janet mock pens heartfelt response to violent transphobic comments
The journalist has some harsh words for hip-hop radio show The Breakfast Club.
This article was originally published by i-D US.
Janet Mock penned an emotional and heartfelt letter this morning to The Breakfast Club. Published on Allure's website, the words come in support of listeners who are angry after guest Lil Duval delivered transphobic threats and are now boycotting the hip-hop radio show. Duval "joked" that he would kill someone if he slept with them, believing them to be cisgendered, and later discovered they were a transgender woman. "She dying," Duval said. "I can't deal with that."
The violent comments were delivered only a few days after Mock, a prominent trans writer and activist, visited the show and faced questions about her genitals from male hosts Charlamagne Da God and DJ Envy. Mock endured the invasive, personal questions in the hopes of educating the two men — and their largely black and Latino audience — about trans lives. "The interview was what it was," Mock writes, "and I refuse to re-experience being asked about my vagina in such blatant, irrelevant, and sensational ways. Again, if I am not fucking you, why do you care?"
Mock gave the hosts a copy of her book, Surpassing Certainty, and encouraged them to read it to clear up some of their questions. A few days later, as Lil Duval ranted against being "manipulated" by trans women, DJ Envy held up the cover of Mock's new book. Charlamagne Da God then asked "Tell me she ain't pretty? Come on now?" while laughing.
In her letter, Mock is obviously hurt that her image was used a "literal prop… for laughs, vitriol, and a deeper call and justification for violence."
The moment emphasised why Mock made black-led programs like The Breakfast Club and The Wendy Williams Show the focus of her book tour, hoping to reach and impact the communities of colour black and Latinx trans people live in. "I hoped I could make listeners aware of the lived realities of their trans sisters, and let them know that we deserve to be seen, heard, and acknowledged without the threat of harassment, exclusion, and violence."
The lives of trans women are not a laughing matter... at all. At least 22 transgender people were killed in America last year, according to the Human Rights Campaign. As Mock points out in her letter, GLAAD has documented the killings of 15 transgender women so far this year.
To close her letter, Janet turns the table and wants to know what our response will be to Duval's transphobic comments: "How will you show up for our sisters who are watching, listening, and experiencing this violence daily?"
The outrage has been strong and notable. Sunday, trans activist Blossom C. Brown protested during Charlamagne Da God's appearance at Politicon, chanting, "We are not a joke!"
And Raquel Willis, writer and host of The Black Girl Dangerous Podcast, started #TransFolkAreNotaJoke after the controversial comments — encouraging trans woman to share their identities and lives to combat erasure.
All of this forced The Breakfast Club to address last week's problematic moment on their show this morning. Not one of the show's three hosts felt they had done anything wrong. "People are trying to hold me accountable for the words of another man, and Imma tell you right now, I'm not apologizing for the words of Lil Duval," Charlamagne Da God adamantly said.
Shortly after, one listener called in and said she believed Lil Duval didn't "really mean" he would kill a trans woman. "He ain't mean it like that!" The listener's dismissiveness prove Mock and her allies right when they say their disenfranchisement is overlooked by people of colour. That there is still work to be done to ensure their pain and violence is taken seriously and believed.
Text André-Naquian Wheeler
Screenshot via YouTube