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Extreme Talk

By | 2013-06-20T09:00:00-04:00 June 20th, 2013|Opinions, Viewpoints|

by Gwendolyn Ann Smith


On the 9th of April, Tavares Spencer, a 16-year-old, lured a 22-year-old transgender woman known as Coco McDonald to a house in Tampa, Florida. There he shot her twice, stole her purse, and may well have killed her had she not managed to get away. Spencer later bragged about his crime in text messages to his friends – messages that helped lead to his arrest on the 1st of June.
It was a news report of the arrest on Tampa, Florida’s local ABC affiliate that likely caught the ear of Jacksonville, Florida based talk-radio hosts Lex Staley and Terry James.
Known as “Lex & Terry,” the duo have a program syndicated by Clear Channel and presented on SiriusXM as part of the Extreme Talk channel. The station markets itself as the home of “edgy entertaining talk shows.” Their show, labeled as “a unique blend of lifestyle advice, humor, and on-air community” is geared towards a men in the 18-49 demographic – a demographic that seems to fit with the rest of Extreme Talk.
On Lex & Terry’s program on the 3rd of June, they decided to discuss the shooting of Coco McDonald.
“There’s a teen that shot a tranny after finding out that it was a man after they had a little sexual encounter,” spoke one. “I don’t blame him… I would have shot his ass too,” offered up his co-host. They had a knowing laugh and moved onto the next topic.
Now there’s one thing I feel it important to point out here. McDonald has made it clear that she had disclosed being a transgender woman to Spencer prior to the 9th of April. He knew and decided to shoot her. It is not clear if they had much of any sexual encounter prior to the 9th of April. Regardless of any of the above, there is no justification for the shooting of Coco McDonald by Tavares Spencer – None.
So Lex & Terry decided this story of the attempted murder of a woman was somehow justified, and that in the same situation, at least one of the duo would have also pulled the trigger. Or maybe they just thought this was what their audience of 18-49 men would have wanted to hear as they offered up “on-air community” and “lifestyle advice.” Frankly, I suspect that their audience would indeed have wholeheartedly agreed – and that is the scary part.
I’ve been tracking anti-transgender deaths for roughly 16 years now, back when the President’s last name was Clinton and Seinfield was still in its first run. In all that time I’ve seen hundreds of cases where Lex & Terry’s demographic have killed a person in an apparent anti-transgender murder. Many of these killers have felt perfectly justified in what they did, and assume that no one, or at least their peers, would blame them. Indeed, I suspect they feel their friends would do exactly the same thing.
After some outcry over their on-air comments, Lex & Terry’s employers over at Clear Channel seemed to disagree with the duo. Angel Aristone, the Senior President of Marketing and Communications at Clear Channel Radio said in a public statement, “Clear Channel Media and Entertainment does not condone the comment independently made by Lex & Terry regarding transgender individuals… The comment was thoughtless and unacceptable and we sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by their remarks.”
The show has also disappeared from SiriusXM’s Extreme Talk channel. I am not sure if that was the decision of SiriusXM or Clear Channel, which controls content on Extreme Talk. Either way, I cannot say I’ll shed any tears over these two hosts losing a substantial chunk of the airwaves.
I applaud Clear Channel and SiriusXM for any steps they have taken to reprimand Lex & Terry. To their credit, too, Lex & Terry have also promised a formal apology, and have also promised to work with both GLAAD and representatives of the transgender community to discuss anti-transgender violence on the air. I hope not in the same vein as the last time they chose to discuss it.
Lex & Terry, however, are only a symptom of a larger problem. Whether they actually were condoning the murder of transgender people or simply providing what they felt their audience wanted to hear, there remains a large segment of the population who do indeed see no problem with attacks on transgender people. This is the environment that led Tavares Spencer to feel he could not only shoot another human being, but then brag about it to his friends.
It’s is not Lex Staley nor Terry James who held that gun on the 9th of April, but it was comments like theirs that lead to an environment where people feel blameless for shooting a transgender person. It is this “lifestyle advice” – where it comes from Lex & Terry or elsewhere in the popular media – that makes people feel that anyone would willingly shoot a transperson.
We need to build a better world, one where Lex & Terry and their employers need not make apologies for bad behavior, because they understand before they open up their mouths that any person, transgender or otherwise, deserves to live their lives without fear. We need a world where Tavares Spencer and his ilk will not grow up with the choice of killing a transgender person so positively affirmed in the media.
I want a world where transgender people like myself are not viewed as potential victims, and where it is made clear that it is never acceptable for us to be shot for who we are. That is the sort of “lifestyle advice” I’d accept.

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 25th anniversary.