Lil Duval joked about murdering trans women on ‘The Breakfast Club.’ They should have pushed back.

Comedian Lil Duval Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images
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I liked it better when I’d forgotten that Lil Duval existed.

Unfortunately, the thing about attention-hungry idiots who lack creativity and perpetuate ignorance through the guise of humor is that, every so often, they say something imbecilic that you simply cannot ignore.

For Duval — a stand-up comedian who was a finalist on BET’s comedy competition Coming to the Stage and has made regular appearances on MTV2 shows such as Guy Code and Ain’t That America — this feat was accomplished during his latest appearance on Power 105.1’s The Breakfast Club on Friday. During that stint, he joked about murdering transgender women — a reality that is far from funny.

Host Charlamagne tha God first asked Duval about Donald Trump’s decision to ban trans men and women from serving in the military. Duval said, “Man, don’t be asking me nothing like that,” then shouted out his “gay ass sister” and proceeded to use the slur “tranny.” He was corrected by the laughing show hosts.

Then DJ Envy posed a hypothetical question to Duval: if a woman he was dating and sleeping with disclosed that she’s trans four months into their relationship, what would we he do?

In response, Duval said, “This might sound messed up and I don’t care. She dying. I can’t deal with that.” Charlamagne tha God noted quickly, “That’s a hate crime. You can’t do that.”

Duval doubled down on his stance, explaining, “You manipulated me to believe in this thing.” Duval went on to say, “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.”

After hearing Duval say that, Charlamagne added, “I do agree that you are taking away a person’s power of choice when you don’t tell them up front.” He also said that while it’s not okay to murder a trans woman, after Duval said “there should be some repercussions” for trans folks not immediate disclosing that they are trans, Charlamagne co-signed, adding, “You should go to jail or something.”

Where to even start?

The framing of Envy’s question alone is troubling, because it plays into the notion that a trans person’s choice to disclose or maintain discretion is a nefarious act, rather than a right to privacy (and in many cases, a justified safety precaution). Even though Charlamagne and Envy noted that it is not okay to murder a trans woman — a low bar — this troubling line of questioning and commentary (in addition to their laughter in response to Duval’s various displays of ignorance) makes them complicit in a narrative that leads to the murder of trans women and more specifically, trans women of color.

In 2016, the Human Rights Campaign recorded 22 violent deaths of trans men and women. Thus far in 2017, they’ve recorded 15 violent deaths, and in early July, wrote, “So far, almost every victim has been a woman of color — and nearly all have been Black women.”

Making all of this worse is that Duval’s interview aired the day after Janet Mock’s cringe-worthy appearance on the show, during which she endured invasive questions about her vagina and exercised much restraint in trying to explain the experiences of trans people to two cis-gendered hetereosexual Black men who were absolutely clueless.

Where as she was gracious and showed restraint even in response to their line of questioning, Duval was his typical disrespectful self. When Envy held up Mock’s book to Duval, he said, “All right. Put that book down.” He then misgendered Mock when he said “Nope, that nigga doing his thing ... ain’t finna get me.

Sure, Charlamagne and Angela Yee referred to Mock as “pretty” and “beautiful,” but they could have gone further in explaining why his commentary was so troubling. It was an opportunity to both steer the conversation away from transphobic insults and for the three hosts to show Duval and their millions of listeners nationwide that dehumanizing trans women, specifically black trans women, on their show is unacceptable.

They collectively failed on that front.

Since the interview aired, some have called for a boycott of the show. Mock herself has written a response to Duval’s transphobic remarks for Allure: “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!”

Duval has no regrets, making clear there will be no apology on his end while asking others to lay off Charlamagne, tweeting, “Leave @cthagod out of this. Cuz I think he might be gay too. But he still my friend.”

The Breakfast Club co-hosts are no less defiant. In a segment that aired on Monday morning, they tackled the controversy, but were mostly defensive. Yee said, “We’ve always advocated for equal rights for everyone no matter what gender you identify with. That’s never been an issue for us.” Charlamagne went on to say “we condemned it” while also adding that “I will sit around and kick it with anyone.”

It should not be that hard to say “we were wrong.”

They asked a man with a long history of expressing dim views on gender and sexuality, a leading question about trans women. Then they sat there and laughed while he talked about being “tricked” and misgendered Janet Mock, right after she was on the show.

Noting Janet Mock’s beauty doesn’t excuse their actions, and frankly, Charlamagne and company can continue to profess to harbor no prejudices all they want. But to find transphobic sentiments humorous suggests that they are not nearly as progressive as they’d like — or like us — to believe.

Then there’s this curious comment from Charlamagne: “If we gon’ get to the place ... if we’re taking accountability for the things our guests say then we don’t need no guests.”

The co-hosts are not responsible for the words of their guests, but they are responsible for whom they give platform to on their nationally syndicated radio show that airs in over 50 markets across the country and daily on the REVOLT network. The show has frequently hosted Dr. Umar Johnson, who routinely compares gay people to pedophilia. Only a week ago they chuckled along as Rick Ross claimed that he hadn’t signed a female artist to his label because he would expect sex after spending money on her. And then there is Duval, who, too, has joked that gay people need to register in the same way sex offenders do — and that comment came after Charlamagne asked him back in 2011 whether he’d rather get caught messing around with a gay person or an underaged girl.

Therein lies the issue: the co-hosts don’t want to be held responsible for the ignorance of their guests, but they not only host ignorant guests, they give those guests prompts to provide inflammatory rhetoric aimed at the country’s most vulnerable. On her choice to do the show, Janet Mock wrote that her aim had been to “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.”

In return, that same show let a man not only dehumanize her and other trans women, but joke about the very real dangers many of trans women face. The hosts may not have uttered the words themselves, but they gave their guest the space to say them and even laughed along the way. That would never happen with a white guest about black lives. Our black trans sisters deserve the same respect.