'You will not diminish our light and our brilliance,' writes the activist
Writer, TV host, and activist Janet Mock is responding to the controversial comments made about transgender men and women on popular morning radio show The Breakfast Club last week.
In an open letter for Allure, contributing editor Mock — who is a transgender woman (and former PEOPLE editor) — condemned being used as “a literal prop” while hosts Charlamagne tha God and DJ Envy chatted with comedian Lil Duval on the iHeartRadio Power 105.1 morning program about hypothetically dating a trans person.
“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, 34, wrote in Allure.
During Duval’s appearance, DJ Envy asked the comedian how he would react if a romantic partner revealed she was a trans woman four months into their relationship. In response, Duval said, “This might sound messed up and I don’t care. She dying. I can’t deal with that.”
Though the hosts — including Angela Yee — argued that it was a hate crime to kill someone over their gender identity, Duval continued to assert he would use violence.
Then Mock — who recorded her own interview on The Breakfast Club on July 18 – was brought up, with DJ Envy showing Duval her recent book cover. In response, he misgendered Mock and the people in the room could be heard laughing.
Said Duval, “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.”
Wrote Mock in her Allure letter, “This was not the first time that I’ve been misgendered, dismissed, told that I am an abomination, that I need medical help and God, et cetera, et cetera.”
“Boo boo: You are not original,” she continued. “Everything you’ve spewed has been said to me and my sisters before — hundreds of times. But there are deeper consequences to this casual ignorance.”
Mock called the comments “deplorable rhetoric,” and noted that this year alone, there have been at least 15 reported deaths of trans women of color, according to GLAAD.
“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?” wrote Mock. “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.”
To Duval, Mock asserted, “Your willful ignorance will not stop me from being exactly who I am. My sisters and I are here and we exist, and you will not diminish our light and our brilliance.”
Mock wasn’t the only one to condemn the comments: Orange Is the New Black star Laverne Cox spoke out on Twitter over the weekend, saying, “Some folks think it’s ok to joke about wanting to kill us. 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.”
According to TMZ, while Charlamagne appeared at Politicon over the weekend, his onstage talk was interrupted by protestors who echoed Cox’s message: “Trans people are not a joke.”
Seemingly responding to the controversy on Twitter, Monday, Charlamagne wrote, “I miss the good old days when people used to get outraged at me for s— I actually said.”
For his part, Duval seemed to be standing behind the comments, sharing a meme on social media that insinuated he would not apologize. He wrote alongside the image on Instagram, “If your favorite comedian not pissed someone off, they not a great comedian.”
He also tweeted, “Leave @cthagod out of this. Cuz I think he might be gay too. But he still my friend.”
Mock first publicly came out as transgender in a 2011 Marie Claire article. She has since published two memoirs, the most recent — Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me — was what she was appearing on The Breakfast Club to promote.
With her own appearance, Mock wrote in Allure that despite the show’s “provocative and oftentimes problematic brand of talk,” she had “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.”