Video Killed the Radio Star
Two days ago, Mister Cee resigned from his position as a DJ at New York City’s HOT97. The embattled radio personality, who played an integral role in the careers of two of the best to have ever done it (Kane and Biggie) resigned after a video emerged of him engaging in a conversation with a transgender person, wherein he was debating the prices for sexual acts. This incident echos a previous one: Mister Cee was arrested for soliciting an undercover officer earlier this year. At that time, Mister Cee attempted to quell any questions regarding his sexuality by staunchly vocalizing his heterosexuality. This time, however, Mister Cee not only resigned, but appeared on HOT97 yesterday to speak more about his internal struggle about his sexuality. His statement of resignation reads:
“Today is my last day on Hot 97. Mister Cee, I’m resigning today. It is not a mystery that the past two years I’ve been through a lot and I’ve tried to deal with it the best way that I could deal with it and Hot 97 has tried to deal with it the best way they’ve had to deal with it. But when you’re dealing with corporate America and you’re dealing with a station you love as much as this station, I don’t want to put this station through more than what they’ve been through I’ve been thinking of this for a long long time. I’ve been thinking about this day for a long time, I never want to be in a situation where I get pushed out anywhere. I’ve been at this station for 20 years since 1993 and if I’m gonna go out let me go out with me saying I’m gonna go out. Allow me to have that and so the station is allowing me to have that today and I appreciate that.”
Let’s stop masquerading homophobia and transphobia as concern for Mister Cee’s co-workers and/or the financial viability of a corporate radio station. Let’s stop claiming that Mister Cee’s actions were “more wrong” because he engaged in extramarital sexual activity with a transgender person. Neither of those entities–radio, a partner–are any more endangered than they were when Funkmaster Flex assaulted his wife last year, an act that did not result in a resignation, an explanation, or an interview.
The half-hour interview Mister Cee gave his former employer can be heard here. For a variety of reasons, it is difficult–and heartbreaking–to listen to. I won’t get too specific here, but there are several things of note. First, good intentions or not, morning show host and program director, Ebro Darden, was distractingly obnoxious, but I get it. You’re on air playing music that–fair or not–has a reputation for being violently homophobic, and in this moment, the last thing a corporate entity wants is the public to think they’ve compelled someone to leave for not being straight. As such, he not only talked over Mister Cee, but kept reiterating that HOT97 neither asked nor wanted Mister Cee to resign from his position, continued to offer Mister Cee a job though he was clearly not in the mindset to consider such a thing, and, I suppose, became the latest instance of a someone trying to show their acceptance of non-mainstream sexuality by ironically going overboard by making a big deal of saying something isn’t a big deal. Also, I hate Funkmaster Flex, but that’s neither here nor there.
Most importantly, what a listener will experience is the deep-seated pain and struggle of a person forced to face something when he wasn’t ready. And it’s evident. First, Mister Cee wants listeners to know that he’s never done anything beyond receive oral sex from someone who is biologically male. He wants to make that very clear, because to admit he’s gone “beyond” that is to admit something he’s not ready to. Let’s be clear, it seems that for men, receiving oral sex is a most ironic feeling of power and control, even though they are in an incredibly vulnerable physical state. For Mister Cee to sort of introduce his struggle with his sexuality by repeating this fact is to hang on to a strand of agency where he seemingly has none. What’s more, Mister Cee is reiterating that sexual intercourse between biological males and females is the only legitimate act of sexual engagement, thereby invalidating and minimizing other sexual performance. When you’re not ready to see something in yourself, it makes complete sense to dismiss it in such a way.Second, Mister Cee expressed his sadness for letting down the folks, the cultures he represents–hip-hop and his (West Indian) family. We can have larger debates about whether either group is regarded as more or less homophobic than others another day. What’s important, what’s real is that Mister Cee’s believes that his desire to act in a manner that, for all intents and purposes, is true to himself, is antithetical to the groups to which he belongs. Which leads me to a larger point.
I’m no expert on sexuality or the sexual spectrum, but this is what I do know: Heteronormativity is killing people.
Seriously. As I listened to Mister Cee cry as he tried to articulate his struggle, all I could think of is: this man is killing himself trying to meet and maintain an expectation that is antithetical to that which he truly wants to be. He’s not the first; he won’t be the last. More important than the gay marriage debate, more important that our expression of acceptance is the recognition and the dismantling of the fact that compulsory straightness and the straight, nuclear family unit is draining the life force out of folks. It is requiring them to make decisions that are dangerous in myriad ways. To create a society built upon ideals that deny the fluidity of human sexuality, of human interaction is to demand that people live abridged and painful lives. It requires them to make decisions that do nothing but further their journey to a physical, emotional, and spiritual death.
In short, I feel for Mister Cee. I feel for him having to decide to be the first (by keeping his job after these revelations) or leave the job he loves to reclaim a sense of sanity. I feel for the folks who did and didn’t listen with the same struggle, who are masking shame with the same laughs Mister Cee shared with Flex in the midst of a serious moment, because that’s what their “allies” require in exchange for their tepid allegiance. I feel for all of us who, on some level, will have to make a decision today and tomorrow that belies the truth of our core selves, demanding we gulp for air as we slowly suffocate within these boxes.
Peace to Mister Cee and those of us who see ourselves in him.