31/07/2017 10:54 SAST | Updated 31/07/2017 11:12 SAST

Dear Idols SA Judges: Trans-shaming Is Not Funny. Apologise To Ashern Madlopha.

Honestly. They should've known better.

Facebook/ Idols South Africa


Using cheap tricks for humour is what Idols SA uses to get people to keep watching. On Sunday night, though, they took it a step too far.

Arshen Madlopha auditioned in Johannesburg and sang Beyoncé's mega hit "Halo". Shame, the singing was quite poor and the judges could easily have stuck to humour related to Madlopha's tone deaf performance but they didn't. Instead, they decided to play a guessing game determining if Madlopha was a man or woman.

The nonsense starts when Madlopha drops the number contestants wear on their chests, and quickly walk back, to pick it up and leave. As Madlopha picked up the number, Somizi Mhlongo started throwing out comments about the contestant's body.

"Yesses your body's banging girl! Oh Oh, walk like a lady! Yes! Whooo," he shouted after Madlopha.

After Madlopha left, guest judge Kelly Khumalo started the conversation about Madlopha's gender with "is it a girl"? To which Unathi Msengana responded, "Noooo it's a girl." Randall Abrahams and Somizi Mhlongo then chimed in with "it is a boy". Msengana then said she didn't see an Adam's apple on Madlopha's neck while Abrahams insisted he did and Mhlongo said he didn't need to see it because he knows "it" was a boy.

As if that wasn't enough, the presenter ProVerb, real name Tebogo Thekisho spoke to Madlopha about the contestant's jolly mood. As Madlopha walks off the viewer heard ProVerb's voice over say:

"OK, so Arshen had let both the ladies and the guys down?"

We can only conclude that nobody bothered to ask Madlopha what gender they identify with. Instead, it was decided by all the judges, all the people who edited the footage, wrote the scripts, the producers and the directors that the comedic effect of playing "guess the contestant's gender" would be TV gold and so that episode should be aired.

It is nobody's business what Madlopha identifies as but if it was to be a topic of conversation, asking the person would have been the fair thing to do. It's not funny. It amounts to shaming. It's in no way entertaining and it does nothing for the struggles of those who are transgender and trying to navigate their identity in a world that largely rejects who they are.

Lindiwe Dlhamini, founder of Injabulo Anti-Bullying Project (IABP), who tweeted the video tagged each of the judges in the initial post and then called for them to apologise for what they did to Madlopha.

Other people retweeted calling the segment wrong and shameful.

Idols SA did not respond to Dlhamini's tweets or the posts by people who retweeted her. The only tweet about Madlopha that they responded to was this one commenting on the contestant's eyebrows.