the dance

Was Lil Mama Hating on the Trans Community? Or Just Making an Obvious Observation?

Ugh, more anti-LGBT sentiment from America’s dance reality shows? Well, maybe. First So You Think You Can Dance judge Nygel Lythgoe makes some snide remarks about two men (one straight, one gay) dancing together during auditions. Now MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew is picking up the slack.

During this week’s routines, troupe Vogue Evolution took some heat from judge Lil Mama, who’s been supporting the group all season. Leiomy Maldonado, a MTF transgender dancer in Vogue Evolution, was the focus of Lil Mama’s criticism: “Leiomy, your behavior, come on. It’s unacceptable. You always have to remember your truth. You were born a man, and you are becoming a woman. If you’re going to become a woman, act like a lady. Don’t be a bird, like ‘Oh my god, I’m not doing this!’ You know what I’m saying? It gets too crazy and it gets confusing. You’re doing this for America. Even though you’re the face for transgenders, you’re the face of America right now with this group and it’s not about anybody else. It’s about y’all. You know what I’m saying? So do it for the team. Do it for the team.”

The comments upset trans activist Ashley Love, who took to Facebook — horrors! — to declare it was “so sad that Lil Mama degraded trans people last night.”

Or … was Lil Mama just advising Maldonado that, if she’s going to become a lady, she must act like one? Sounds less like transphobia and more like reinforcing gender stereotypes. Which are alive and well, hallelujah!

UPDATE: Lil Mama has issued an apology.

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  • Synnerman

    Lil Mama has been thoroughly pro-lgbt and bluntly stating the obvious. Even if the diva behavior is being played up by producers, it shouldn’t have been there in the first place. The divatude and drama just reinforces negative gay and ethnic sterotypes period.

    Vogue Evolution isn’t in the ballroom, they are on television where the spotlight is bright and hot.

  • ThatguyFromBoston

    Remember, there is no I in team.

  • dgz

    there was nothing transphobic about it. if Leiomy were a guy, Mama would’ve told her to behave “like a man,” i.e. as a responsible adult. Leiomy said herself that she’s the “face of transgender.” while it may be unfair to place so much responsibility on her, there are still millions of people rooting for her and hoping she will represent them with grace, and not by walking out on rehearsals and alienating her crew.

  • Smelda

    AT the end of the day, she is REPRESENTIN’. Doing a fine job, IMO. Lil Mama didn’t diss the trans community. She acknowledged them and spoke freely and openly about it. Man, that is POSITIVE!

  • Symonds

    Since I’m on the internet and can be blunt:

    Transgendered people are, as the basis of the identity, making the claim that their gender doesn’t match their sex. How can you possibly make that claim WITHOUT accepting gender stereotypes as at least a little bit valid? You can’t claim that you’re a woman who happens to have the body of a man unless you accept that certain sets of behavioral tendencies that are ‘girly’ and that you have them. In which case it is a valid criticism to say that a trans woman is acting more like a drag queen than a woman on stage.

    I’ll be the first to admit my own ignorance in trans matters, but it seems like Mama’s speech is kosher.

  • sal(the original)

    who’s lil mama…right one hit wonderrrrrr

  • ml

    What I found more irritating about this episode was that the producers chose to cast VE in a very negative light highlighting their catty behavior and disunity in their pre-dance video while the other crews got a much less dramatic introduction. VE did a really good job this week and really listened to the judges’ comments from last week – the judges spent so much time ragging on the team for things that apparently did not effect their performance whatsoever that they forgot to mention that VE tore that shit up. I would be surprised if VE does end up in the bottom two next week.

  • ml

    Lil mama has been REALLY supportive of VE the whole time so this whole article is a bit inflammatory.

  • Kian

    Instead of what i think, here are some questions I think we should ask ourselves:

    If Leiomy did in fact have the surgery, would it still be acceptable to say that if she’s trying to be a lady then she better act like one?

    Does being a diva equate with being female? or gay?

    If she’s the face of transgender, does that mean we should be easier or harder on her?

    Is talking about her surgical status (or trans status) the best way to talk about her attitude on national television?

    Were there better ways to confront her attitude and/or issues?

    Does being a “man” or “woman” really mean being responsible?

    If they do, then does that mean trans people are just irresponsible? and need to be taught how to behave more than other people?

    Feel free to answer. In fact, I really want some answers, so I can start to understand why transwomen can’t catch a break, no matter, what they do. no hate speech allowed.

  • I Pliss

    “If she’s the face of transgender, does that mean we should be easier or harder on her?” It’s harder. due to the fact people still have hang ups about gay public figures. Now it’s going to be harder for her. Everyone knows her knows that she is transgender. I only hope the right people are there for her and supports her.

    I think Lil mama should not have said she was born a man now act like a woman. She did. women are hormonal! Maybe she was feeling her moans! mess with lil mama when she is on her period.

