Dictionary.com describes the definition of funny as “causing laughter or amusement; humorous.” Further, it goes on the define a comedian as a professional entertainer who amuses by relating anecdotes, acting out comical situations, engaging in humorous repartee, etc.

I have more definitions for you. Murder is defined as the unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another. A hate crime is a crime motivated by racial, sexual, or other prejudice, typically one involving violence. These are four very simple definitions that seemingly share no relation, but in this specific case they certainly do.

This year in our state alone, we have lost two transgender people to murder. Kiwi Herring was murdered in her home by police by being shot multiple times. Before this she had been constantly harassed by her transphobic neighbor because of her gender identity and sexuality. Ally Steinfeld was just 17 years old when she was murdered this month. She was stabbed repeatedly, including in her genitals, her eyes were gouged out, and her body was burned. Are you laughing?

Lil Duval calls himself a comedian, but he recently said some things that weren't funny. What was said was hateful, violent, and transphobic. When appearing on the morning radio show The Breakfast Club, shortly after trans activist and icon Janet Mock had been interviewed where questions about her personal life were discussed, Lil Duval was asked a question in which he gave a horrifying response about killing transgender women. On the show, not only did he refer to transgender people as trannies, Lil Duval was asked how he would react if, after dating a woman for four months, she revealed she was transgender. He responded "This might sound messed up and I don't care, but, she dying," he said. "I can't deal with that. I can't do that. You manipulated me to believe in this thing…In my mind, I'm gay now!" I could enlighten you by discussing Lil Duval's fragile masculinity and the trouble it in itself causes with all women, but that would be a separate opt/ed in itself!

Wanting to kill and talking about killing trans people is not a joke, it is not funny. Trans lives are under attack everyday and the fact that we foster a society and entertainment were this is acceptable is wrong. The fact that one of the largest concert venues in St. Louis city, The Pageant, is hosting the Lil Duval show is also wrong. After having two trans women in Missouri murdered within a two month period--welcoming someone who condones and jokes about the death of trans women is despicable. He should not be welcome in our city. The Pageant doesn’t have to worry about money, they have had no issues with selling out concerts, and cis-gender as well as trans-people alike give them their business. So why should trans lives not be respected and why should this “comedian” be welcomed to our city and this venue after what he’s said? Performance venues should be a safer space for people to go and have fun and enjoy themselves. Not places that foster hate speech and those who partake in it. This is me questioning the respectability of the Pageant, but also this me calling them in asking the owners to respect and understand that trans lives have been lost to violence in our state and allowing this show to go on by a venue that caters to the citizens of St. Louis is saying the owners of The Pageant have no compassion for what has happened.

What a moment it would be if the owners of The Pageant stood up to transphobia, hate speech, and disrespect to say that they do not condone and will not welcome this “comedian’ into their space. Can we imagine how positive that would be for our community. Can you imagine how this could set the moral standard for so many other venues throughout this country.

My name is LadyAshley Gregory. I am the grand niece of the late comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory. He was man that was born in this city and formed his life based on his experiences here. As a revolutionary he used his comedy to point out the biases, prejudices, hatefulness of the people who came to his show’s during the civil rights movement and beyond. When I think about comedy and what it should stand for, I think of him. A revolutionary comedian who used comedy for social change. I have learned through him the definition and power of humor. Lil Duval should not be embraced by our city. He should be turned away for his comments and behavior in the light of the murders of trans women in our state and country. Trans lives are under attack and they are not a joke.



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