The Danger of Existing While Trans (and the Men Attracted to Us Who Pretend They Were ‘Fooled’)

Lil Duval, black culture, opinion

Aaryn Lang, VSB – The Root

The outrage following Lil Duval’s appearance on The Breakfast Club—where he stated he’d kill a woman if he found out during their relationship that she was trans—has made people eager to participate in the conversation. Unfortunately, much of the dialogue has been cisgender black people exploring the ways that trans people should be punished for deceiving men into bed and into relationships, similar to Charlamagne tha God’s suggestion that “jail time or something” was a reasonable response for not allowing men to choose who they’re really sharing their bodies with.

I find this laughable as I scroll through the DMs of dating sites and social media alike to find predominantly black men attempting to get my attention with full knowledge of my trans identity. The myth that has been perpetuated by media and cowards who can only engage us in the dark (shoutout to Bobby Valentino!) is that trans women prey on cisgender men and seduce them, only to shatter their illusion post-coitus by disclosing that we used to be burly, hairy men. The reality is that many trans women of color start their transitions at young ages, and therefore their relationships to manhood are more of a lazy conflation of assigned gender with core identity rather than actual lived experience.

Bottom line is, men who engage in relations or relationships with trans women know they are trans and like them for that reason, not despite it. This conversation is fake news; it is regurgitated by men who perform manhood in place of personhood and by women who refuse to accept that the very men who are requesting photos of their discharge-free panties are requesting things from us as well.

If we must center the feelings of cisgender men every time we discuss trans women, let us shift the dialogue to the ways that cisgender men will publicly attack us and privately lust after us. Let us shift the conversation to how the rigidity of manhood perpetuates a cycle of shame that often leads to deaths of trans women. When men cannot communicate their feelings, when they have nothing more than the projection of their manhood to offer the world, they leave death in their wake wherever they go.

Why must women be held accountable for the attractions that men so often weaponize when things don’t go according to their plans? The projection of evil intent and trickery onto black trans bodies is an attempt to lessen the weight of anti-blackness on the shoulders of cis black people, who have believed that if they went to college, married the opposite sex, had 2.5 children, got a steady job, and went to church, they would be spared—something that folks who do not meet those standards, like our dear sister Tee Tee Dangerfield, a black trans woman from Atlanta who was found dead in her car during this whole ridiculous controversy, have already learned is false.

People are wondering why we are boycotting The Breakfast Club as a whole when it was Lil Duval who made the statements. For starters, it’s because Lil Duval is, for all intents and purposes, completely irrelevant. Boycotting Lil Duval would be like boycotting a boycott, or stopping a parked car—it makes no sense. You cannot stop something that hasn’t started, and you cannot boycott something that no one wants in the first place.

The Breakfast Club has always been trash, from Charlemagne’s constant sexual harassment being passed off as humor to the general air of undermining and disrespecting the work of women who grace the studio by reducing them to bodily features and functions. Suggesting a comedian be politically correct is not what this is about. Pushing the envelope can be useful, but that takes a skill level most comedians that cling to this defense lack. Anyone with a platform must understand the potential consequences of their offerings to the world. Charlamagne understands this sentiment, as he so eloquently states here, in defense of his decision to dine with petite blonde white supremacist Tomi Lahren:

“For me, personally, I just got one simple question for people: Do you want diplomacy or do you want division? I’m talking to Tomi because I care about the rhetoric that comes out of her mouth, because she has influence and the narrative she paints about movements like the BLM is dangerous, and the same way people can hit her up on social media and tell her how wrong she is, I can meet with her and tell her the same things. I don’t like talking about people; I like talking to them.”

This right was before DJ Envy suggested that perhaps it was due to Lahren’s upbringing, that perhaps she needed a tour of Harlem and Brooklyn to cure her of her white supremacist views: an olive branch that I haven’t seen extended to black trans women. What if we interrogated the landscape that would force people to be less than forthcoming about their identities? What would it look like to give black trans folks the benefit of the doubt?

This was also their last shot at solidarity with the black trans community after their disrespectful interview with Online Personality Sidney Starr in 2013. Starr, who appeared on the show to further her music and reality show career, was blamed for ending rapper Chingy’s career due to a lie about a sexual relationship between the two. DJ Envy dissected Starr’s body, voice and womanhood to The Breakfast Club’s listeners with pushback from Angela Yee that was as flimsy as her pushback with Duval, though she mostly egged the behavior on.

The stakes are currently too high—we have already lost 16 trans women of color this year to violence—for a platform as large as The Breakfast Club to continue to benefit from grade school-age humor and to dodge accountability for the platform they’ve actively created. Black people deserve better than programming that relies on the objectification of women and the harassment of LGBT folks.

In a world where it’s taken R. Kelly literally having young black women as slaves for the black community to accept that he may be a sexual predator and where, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, half of ALL homicides toward women are from intimate partner violence, we must begin taking seriously the impacts of male violence on our communities. Men do not just kill trans women; they kill our cis sisters and our children as well. Some of you are experiencing some form of abuse from a man right now as you cheer for the murder of trans women on your timelines.

Any platform that would laugh in the face of black death—regardless of identity—is one that seeks to insult the intelligence of black people everywhere. Black people have been expected to swallow the impact of other black people’s internalized anti-blackness for too long. Are we so brainwashed? Gender was never imagined with black people in mind in the first place, and our hypervisibility and visceral reactions to trans people stem from the lens placed on us by the dominant society of whiteness.

This boycott is about drawing a line in the sand. Black trans people are no longer interested in education and hand-holding or sacrificing our well-being for the sake of your basic inquiries about who or how we fuck. Black people must reconcile that which has been violently enforced on our minds and bodies with reality—and reality is that black trans people have been here as long as people have existed, and we’ve given you all ample time to do right by us, as we have consistently done right by you all. Your discomfort around difference is no excuse for vitriol or murder. We will not tolerate hate speech presented as humor; we know better.

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