    Diva has many terms.
    Diva in fag terms double edge sword. you can be a bitch or you can be a mess with status in the community. (kevin A) hheehehehe

  • Emily


    I’m going to have to dispute you on that one. Gender identity has NOTHING to do with behaviour. It has everything to do with who you feel you are inside. We all have a gender identity, it’s just that the majority of people don’t notice it because they never have to feel any discomfort from it. Their gender identities match who they are just fine on the outside.

    It’s the discomfort of existing in a body that doesn’t match one’s inner gender identity that causes trans people to be acutely aware of our own gender identities. I suppose in simplest terms, my soul is and always has been female, regardless of what my physical anatomy may be.

    As for your suggestion that behavior is what validates a person’s gender, the corrolary of your statement would be that any cisgender woman who behaves in a masculine manner (and there are many) would actually be men, despite their claims that they identify otherwise. The same goes for men who behave in an effeminate manner.

    Furthermore, what about people who exhibit both masculine and feminine behaviours? Every person that has existed, or ever will exist, will exhibit cross-gender behaviour to some degree. Nobody can ever be a ‘perfect man’ or a ‘perfect woman.’ Going by your theory connecting gender identity to gendered behaviour, which box do you suggest we put everyone else in?

    Finally, what about culturally gendered behaviours? That is, behaviours that are considered to be meant for one gender only, by a specific culture. There is the possibility that a behaviour may be considered ‘masculine’ by one culture, but ‘feminine’ by another. So if someone exhibits such a behaviour, does that mean that person is a man when interacting with some people, but a woman when interacting with others, depending on what culture they are from?

    The bottom line is, NOBODY can truly identify one’s true gender identity, without having lived their own personal experience as it relates to their gender. Stop trying to project your views on other people and just accept them as they are. Period.

  • Kropotkin

    “How can you possibly make that claim WITHOUT accepting gender stereotypes as at least a little bit valid? You can’t claim that you’re a woman who happens to have the body of a man unless you accept that certain sets of behavioral tendencies that are ‘girly’ and that you have them. In which case it is a valid criticism to say that a trans woman is acting more like a drag queen than a woman on stage.”

    No you don’t. Especially if the stereotypes are sexist and generally fucked. Like Emily said, Gender Identity has nothing to do with behavior, a butch lesbian may butch, but she’s still a man, a gay guy may be feminine, but he’s still a man. Why should the standards be any different for trans people?

  • Greg Theron

    @ThatguyFromBoston: Yeah, there isn’t I in team, but there is ME. :D

  • getreal

    I felt it unnecessary and offensive for Lil Ma to point out that this transwoman was born a man as a way of dressing her down. When I watch this it feels inappropriate she could have just told her to conduct herself as a lady she did not have to make it about her gender identity.

  • dannyal

    I think I’m falling in love with JC all over again… (sigh)

  • RainaWeather

    Could someone please explain what trans people mean when they say they “feel like a man/woman?” If behavior has nothing to do with gender identity, does that mean that being trans boils down to wanting the genitals of the other sex? If not just that then what else?

    @dannyal: What do you mean when you say that your soul has always been female? Do you just mean to say that you feel comfortable in a female body? Or do you mean something beyond that?

  • Symonds


    Well, like I said, I’ll be the first to admit my ignorance about this. So take this whole conversation for what it’s worth, which is to say I’ve had maybe a half-hour of ‘face’ time with transgendered people in my life (small hick town). So all of this is motivated by curiosity and respect, not trying to fit you or anyone else in a box. I’m just trying to work out what the ‘trans’ identity actually is.

    As I understand it, gender is specifically decoupled from sex. The whole reason for the distinction between the two, in fact, is to clarify the difference between physical sex characteristics and the squibblier identities subject to cultural and social influence. Now, the classic interpretation here is to claim that gender is a social construct. But, if gender is a socially determined thing, there can be no such thing as transgendered people, right? If there’s your body, and then a socially determined gender identity (which includes your relation to that body), then you can’t describe a disjunction between the two as an innate characteristic. So, identifying as a transgendered person is, as far as I can tell, an implicit rejection of the idea that gender is a social construct.

    I don’t mean to suggest that everyone should be put in a little box. Far from it, in fact. But throwing around words like transsexual- saying that you are in the wrong box, and that you should be properly categorized as being in the other box- is not the sort of conversation that can happen while you’re also trying to fight against the existence of the boxes, and is precisely what, in my mind, opens the door to criticism like Lil Mama’s.

    I mean, are you really trying to say that being transgendered reduces to body dysmorphia, like it’s in the same category as anorexia or something? You said it yourself. Your soul is female. If that beautiful sentiment means what I assume it to mean, then it means that you believe that there are parts of that category- parts of being female- that go soul-deep, that have NOTHING to do with breasts or estrogen or redundant x chromosomes.

    And if that’s the case, isn’t it fair for a judge (if a judge is ever fair) to say that that feminine spirit is being expressed imperfectly?

