong. I used a word which I will now say for the last time ever. By using the word ‘tranny’, I offended an awful lot of beautiful and sensitive people. I honestly didn’t know the negative and deeply hurtful impact that word has, not only on members of the LGBTQI community, but on their family and their friends,” he said.

“Therein lies part of the problem, I think: I’ve never bothered to ask. Like so many other words we’ve used in the past, it’s time to throw that one in the bin.”

Realising he had crossed a line he said:

“I didn’t know that line even existed. Well, I do now. I take this very seriously, because I actually don’t know what it’s like to feel apart from the rest of mainstream society. I don’t know what it’s like to feel you are born in the wrong body, or the extreme courage it takes to accept yourself and live the life you have always wanted to live,” he said.

“To anyone who found the segment funny, please understand why it was the exact opposite: an ignorant jibe at the expense of a beautiful community already battling against the odds for mainstream acceptance.”

“I get it wrong — I probably always will. But as a result of yesterday, I truly have learned a lesson. People, my brothers and sisters in the community who love and respect me, have told me to educate myself. I have started to.”


Transgender (adj.)
An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. People under the transgender umbrella may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms – including transgender. Some of those terms are defined below. Use the descriptive term preferred by the individual. Many transgender people are prescribed hormones by their doctors to change their bodies. Some undergo surgery as well. But not all transgender people can or will take those steps, and a transgender identity is not dependent upon medical procedures.

Transsexual (adj.)
An older term that originated in the medical and psychological communities. Still preferred by some people who have permanently changed – or seek to change – their bodies through medical interventions (including but not limited to hormones and/or surgeries). Unlike transgender, transsexual is not an umbrella term. Many transgender people do not identify as transsexual and prefer the word transgender. It is best to ask which term an individual prefers. If preferred, use as an adjective: transsexual woman or transsexual man.

Used as shorthand to mean transgender or transsexual – or sometimes to be inclusive of a wide variety of identities under the transgender umbrella. Because its meaning is not precise or widely understood, be careful when using it with audiences who may not understand what it means. Avoid unless used in a direct quote or in cases where you can clearly explain the term’s meaning in the context of your story.

Transgender man
People who were assigned female at birth but identify and live as a man may use this term to describe themselves. They may shorten it to trans man. (Note: trans man, not “transman.”) Some may also use FTM, an abbreviation for female-to-male. Some may prefer to simply be called men, without any modifier. It is best to ask which term an individual prefers.

Transgender woman
People who were assigned male at birth but identify and live as a woman may use this term to describe themselves. They may shorten to trans woman. (Note: trans woman, not “transwoman.”) Some may also use MTF, an abbreviation for male-to-female. Some may prefer to simply be called women, without any modifier. It is best to ask which term an individual prefers.

While anyone may wear clothes associated with a different sex, the term cross-dresser is typically used to refer to heterosexual men who occasionally wear clothes, makeup, and accessories culturally associated with women. This activity is a form of gender expression, and not done for entertainment purposes. Cross-dressers do not wish to permanently change their sex or live full-time as women. Replaces the term “transvestite.”

PLEASE NOTE: Transgender women are not cross-dressers or drag queens. Drag queens are men, typically gay men, who dress like women for the purpose of entertainment. Be aware of the differences between transgender women, cross-dressers, and drag queens. Use the term preferred by the individual. Do not use the word “transvestite” at all, unless someone specifically self-identifies that way.

Altering one’s birth sex is not a one-step procedure; it is a complex process that occurs over a long period of time. Transition includes some or all of the following personal, medical, and legal steps: telling one’s family, friends, and co-workers; using a different name and new pronouns; dressing differently; changing one’s name and/or sex on legal documents; hormone therapy; and possibly (though not always) one or more types of surgery. The exact steps involved in transition vary from person to person. Avoid the phrase “sex change.”


  1. Michael Young

    Well, after all these years, I finally have some respect for Karl.
    As part of the GLBTIQPAS2 etc Community I completely understand how the average Aussie has no idea what it means or what term is appropriate to use in a situation. Many of us are actually sick of all the endless labels that only serve to separate us when we desperately need to be one community and for that matter, one nation.
    It was only in the last couple of years, through gaining some wonderful Trans, Drag, Cross Dressing and other friends that I began to understand the differences between them.
    We are all so complex and who we are today is not who we were yesterday or who we will be tomorrow… even the straight ones! 🙂

  2. I really like Karl’s honesty in confessing to being an ignorant tool, and giving such a sincere apology regarding his foot in mouth disease. Sexuality today is such a complex subject I’m surprised that anyone gets the terminology and ethics right! Well done Karl!

  3. Missed this whole apology, but once again TV Tonight keeps me informed. Thank you Karl for a genuine apology and turning it in to an education opportunity! Much appreciated!

  4. Really impressive that he took ownership and I’m sure his apology helped educate a lot of other people as well about terminology and respect. Well done Karl!

  5. Mrs Patmore

    I began reading this expecting the classic ‘non-apology’ but it seems heartflet and considered. Karl has (for now) gone up in my estimation.

  6. Well done Karl for apologising. At first I couldn’t understand the problem, as many transgender people that I know refer to themselves as trannys. I now get it that it is up to the individual what they wish to be called.

  7. I was astonished to see someone in the public eye make a genuine, whole-hearted apology. Can’t believe he said “I offended” instead of “if I offended”. Hopefully will set a standard for others. Yeah, nah.

    • I noticed most of the media running with “transvestite” in regards to this report. Unless they had a discussion / debrief from the individual then I knew this was an assumption. I reported a person in trans attire. Surprised anyone in the media uses the term Karl used in 2016.

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