Ryan Lee

Ryan Lee: The war at home

Transgender women are being lynched in America, and people are making jokes about it on nationally syndicated radio shows. There may be no ropes in this modern version of societal-condoned killing, but the lives and deaths of transgender women are as much a spectacle as the strange fruit that regularly hanged above mobs of white folks a little more than half a century ago, with vengeance being an acceptable defense for murder, and death being a source of community merriment.

“If one did that to me,” comedian Lil Duval said while appearing on “The Breakfast Club,” a New York-based show that is broadcast online and on black radio stations across the country.

“If you had sex with [a transgender woman] and they didn’t reveal they were a boy,” host Charlamagne Tha God clarified for listeners.
“And they didn’t tell me,” Lil Duval continued, “I’m gonna be so mad I’m probably gonna want to kill them.”

The in-studio camera shows Lil Duval sticking out his tongue to punctuate his humor, or for whatever reason heterosexual men thrust their tongues in the direction of another man. While the laughs are a bit delayed, the studio soon erupts in jubilant bigotry.

“You might’ve already slept with one and don’t know – you in Atlanta now,” Charlamagne joked, honoring the conspiracy theory among many straight black folks that heterosexual African-American men once existed in Atlanta, but they, and a good number of visitors since, were all tricked by transgender girls or turned out by DL gangs.

I’m curious what jokes Charlamagne and Lil Duval would perform at the funeral of TeeTee Dangerfield, a young transwoman in Atlanta who was murdered a few days after “The Breakfast Club” got a hearty laugh about such killings. Dangerfield was at least the 16th transgender woman murdered in the U.S. in 2017, and the second to be killed in Georgia in barely a month.

“Hearing my little cousin is no longer here has just crushed my soul,” one of Dangerfield’s relatives wrote on Facebook. “I can’t even find the words to express the hurt I have right now.”

“I just can’t stop thinking about my cousin,” wrote another. “What a beautiful soul.”

As more families learn to cope after their transgender loved one is executed, more radio programs will mock and misrepresent transgender lives, more strangers will share eye rolls, head shakes and scoffs with other strangers when a clockable T-girl walks by.

What is the world coming to, their expressions say to each other. Back in the day …

And of course “back in the day” almost always means awful things for the minority group being discussed, but it also means yesterday and last week for transgender Americans.

Transgender soldiers have offered their service and their life for the protection of this country, and their commander in chief has told them their offering is worth nothing, their service unneeded, “in any capacity.” Like every other unsober proposal Donald Trump has made thus far in his presidential bender, it seems doubtful he’ll be able to turn his transgender troop ban into military policy, but his incompetency does not soften his assault on transgender dignity.

Whether Trump allows transgender Americans to go fight other countries or not, the war on the homefront is ongoing, and the stakes just as life-or-death.