  • bari

    @dgz: No it was very hurtful. I am not a transgender person and I got offended. First lets talk about lil mama she has allllllllllllllways looked like a man to me but I would never say that to her because its disrespectful. I don’t care who you are I feel like lil mama is a dike and again I would never say that to her because its all about respect. If she had a gay following she can kiss that goodbye not to mention leiomy had a close friend die that week soany one of you guys would have been out of it too I think it added insult to injury and I really don’t even know who lil mama is but I really don’t like her now.

  • anonymous

    Lil Mamma and who ever the black guy is in my opinion are project born and bred. What else is to be expected?

    I must admit the black guy did have class about it compared to the trashy black woman (Lil Mamma).

    You guys go and keep on going. It is because of you I am going to make it a point to catch the next show. It seems the ratings for these shows climb when they have on obvious black gay males, whether transgendered or not.

  • Sarah

    I don’t think Lil Mama meant any harm in what she said, she just said what she said with the language she had at her disposal, but, trans-women are constantly being told how to be women by society, and women fought for years to throw off stereotypes of what it means to be a man or a woman, so to then insist or imply that trans-woman need to embrace those stereotypes is a little silly in my mind.

    Be who you are, regardless of who or what that is, and the world will be a happier place.

  • dgz

    @Kian: in my sad attempt to address a few of your excellent discussion prompts:

    on being a diva: yes, it has to do with feminine identity; it’s a feminine-gendered word. “divo” has never caught on (outside of whipping it good). men with attitudes of entitlement are referred to by different terms. it’s a symptom of speaking english — a chimeric language — that we don’t have exact gendered parallels in our lexicon.

    on surgical status: it wasn’t referenced. but isn’t being trans a lifelong process? (both in terms of societal acceptance and a lifetime of hormone therapy.) trans people don’t stop being trans post-op; there’s no discrete end-point to the development of one’s personal identity.

    on referencing her trans status: Leiomy said two weeks ago: “i am the face of transgender.” she’s spoken about it every week. if we believe that trans is something to be proud of, then we can’t cry foul if a trans woman is addressed as a trans woman.

    on acting like a man/woman: you’re right, i mis-typed. the real question is “lady/gentleman.” they’re used as titles of polite, adult behavior. Lil Mama wasn’t saying “be a woman–act feminine,” she was advising Leiomy to act with respect toward her crew, as befits a lady. there’s no third-gender term, and even if there were, Leiomy wouldn’t want to be addressed with it; she identifies as a woman. and i think we can all agree that walking out, and screaming “bitches” at her male crew *on camera* is hardly polite, decorous comportment.

  • Rone

    I don’t see what the problem is. I live in NYC and there isn’t a month where I don’t see some out of control Tranny dressed like a whore, talking loudly, and just acting like a fool. I agree with Lil’ Mama. If these guys want to become women, don’t bring the image of women down any further, specially the minorities. It’s sad that I have seen way more disgusting and over-the-top trans than I have seen “regular ones”. Everyone should be themselves. But being an individual should not require you losing the ability to behave like a decent human being.

    I don’t watch the show. I don’t know what Leiomy did for her to be scolded, but I wish someone would go to West 4th and the random crazy tranny hang outs and give them the same message.

    Also, why does Lil Mamas opinion count for anything? What has she done? How can she call anyone a bird when she created a Lip Gloss anthem? I wish someone who could be taken seriously would have said her statement. Reality TV gives way too much accreditation to random jackasses.

  • Russ

    “..act like a lady…”

    How interesting, how is a lady supposed to act? Is Lil Mama’s behavior the shinning example to all women and transsexuals on how ‘ladies’ should act? Perhaps I am just confused, I thought it was a dancing competition, who knew Lil Mama also critiqued your behavior based on her enlightened view of gender stereotypes, that’s value add for ya. Just saying.

  • Devan

    The sad part is, it wasn’t even explained why Leiomy was acting a bit off. MTV didn’t reveal the fact that her close friend / mentor Alloura Zion died recently but she wasn’t able to visit the funeral probably because of the show or the fact that they have to keep going. Vogue Evolution’s pre-performance video presented Leiomy in a bad light, I’m afraid. But had it been made clear that she was overwhelmed by the loss, that would’ve cleared things up a bit.

    Of course, one can always say that no matter how tough things get, you still have to be a professional. But Leiomy is still a human being. And she was practically raised by the New York ball scene where Alloura Zion was arguably a legendary figure. That being said, it is understandable that she behaved the way she did? She practically lost a family member.

    But then again, it’s too late now. I believe the votes have already been made, right?


  • Benes

    DGZ…thanks for you excellent comments.

  • Practical

    Let us be honest, lil mama might have her opinion … the whole world might have their damn opinion on Leiomy but bottom line her being a trans gender or her wanting to be anything or acting the way she felt like, had nothing to do with the dance and let us not forget it is a.b.DANCE!!c so lil mama if your not critiquing the way they dance just keep quiet, you made a mess of things and embarrassed some one for no reason on national tv one there was no reason for it.

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