Dave Chappelle continues to make bad trans jokes

It’s becoming pretty clear that many comedians will cling to their bad trans jokes until the bitter end. The latest prominent example is, once again, Dave Chappelle. I’m not going to link to any of it (but will include an example, seen below). A google search will suffice, if interested. Or you could watch his Netflix special, hoping in vain to catch a glimmer of what made him so great.

An easy maxim to follow in comedy is to punch up and not down. Chappelle continues to punch down with regards to the trans community. The root of this appears to be that he thinks no one would ever give a fuck about trans people if it weren’t for white people, and it’s not something he’s willing to get past:

And I cannot shake this awful suspicion that the only reason everybody is talking about transgenders is because white men want to do it. That’s right, I just said that.

Right. Because white “transgenders” only started existing once Caitlyn Jenner “wanted” to do it. It gets worse from there, even going so far as to include “man-pussy” in a gut-busting punchline. So fucking edgy!

The topic obviously has an effect on him, or else he wouldn’t keep returning to it. But he has no interest in learning about contemporary/historical trans issues. He becomes aware of criticism and rejects it out of hand. There is no introspection, no empathy, no attempt at understanding. He gets to make his bad jokes with an impish smile, and his adoring audience erupts with laughter and applause. It’s all the validation, to the extent it’s even desired, he needs. Well, that and the millions of dollars Netflix keeps giving him.

Within the context of comedy that discusses social/political issues, the best of it is able to inch up to the shadowy line of good taste without crossing over into “problematic” territory. Such comedians that are able to effectively navigate this ever-changing realm are heralded as unafraid truth-tellers.

But crossing that line leads to people complaining on Twitter and thinkpieces. In response, the thin-skinned comedian, upset over critics daring to utilize their free speech, lashes out. Many of the comedian’s fans will circle the wagons which, at the end of the day, are the only class of consumers that matter. Their continued adoration serves as vindication.

To me, worse than the actual jokes was the laughter. It didn’t seem like many in the audience had an issue with his blatant transphobia. It’s hard not to think that such people agreed with the overall sentiment, and to some extent felt that Chappelle was saying things they wish they could.


  1. Allison says

    no one would ever give a fuck about trans people if it weren’t for white people

    Kind of true, but that’s true about almost everything. However:

    1. There are a lot of black trans people (as well as other trans people of color), and most of the murdered trans people are black. So he’s not only punching down, he’s punching down on people who are presumably his own people, not just white people.

    2. Trans people, including white trans people, have been fighting this fight for ages. The stonewall riots were to a large extent driven by trans people, especially if you include cross-dressers and drag queens. And Sylvia Rivera and Marsha Johnson, pioneers in the gay liberation movement, were trans and drag, respectively.

    3. LaVerne Cox ? Janet Mock ? I don’t think most people would think of them as white. I’d heard about them through mainstream media before I ever heard the rumors that “Bruce Jenner” might be trans. (This was before she’d made any new name public.)

    4. From what I hear, transphobia is a lot more blatant in black and hispanic communities than in the public at large. My guess is that’s why Mr. Chappelle bases some of his humor on it.

    • says

      “Kind of true, but that’s true about almost everything”

      Perhaps. But until relatively recently no one gave a fuck about white trans people. Then again, it took a famous white person to really catapult trans awareness into mainstream consciousness.

  2. says

    For me the coffin nail in every consuming new chappelle shit was his defense of cheeto hitler’s “pussy grabbing” line. Anyone defending that is almost assuredly a harasser and at minimum a creepy misogynist. I’m glad I didn’t get past that, or I might’ve watched the transphobic hellshow you experienced.

    I’ll spend a moment in contemplation of Marsha P to cleanse my brains now.

    • says

      My wife and I made it about 20 minutes through the last special. It was pure curiosity to see if/how he’d deal with the backlash that made us want to watch. Again, 20 minutes was as far as we made it. From what I’ve seen online, it got even shittier. There were a handful of times I laughed, but I think it was largely nostalgically influenced by memories of Chappelle’s Show.

  3. silverfeather says

    Ugh, Dave Chapelle. I also have nostalgic memories around Chapelle’s Show, but ever since he made his “comeback” he’s been saying wildly cruel and insensitive things about marginalized groups that he doesn’t care to try to understand (including, but not limited to trans people). I bet if I were to go back and watch his old show again it’s all there as well, and I just didn’t pick up on it at the time.
    I have largely stopped trying to watch comedy specials at this point in my life because I never know when or if that gutpunch is coming to ruin the whole thing for me. It sucks.

    • says

      “I bet if I were to go back and watch his old show again it’s all there as well, and I just didn’t pick up on it at the time.”

      Oh definitely. I don’t have much interest in re-watching anymore, but on occasion I’ll watch a sketch, like if someone posts one on social media. A lot of them are still depressingly relevant over a decade later.