**Editor’s note: warning: well-deserved cursing ahead!
“We’re pitting marginalized communities against each other.” ~ Laverne Cox
Yes, I watched the special in full.
Yes, I know he’s a shock comedian. I’ve seen the man perform live three times. I’ve shared his words amongst my friends, especially some of the snippets from his last year special “8:46” on the murder of George Floyd. I’ve admired the way this man so comedically, yet eloquently, tore down at the white patriarchy and lifted Black voices.
“The Closer,” however, was a drastic misstep.
I understand why, maybe after watching, you could think he was in the right, especially from outside the LGBTQIA+ community.
How could you know how damaging his special was if you’ve never met a trans person or don’t actively have relationships with trans people in your life?
But, when you realize the divisive tactics he used to further pit marginalized communities against one another, I’m hoping you will realize why there’s such a strong outcry to have it removed.
Below are some of the most harmful narratives he spread:
1. Referring to himself as a TERF and reducing trans people to their genitals and bodily functions.
“I’m team TERF. I agree. I agree, man. Gender is a fact. You have to look at it from a woman’s perspective. Look at it like this, Caitlyn Jenner whom I have met—wonderful person. Caitlyn Jenner was voted “woman of the year.” Her first year as a woman. Ain’t that something? […] She’s better than all of you. Never even had a period. Ain’t that something? I’d be mad as shit if I was a woman. I’d be mad if I was me…gender is a fact; this is a fact. Every human being in this room, every human being on Earth had to pass through the legs of a woman to be on Earth. That is a fact. Now, I am not saying that to say that trans women aren’t women.
I’m just sayin’ that those pussies that they got. You know what I mean? I’m not saying it is not pussy, but that’s like Beyond Pussy or Impossible Pussy. You know what I mean? It tastes like pussy, but that’s not quite what it is, is it? It’s not blood; that is beet juice.” ~ Dave Chappelle, “The Closer.“
As a woman who identifies as cisgender, having my period and being able to get pregnant don’t cement me in my womanhood whatsoever.
To reduce it to that completely takes away from the gender as a whole. What about the millions of cisgender women in the world who can’t or don’t do these things? He is implying that they are less of a woman. Trans women are just as much women as cisgender women, simply because we know we’re women in our brains, hearts, and most importantly, souls.
What is external will never overpower the internal knowing of one’s gender, whatever that expression may be. Lastly, for the record, Laverne Cox, a brilliant Black transgender, actress, producer, and advocate won woman of the year in 2014 before Caitlyn Jenner won in 2015.
Why mention one without the other?
That brings me to my next point.
2. Further pitting the Black community against the LGBTQIA+ community.
“Funny. You guys are confusing your emotions. You think I hate gay people, and what you’re really seeing is that I’m jealous of gay people. I’m jealous. I’m not the only Black person that feels this way. We Blacks, we look at the gay community and we go, ‘Goddamn it! Look how well that movement is going.’ ‘Look how well you are doing.’ And we’ve been trapped in this predicament for hundreds of years. How the fuck are you making that kind of progress? I can’t help but feel like if slaves had baby oil and booty shorts… [laughter] …we might have been free a hundred years sooner. You know what I mean?
If Martin Luther King was like, ‘I want everybody to get up on them floats. Get your bodies good and shiny.’ I don’t hate gay people at all. I respect the shit out of you. Well, not all of you. I am not that fond of these newer gays. Too sensitive, too brittle. Those aren’t the gays that I grew up with. I missed them old school gays, n*gga. Them Stonewall n*ggas, them the ones that I respect. They didn’t take shit from anybody. They fought for their freedom. I respect that shit. I’m not even gay and I want to be like a Stonewall n*gga. Them old school, gangster gays. Them glory hole n*ggas. Them the ones I like.” ~ Dave Chappelle, “The Closer.“
Coupled with the failure to recognize intersectionality and bring Black LGBTQIA+ people into the equation, he doesn’t even credit the Black and Latinx trans women who started the riots at Stonewall, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Riviera. To present it as if the strides these women made equated to nothing and only recognizing the gay community is again further putting the accomplishments of trans women in the shadows.
Furthermore, he tried to make the assertion that LGBTQIA+ people have more rights and privilege than the Black community, which simply isn’t true.
For context, it just became illegal, this last year, to discriminate in the workplace.
LGBTQIA+ people just got the right to legally marry in 2015.
Trans kids are being blatantly targeted in a dozen of states around the country about their access to bathrooms and sports.
And probably the most disconcerting thing is that the LGBTQ+ “panic” defense strategy is a legal strategy that asks a jury to find that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity/expression is to blame for a defendant’s violent reaction, including murder.
