KRXQ-FM radio’s transphobic hate speech debacle

June 8, 2009

"Rob, Arnie & Dawn in the Morning" radio show logoThis story’s been running now for almost a fortnight and still seems to be a long way from a satisfactory conclusion. The GLAAD blog has a detailed series of posts (start here; the page contains links to earlier posts) but briefly the sequence of events was as follows:

On 28 May, during the “Rob, Arnie & Dawn in the Morning” radio show on KRXQ-FM in Sacramento, California, hosts Rob Williams and Arnie States made remarks which included advocating child abuse of transgender children.

Via GLAAD:

While discussing a recent story about a transgender child in Omaha, Nebraska and her parents’ decision to support her transition, the two hosts spent more than 30 minutes explicitly promoting child abuse of and making cruel, dehumanizing and defamatory comments toward transgender children.

[…]

Among the comments made by the hosts:

[…]

ARNIE STATES [13:27]: If my son, God forbid, if my son put on a pair of high heels, I would probably hit him with one of my shoes. I would throw a shoe at him. Because you know what? Boys don’t wear high heels. And in my house, they definitely don’t wear high heels.

ROB WILLIAMS [17:45]: Dawn, they are freaks. They are abnormal. Not because they’re girls trapped in boys bodies but because they have a mental disorder that needs to be somehow gotten out of them. That’s where therapy could help them.

ROB WILLIAMS [18:15]: Or because they were molested. You know a lot of times these transgenders were molested. And you need to work with them on that. The point is you don’t allow the behavior. You cure the cause!

ARNIE STATES [21:30]: You got a boy saying, ‘I wanna wear dresses.’ I’m going to look at him and go, ‘You know what? You’re a little idiot! You little dumbass! Look, you are a boy! Boys don’t wear dresses.’

ARNIE STATES [29:22]: You know, my favorite part about hearing these stories about the kids in high school, who the entire high school caters around, lets the boy wear the dress. I look forward to when they go out into society and society beats them down. And they end up in therapy.

The segment received hundreds of complaints and GLAAD issued a call to action on 2 June. As a result of the outcry, the hosts devoted their entire broadcast (on 3 June) to the subject. However, that follow-up broadcast completely failed to refer to trans children, neither was an apology forthcoming from the presenters. This failure to take into account the comments and complaints added to the controversy which, over the next several days prompted 10 companies to withdraw their advertising.

Conspicuous by its absence in any of the statements of the companies was any specific reference to the matter of the – I can only call it hate speech – which was directed at trans children. As far as I can tell, there was no mention of either ‘children’, ‘trans’ (or ‘transgender’, etc).

There was talk of ‘offensive’ and ‘inappropriate comments’ and the like; ‘diversity’ and even ‘equality’ but no condemnation of the specific language used. In terms of corporate responses, I suppose this was only to be expected. In such a litigious arena, companies will be very conservative in any public statements and it is arguably unrealistic to expect, say, an internationally known fast food company, motivated by profit, to also take on the role of provider of social justice. And even if such a thing was possible, I’m really not sure it would be desirable.

In addition, it’s interesting to note the parallels between the corporate response and an individual’s: if I don’t like the way I’m treated by a particular company, my only real, practical recourse is simply not to spend any more money there. And this, in effect, is what those ten corporations did when they withdrew their advertising.

However, from 4 June onwards companies did begin to withdraw their advertising, and at the same time, the story was picked up by bloggers, various community members and groups as well as mass media outlets, all of which added to the momentum.

Following the withdrawal of the tenth advertiser, a major fast food company, one of the presenters (Rob Williams) issued a 300 word statement on 7 June in which he admits that “WE HAVE SIMPLY FAILED ON ALMOST EVERY LEVEL”. Curiously, the statement has replaced all other material on the show’s website – including the MP3 recordings from the controversial show.

Of his failure even to apologise, Mr Williams adds:

THE WORD APOLOGY APPEARS NO WHERE IN THIS LETTER FOR A REASON. WE ALREADY HID FROM DOING THE RIGHT THING ONCE AND WE’RE NOT GOING TO MAKE THAT MISTAKE AGAIN. APOLOGIZING IN A WRITTEN, POSTED STATEMENT IS A FORM OF COWARDICE. WE WILL SAY WHAT NEEDS TO BE SAID THIS THURSDAY.

I’m really not sure where Mr Williams gets the idea that a written apology is somehow less valid than a spoken one, but regardless of the preferred format and in the face of this continuing refusal to apologise (why wait until Thursday?), it seems to me about the only thing left that needs to be said by Mr Williams and his co-presenters is, “we quit”.

