Dave Chappelle’s Transgender Jokes are Transphobic, Not Funny

Dave Chappelle performs onstage at the Hollywood Palladium on March 25, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. Photo credit: Lester Cohen.

It has been reported by that comedian Dave Chappelle is still making transphobic jokes at the expense of the transgender community–and he’s still missing the point.

It’s not funny and if you think it is, you’re dead wrong. If you are cisgender, let me remind you that cis people don’t get to choose what’s transphobic nor do they get to tell transgender people what is or isn’t transphobic.  If a trans person tells you something is transphobic, don’t argue about it.

It already made me so angry and mad when Chappelle used transphobic jokes in his recent Netflix special. The use of transphobic jokes in his Radio City Music Hall set comes on the heels of comedian Lil Duval’s recent appearance on The Breakfast Club, a radio show.

According to Jesse Fox at Vulture, the comedian was unsuccessful with tackling transgender issues.

It’s not just that he tried to make jokes about trans issues; it’s that those jokes were sloppy and shallow. In the wake of that, we had to reevaluate how we were assessing Chapelle; he no longer can nor should be judged on a comeback curve.

Transgender issues covered the first 20 minutes of Chappelle’s material according to Fox and yet his material isn’t even funny.  It’s completely transphobic.

He started by talking about how he was “shocked!” by Trump’s ban on transgender officers in the military, because he didn’t realize there were any trans people in the military. “Sounds like a secret weapon to me,” he continued. “If I was in ISIS in the trenches fighting against the United States and all of the sudden I see a man with a beard and big D-cups titties just rushing my foxhole and shit, I’d be horrified.” […]

Later, he told a story about receiving a fan letter that derided his trans jokes, to which he replied, “A weird thing happened to me in this moment — it honestly made me feel bad that I made somebody else feel bad.” That was, however, just misdirection for another series of trans jokes. […]

“I read in the paper that Caitlyn Jenner was contemplating posing nude in an upcoming issue of Sports Illustrated. And I knew it was politically incorrect to say, so I figured I’d just say it for everybody — yuck. Fuck, man, I just want to read some stats, like why are you cramming man-pussy in the middle of the sports page like that?”[…]

He then tried to make a fairly complicated point about his own frustration with “all this talk about how they feel inside,” because “since when has America given a fuck about how anyone feels inside?” He ended by arguing that sometimes he thinks “the only reason all of us are talking about transgenders is because white men want to do it. If it was just blacks and Mexican like, ‘Hey, y’all, we feel like girls inside.’ They’d be like, ‘Shut up, n*****, no one asked how you felt.’”

Of every single joke covered in Fox’s recap, this is the only thing that stands out in a positive way: Chappelle talking about even though he doesn’t understand us, he doesn’t believe that our being transgender “disqualifies them from being a human being that deserves a life with dignity and happiness and respect.”  Yet Chappelle jokes about transgender people in a way that is disrespectful.

Here’s an excerpt from what Jason Zinoman reported in The New York Times:

Mr. Chappelle makes pleas for treating transgender people with respect, even praising their courage relative to Ms. Dolezal. But when he goes deeper into his feelings, he returns to the frame of race.

He finds the discussion about sensitivity toward transgender “reeks of white privilege,” and wonders pointedly why it’s easier for Caitlyn Jenner to change gender than it was for Cassius Clay to change his name?

My being white may be able to protect me in some ways but I’m also a non-passing transgender woman so I feel a lot of discomfort upon leaving my apartment.  It doesn’t matter who we are–TERFs and other transphobes will attack us due to our transgender status.  Chappelle can’t be so blind to the fact that the large majority of transgender women assaulted and murdered are people of color.

Trans folks are not jokes.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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