“You Never Could” Janet Mock Responds To Lil Duval And The Breakfast Club Hosts
Image via WENN
Lil Duval is being talked about and discussed more than ever these days. The comedian became controversial when he made comments about murdering a Black trans woman if he found out that she were trans after they’d had sex.
“This might sound messed up and I don’t care,” Duval says. “She dying. I can’t deal with that…You manipulated me to believe in this thing,” Duval says, before continuing, “If one did that to me, and they didn’t tell me, I’mma be so mad I’d probably going to want to kill them.”
I shared my thoughts about the whole situation and how foul I thought it was, considering Black trans women are often the targets of this type of violence.
But seeing as how my identity, my image weren’t used a the butt of a joke, it’s probably best that we hear from the woman who was.
After the incident, Mock herself penned an essay for Allure addressing Duval, Envy and Charlamagne for the role they played in it as well as society at large.
First, she shared how uncomfortable the experience made her feel.
I had watched previous [Breakfast Club] interviews over the years and was familiar with their provocative and oftentimes problematic brand of talk. For instance, I remembered their interview with trans dancer and online personality Sidney Starr in 2013, and I recalled many times when they derogatorily used the term “tranny” with casual disdain. I witnessed the male hosts critique the bodies of black cis and trans women alike, as if we’re objects on display, open for dissection.
Yet I was hopeful that I could 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). 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.
Though I have not been able to watch the video of my interview (I have already experienced it and won’t be doing so again), I’m proud of the labor I put forth, and I’m grateful to Yee for her preparation and effort to steer the conversation away from the particulars of my body and instead toward my work. The interview was what it was, 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?
After detailing the incident with Duval, Mock shares her feelings:
“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!
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. 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.
It’s this deplorable rhetoric that leads many cis men, desperately clutching their heterosexuality, to yell at, kick, spit on, shoot, burn, stone, and kill trans women of color. It’s something I’ve written about extensively and even explored in my conversation with actress Amiyah Scott, who lost her sister Chyna Gibson when she was shot to death in New Orleans in February. Chyna was the fifth trans woman killed in 2017. There have been at least 15 reported deaths of trans women of color so far this year, according to GLAAD.
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.
You never could.
Duval purposefully misgendered me (as the hosts laugh, thereby cosigning) in an attempt to put me in my place and erase my womanhood. Their fragile masculinity would not allow them to recognize a simple truth: I am an accomplished, beautiful black trans woman. 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.
Even in the face of this nonsense, I have to acknowledge that this is not about me. I’ve dealt with the limitations of little insecure men my entire life. I do thank each and every black woman and femme who’s shown up for me (especially Black Lives Matter cofounder Patrisse Cullors, trans feminist editor Ashlee Marie Preston, and activist Blossom C. Brown, who disrupted a Politicon conversation Sunday with cohost Charlamagne to call attention to the way his show helped perpetuate violence. Also, must shoutout Raquel Willis’s #TransFolksAreNotaJoke).
But I’ll be just fine: I have a job, a home, a supportive husband, and a family. I feel protected and cared for. I’m OK.
Unfortunately, my writing this essay or conducting another interview will not do all the work. It’ll be up to you — the readers and the listeners — to help bridge that gap. So I ask: How will you show up for our sisters who are watching, listening, and experiencing this violence daily?”
You can read Mock’s essay in its entirety, here.