Til Thursday then.

—————

ETA, 8 June: Two new developments:

  1. Another company has cancelled their advertising deal with KRXQ
  2. Arrangements are being made for Kim Pearson (Executive Director of Trans Youth Family Allies) and Autumn Sandeen (trans advocate and regular contributor to Pam’s House Blend) to take part in the broadcast on Thursday

More at the GLAAD blog

3 Responses to “KRXQ-FM radio’s transphobic hate speech debacle”

  1. Michael Says:

    In my opinion this is just another strong arming tactic by GLAAD to make people conform to what they want. The truth of the matter is, that there will always be people who feel strongly about transgenders,gays, and lesbians. I believe that if GLAAD actually wants people to be accepted, that they in turn need to accept that there will be people with different views than them. Arni in his talking only talked about if he had children. His children would be his concern an no one elses. As for what Arnie said at the end, he was not saying people would beat those kids up, he was inplying that society would beat them down. In other words they would be held back. Even though that is not right he was stating a fact. As for Rob’s comments, he was taking the view that transgenderism is a mental disorder. He even states in his Thursday show that psychiatrists are split on the fact on wether this is mental or real. He is allowed to take his stance and have his opinion on the subject. As for GLAAD, if they want to be accepted, then they need to learn to accept also.

  2. Ruth Moss Says:

    it seems to me about the only thing left that needs to be said by Mr Williams and his co-presenters is, “we quit”.

    Yes. This. Absolutely.

    I find the whole thing saddening in the extreme. Advocating child abuse. Advocating child abuse of trans kids. Talking about abusing their own children if they were trans kids.

    What’s really sad though is that I’ve actually heard things similar to this said by parents – usually fathers, heck, always the father (not saying mums don’t do it, just the ones I’ve heard are dads) along the lines of “let me son play with dolls? I’d bash him over the head with the doll first” or “if my son tells me he wants a handbag I’ll fucking kick that gay stuff out of him”.

    Fucking bastards. They should just go.

  3. Helen G Says:

    Michael:
    In my opinion this is just another strong arming tactic by GLAAD to make people conform to what they want.

    Would you mind clarifying a couple of points for me? First, what is it that GLAAD want people to conform to? Second, how does this so-called strong arming tactic work in practice? Do you honestly believe that a GLBT rights organisation like GLAAD has enough power to make a multinational company like McDonald’s capitulate to its wishes?

    I believe that if GLAAD actually wants people to be accepted, that they in turn need to accept that there will be people with different views than them.

    I think the opposite also applies. You seem to be advocating a ‘live and let live’ approach, which is fine, but by your logic, then the presenters would comply to the same standards and accept that other people will see things differently – which they clearly didn’t. One rule for gender variant people and a different rule for everyone else, doesn’t seem very even-handed to me.

    Arni in his talking only talked about if he had children. His children would be his concern an no one elses.

    Don’t you think his children should be allowed any say in the matter? Many gender variant children know from an early age about their gender identity. I was 5 years old when I first realised that the body I’d been born into wasn’t the body my brain was expecting. I’m 52 now and if I could change one single thing about my life, it would have been to transition at as early an age as possible.

    As for what Arnie said at the end, he was not saying people would beat those kids up, he was inplying that society would beat them down.

    Either way, it was a poor choice of words. Gender variance is not some sort of lifestyle choice and we get punished enough simply for being born gender variant. I don’t understand the hostility towards us. We’re just trying to survive and make a life in this world, the same as anybody else.

    As for Rob’s comments, he was taking the view that transgenderism is a mental disorder.

    I’m afraid I just don’t accept that it is. Medicine stigmatises us with its definitions of gender dysphoria and transsexuality. My own gender doctor and my psychiatrist were both quite clear that, if our condition is left untreated it’s quite likely to lead to depression, suicidal feelings, etc, and these have been proved countless times to respond to such things as HRT and so on – but of itself, it’s not a “mental disorder”.

    He even states in his Thursday show that psychiatrists are split on the fact on wether this is mental or real.

    I’d like to know where he got that information. There’s a lot of discussion in the various TS/TG communities at the moment, regarding the definition. The APA is currently revising its definitions and seems quite set on pathologising us even more, not less.

    He is allowed to take his stance and have his opinion on the subject.

    Of course he is. But can those of us who don’t share his opinion have the right of reply, please?


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