In mid-July, Janet Mock appeared on The Breakfast Club, the Power 105 morning show hosted by Charlemagne da God, DJ Envy, and Angela Yee, the latter of whom had invited the author to discuss her latest book, Surpassing Certainty.
The male hosts of the show asked Mock typically boneheaded questions, including some transphobic/invasive inquiries about her genitalia, but they generally gave her space to explain her reality (though she wrote about most of the topics covered in her excellent 2014 memoir, Redefining Realness). Yet last week, the show hosted “comedian” Lil Duval, not only allowing him to make transphobic statements and slurs that actually targeted and misgendered Mock, but in the case of Envy and Charlamagne, laughing along with him. (Yee can be heard in the background saying “No. No.”) One of Duval’s comments was that, if he were having a sexual relationship with a woman and later found out she was trans, “I don’t care, she dying.”
Over the past several days, many online have responded with condemnation towards Charlemagne and Envy, and in defense of Mock and trans people in general; on Twitter, the trans rights activist Raquel Willis began a hashtag, #TransFolksAreNotJokes.
On Monday, Mock responds to the incidents in an op-ed for Allure; she is clear and steady, detailing why she appeared on The Breakfast Club in the first place despite the history of transphobia of its male hosts (Mock cites their use of the slur “tranny” and how they treated trans dancer Sidney Starr in 2013). Mock’s reasoning, she writes, was to “use the show’s vast platform to speak directly to their predominantly black and Latinx listeners, who are often excluded from the conversations held in mainstream LGBT spaces (which are largely white, moneyed, and concerned with the centering of cis folk).”
And then, she takes them all to task with characteristic incisiveness:
The hosts laugh after using my image as a literal prop — just days after I was a guest on the same show — for laughs, vitriol, and a deeper call and justification for violence. Just so we are all clear: On a black program that often advocates for the safety and lives of black people, its hosts laughed as their guest advocated for the murder of black trans women who are black people, too!
Mock also spells out why the type of “toxic masculinity” Duval, Charlamagne and Envy exhibited quantifiably translates to actual murders of black trans women:
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. If you think trans women should disclose and “be honest,” then why don’t you work on making the damn world safe for us to exist in the first place? The “I’d kill a woman if I found out” rhetoric is precisely why so many women hold themselves so tight — the stigma and shame attached to our desires need to be abolished.
We must navigate difficult conversations about desire and identity, about the fact that trans girls exist, and for as long as we’ve existed we’ve been desired by men (including high-profile ones who won’t ever own their desires) who are not working toward gaining the tools to deal with their attraction. And just so we are clear: Just because you find me and my sisters attractive does not mean we desire you.
She’s too smart and too good for all of this. Ultimately Mock, no doubt tired of having to explain such simple shit to ignorant people, directs an important question to allies: “How will you show up for our sisters who are watching, listening, and experiencing this violence daily?”
Read her entire piece here.