3. Implying that Daphne Dorman killed herself because of trans Twitter trolls.
“Beautiful tweet, beautiful friend, it took a lot of heart to defend me like that, and when she did that, the trans community dragged that bitch all over Twitter. For days, they was going in on her, and she was holding her own ’cause she’s funny. But six days after that wonderful night I described to you, my friend Daphne killed herself.
Oh yeah, this is a true story. My heart was broken. Yeah, it wasn’t the jokes. I don’t know if was them dragging, or I don’t know what was going on in her life, but I bet dragging her didn’t help. I was very angry at them. I was very angry at her.” ~ Dave Chappelle, “The Closer.“
Daphne’s sisters came out after her death, saying she struggled with suicidal idealization for years. The three of them faced an abusive childhood. Also, her note clearly indicates that no single person or parties are responsible for her death in any way. However, despite this, he implied that her death was caused by the backlash she had received after supporting him, given that Dorman passed away after the release of the “Sticks & Stones” special.
That was not only manipulative of him, but frankly, narcissistic.
Do I believe in cancelling Dave Chappelle? Of course not.
At this point, it’s impossible. Netflix already paid out his estimated $50 million contract. Many have been calling to pull the special, but at this point, that doesn’t look likely either.
So, in my opinion, if they’re not going to pull the special, they should at least put a disclaimer at the beginning with all of the statistics, facts, and truth behind the misinformation he is trying to spread, similar to how Disney put disclaimers on their movies that perpetuated racist ideals so as not to keep the material intact, but not perpetuate racism, such as what was done with “Dumbo.”
Am I the right person to comment on this as a Cisgender, white, presenting woman of Latinx heritage and a ton of privilege? Maybe not.
But, I can say as someone with said privilege and the ability to recognize it, I strive to always use it to help advocate for marginalized communities who, after the past several years, have become exhausted for constantly having to defend their freedoms and/or identity in this country.
So, I’m going to leave you with the eye opening words of some brilliant LGBTQIA+ public figures to sum it up:
>> “Dave Chappelle represents a segment of society (along with white supremacists, hoteps, incels, and others) that is anxious about the waning power of cisheteronormativity and the patriarchy. People like him know that their outdated, limited view of the world is obsolete, and instead of transforming in the name of empathy and humility, they lean into toxicity. […] Dave’s using his trans friend’s story is hardly any different than white people using their token Black friends as ammo to shoot down their racism. And the ‘trans on trans’ harassment narrative plays out like the “Black on Black” crime narrative. Dave just skirts accountability.” ~ Raquel Willis (writer, editor, and transgender rights advocate) via Twitter
>> “Watching Chappelle contort himself to justify ashy ideas about gender, queerness, and identity is harrowing because the only thing more brutal than someone saying hurtful shit is someone saying hurtful shit moments after making you laugh, moments after cracking you up in a way that’s both fun and deeply needed, moments after making you feel like you all got free together. America has only gotten better at trying to kill me. Laughter is no joke, which makes the betrayal, years in the making at this point, all the more devastating. I feel like a fool to have rooted for Dave Chappelle for so long. Things were easier when the men who wanted to hurt me just said so at the jump. […] Watching you spew bullshit just as hurtful as the words those men hurled at us last weekend, I didn’t feel like I was being set free. I felt like I’d just been stabbed by someone I once admired, and now, he was demanding that I stop bleeding.” ~ Saeed Jones (writer and poet) via GQ
>> “Dehumanizing jokes about trans people exist in a larger social context that seeks to invalidate trans identity and erase us. Look at the epidemic of anti-trans violence and trans homicides. Look at the over 100 pieces of anti-trans bills introduced in 35 states this year alone. There is an organized political attack against trans folks right now. Many of us cannot walk down the street without being harassed or experiencing violence on a daily basis. Correlation is not causation. But many times when I have experienced violence in my life, my perpetrators thought it was a joke. They laughed as they chased me, held me down, kicked and beat me. As they sexually assaulted me.” ~ Laverne Cox (actress, producer, and advocate) via Instagram
>> “You cunningly ask your audience: ‘Is it possible that a gay person can be racist?’ Obviously, the answer is yes, and obviously that has nothing to do with your comedy being outdated, transphobic, and, frankly, hack. In an honest debate, you can’t simply use ‘racist, white, (gay) male’ interchangeably with ‘LBGT,’ which is also not synonymous with ‘the trans.’ Since you also enjoy Google, I recommend the following terms: ‘straw man,’ ‘gaslighting,’ and ‘motte-and-bailey fallacy.'” ~ Dahlia Belle (comedian and writer) via The Guardian