Popular Highveld Stereo DJ Anele Mdoda has been accused of making transphobic and “dehumanising” comments about a Canadian transgender pageant contestant during one of her shows.
Mdoda allegedly made the on-air comments on April 11 while discussing the controversy surrounding Jenna Talackova, a transgender woman who was initially disqualified from the Miss Universe Canada pageant but was later allowed to take part.
According to transgender rights activists, Mdoda and her co-host questioned how a “man” could take part in a women’s pageant and asked where Talackova hid her “male” parts when parading in a bathing costume. They also allegedly referred to her as an “it”.
A number of individuals who heard the comments laid complaints against Highveld, which is owned by Primedia, with the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA).
“What Anele has effectively done is dehumanise an amazing girl who by rights has had to earn her gender, sex and sexuality all of which are given to the rest of the world for free at birth,” said Adrienne Visser, one of the complainants.
“The thing everyone else takes for granted she has had to fight for and prove every day of her life to people such as Anele.”
“Part of what makes transgender women want to take part in beauty pageants is to affirm their new-founded gender identity and as a celebration of their femininity,” added Leigh Ann van der Merwe, founder of Social Health and Empowerment Coalition for Trans women in Africa (SHE).
“What appals me about the radio personalities’ comments was the manner in which they dehumanised a transgender woman. Before beauty titles, careers, social roles, before anything else, we are human beings.”
According to Visser, requests for transcripts of the show from the Johannesburg-based radio station have been refused.
The BCCSA has scheduled an informal tribunal on June 5 in which the complainants will present their complaints directly to the commission, with representatives of Primedia also present.
An online petition has been set up calling for the BCCSA to enforce its code of conduct.
The campaign has been backed by organisations including SHE, Transgender and Intersex Africa and Gender Dynamix.
Mdoda was previously teamed up with openly-gay DJ Grant Nash at 5FM and has deejayed at a number of Joburg Pride after parties.
Talackova, who has undergone gender reassignment surgery and is legally a woman, finally competed in the Miss Universe Canada pageant on the weekend. She failed to take the title but was placed in the top 12 and won the Miss Congeniality award.