by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
On July 28, stand-up comedian Lil Duval joked on The Breakfast Club, a hip-hop and variety radio talk show, that he'd kill a female sexual partner if he found out she was Transgender. Backlash for both Duval and The Breakfast Club was immediate. By the end of the day, #BreakfastClubBoycott was trending and people from around the country, many of them fans of the extremely popular radio broadcast, made their voices heard by taking to Facebook and other social media outlets to shame the show's cast for allowing such a thing to be said on air at a time when members of the Transgender community continue to face violence and murder at an alarming rate.
The conversation started about six minutes into the episode, when Breakfast Club host Angela Yee brought up President Donald Trump's proposal to ban Transgender individuals from U.S. military service. Why this question was posed to a comedian has many people scratching their head & Duval, who is a straight Black man, is in no place to speak for or about the Transgender community. In retrospect, this was always going to go bad. With questions like that, the interview and Duval's reputation were doomed from the start.
Charlemagne Tha (sic) God, the lead host of the program, took the questioning further by then asking Duval what he would do if he found out that a sexual partner he was interested in was Transgender. After first declining to answer, for reasons known only to him, he then says, 'I'm just doing my thing. Shout out to all the trannies out there.'
Although sometimes there is still debate over the term 'tranny,' many consider it to be an offensive slur for the Transgender community, it has fallen out of favor and it is no longer widely used to describe a Transgender person. Nobody on The Breakfast Club seemed to know that and the conversation turned worse.
'This might sound messed up, but I don't care, she dying,' the comedian said.
Charlemagne Tha God responded, 'That's a hate crime, you can't do that.'
But Duval continued to defend his statement.
'You manipulated me to believe this thing. My mind, I'm Gay now,' Duval said, adding, 'There should be some kind of repercussions for that if you do that to somebody. Until then, I'm going to have my own repercussions.'
At one point, Duval appeared to backtrack, accusing the hosts of trying to 'flip' his words.
'I didn't say I'm going to kill Transgenders (sic),' he said. 'I said, if one did that to me, and they didn't tell me, I'm going to be so mad I'm probably going to want to kill them.'
Several hashtags launched on Twitter, including #BoycottBreakfastClub and #TransFolksAreNotJokes, and Duval's name became a trending topic on the platform over the weekend.
Several Transgender public figures have commented on the exchange, including 'Orange Is the New Black' star Laverne Cox.
'Some folks think it's ok to joke about wanting to kill us,' Cox wrote in a series of tweets on July 30. 'We have free speech but that speech has consequences and Trans folks are experiencing the negative consequences with our lives. It hurts my spirit cause this isn't funny. Our lives matter. Trans murder isn't a joke.'
Transgender rights activist Janet Mock wrote an essay for Allure, published July 31, to address the comments along with her own guest spot on a July 18 episode of Breakfast Club, where she joined the hosts to discuss her new memoir, Surpassing Certainty.
'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,' Mock writes about her appearance on the show. 'Until cis people - especially heteronormative men - are able to interrogate their own toxic masculinity and realize their own gender performance is literally killing Trans women, cis men will continue to persecute Trans women and blame them for their own deaths.'
Mock and her book were referenced during Charlamagne's discussion with Duval.
'Tell me she ain't pretty, come on now,' Charlamagne said of Mock during Duval's appearance.
'Nope, that n--- doing his thing...ain't finna get me,' Duval responded.
After receiving criticism over his comments on the show, Duval doubled down on his statement saying he did nothing wrong. 'I said that because (the hosts) were saying, taking away someone's power of choice, and that's what you did. When you take away somebody's power of choice, it should be criminal ... I don't got no problem with Transgender, I ain't got no problem with Gay people. I got a problem with somebody trying to take something from me ... That's psychological damage.'
You could look at that statement and agree, I think, that deception of any kind coming from a person you are going to be, or perhaps already have been, intimate with, is a terrible thing. But what Duval has failed to recognize (and I don't think he is alone in his way of thinking about the question of disclosure) is that while it is acceptable to feel offended, angry, sad or any number of emotions upon finding out you were lied to or deceived, killing or assaulting someone is not. Plain and simple.
A Care2 petition demanding that iHeartRadio drop the show The Breakfast Club was created last week. The petition claims that the show has a 'long history of peddling ignorant, homophobic, Transphobic, sexist content.'
The petition also notes that Lil Duval's comments come the same week that Dwanya Hickerson pled guilty to stabbing and killing Transgender Mississippi nurse Dee Whigham last summer. Whigham, then 25, was found in a hotel with 115 stab wounds, the majority covering her face. Her throat was also slashed three times.
'Transwomen like myself face the threat of violence every single day we step out into the public, just as a consequence for living our truth,' Sarah Rose, Care2's LGBTQ Issues Advocate and the author of the petition, said in a statement. 'The Breakfast Club's dialogue is another unfortunate and sick example of humor made at the expense of a subjugated, derided minority that our media is all too happy to applaud. My hope is that this Care2 petition sends a clear message: advertisers and businesses should not stand for advocating violence and hate crimes.'
On its Monday show, the cast of Breakfast Club defended their actions, saying that they had chastised Lil Duval for his comments, and that they should not be held responsible for his comments.
'I think it's clear, if you listen to the whole entire interview, you can hear that none of us were like, 'Yes, Lil Duval, that's what you should do,' Yee said.
'We condemned it!' interjected Charlamagne.
'I understand the hurt for that community, with things that have been happening, so I'm not going to take away from how they feel about it. But I just want to make sure it's expressed that we have never, in any way - we didn't say those comments, and we didn't agree with them,' added Yee.
The hosts and several of their callers also said that the show has been very LGBTQ-friendly over its run, and pointed to the fact that the show hosted Janet Mock (which sounds an awful lot like, 'I can't be racist. I have black friends.').
Sadly, the attacks and loss of life endured by the Transgender community (with most of the murdered representing Transgender woman of color in particular) continues to grow and not shrink. TeeTee Dangerfield, a 32-year-old Transgender woman, was found dead from multiple gunshot wounds Monday in College Park, Georgia.
She is the 16th known Transgender person to be killed in the United States in 2017.
Police found Dangerfield inside of her car at the South Hampton Estates apartment early Sunday morning, according to media reports. She was immediately taken by a team from the College Park Fire Rescue to Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
There are currently no suspects in the shooting, and the police are unsure whether Dangerfield's Transgender identity was a motivating factor. But they also said they are not ruling out that fact either.
Monica Roberts of TransGriot.com wrote Monday that she was 'sick of [her] Trans sisters dying.'
'She is the 16th trans woman of color murdered in the United States this year, the 14th African American trans woman killed in 2017, and most infuriating to me, was under age 40,' Roberts wrote.
Transgender individuals face disproportionately high rates of violence and discrimination.
According to The National Center for Transgender Equality's 2015 Transgender Survey Report, '46 percent of respondents were verbally harassed and 9 percent were physically attacked because of being Transgender.'
The survey also found that 10 percent of respondents reported being sexually assaulted during the prior year, and 47 percent said they were sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime.
2016 was the deadliest year on record for Transgender people in the United States with 27 killings, almost all of them Trans women of color.
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