Transphobia isn't funny; it's dangerous, and no "comedy special" can change that
Ricky Gervais would want to spend less time obsessing over what genitals a person has, and more time on writing a half-decent joke.
Well, here we are once again.
Another "edgy" comedian releases a stand-up special full of half-baked jokes surrounding vulnerable sections of society, and we once again have to argue just how much someone can say in the aim of comedy.
This time in the firing line is Ricky Gervais, who has gone from being known as the boss who can't dance, to the man who can't tell a joke.
The special contains all the trademarks of your typical I'm just saying what everyone is THINKING set, including mentions of cancel culture.
That's right, Ricky Gervais is a victim of cancel culture, he tells a sold out crowd in a Netflix special that has been pushed to the front page of over 200 million paying subscribers.
It only takes four minutes before the transphobia begins:
“Oh, women! Not all women, I mean the old-fashioned ones. The old-fashioned women, the ones with wombs. Those fucking dinosaurs.
"I love the new women. They’re great, aren’t they? The new ones we’ve been seeing lately. The ones with beards and cocks. They’re as good as gold, I love them.
"And now the old-fashioned ones say, ‘Oh, they want to use our toilets.’ ‘Why shouldn’t they use your toilets?’ ‘For ladies!’ ‘They are ladies — look at their pronouns!
"What about this person isn’t a lady?’ ‘Well, his penis.’ ‘Her penis, you fucking bigot!’
"‘What if he rapes me?’ ‘What if she rapes you, you fucking TERF (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist) whore?’”
— Netflix UK & Ireland (@NetflixUK) May 24, 2022
I don't care how you swing it; there is no universe where a joke about being sexually assaulted in a bathroom is funny.
The straw man argument of people somehow weaponising trans identities to assault people in bathrooms has somehow persisted, and is a constant talking point amongst transphobes.
As Nish Kumar rightfully pointed out in his comedy album It's In Your Nature To Destroy Yourselves, "Do you honestly think that there is someone out there who is going to commit a sexual assault, regardless of their gender identity, who has done the mental gymnastics in going into thinking you can perpetrate one of the worst thing that one human can do to another... is being put off by a sign on a door?"
Trans people are overwhelmingly the victims of sexual violence, not the perpetrators.
A 2015 study from the National Centre of Transgender Equality found that 47% of transgender people are sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime.
That's nearly one in two trans people you will ever meet, being the victim of one of the worst assaults possible.
And still, the same tired jokes are carted out, time and time again.
One argument from comedians just itching to get a dig in at trans people is that "cancel culture" has made it impossible to joke about certain groups, trans people included.
However, PLAYBOY (yes, the magazine your Dad read for the articles) was making jokes surrounding trans people in the '80s that weren't in any way offensive.
ok but also how did Playboy in the 80s manage to make a trans joke that wasn’t offensive???????? pic.twitter.com/3F0iNnSJPU
— earl the dead cat (@RockIslandChick) April 16, 2022
Using the correct pronouns, punching up at authority, and still willing to speak about the trans experience. It couldn't be easier.
Either these comedians have a terminal lack of cop on or they couldn't care less.
What Gervais' jokes are is an example of a 'dog whistle'; something that sounds harmless, but is a sign for concern for those that are in the know.
But what happens afterwards is the concerning part.
Even if you assume that your audience will "know it's a joke", there's going to be a sizeable portion who agree with your sentiment on face value, and see it as an endorsement of their views.
The very same day SuperNature was released, images of a transwoman were shared online falsely accusing her of being the perpetrator of the Robb Elementary School shooting in Texas, which resulted in the deaths of 19 children, and two adults.
Who in their right mind would see the worst school shooting since Sandy Hook and use it as an opportunity to spread bigotry?
In a country that is seeing a concerning increase in hate crimes targeting the LGBTQ community, including murder, we can't allow ourselves to become complicit.
Neither can Netflix, although recent trends are showing that they are willing to platform this hate speech, despite their terms of service expressly banning it.
Co-CEO Ted Sarandos said that Dave Chappelle's special "The Closer" would not be removed from the streaming platform following a similar backlash.
In the special, Chappelle focuses on genitalia (what is the obsession with genitalia?), being "tricked" into calling a trans woman beautiful, and defends J.K Rowling.
A number of Netflix employees, both LGBTQ and allies alike, left the company in protest following the release of the special, and those that stayed continued to promote shows that featured LGBTQ and minority characters via specific social media accounts.
To be clear: As the queer and trans people who run this account, you can imagine that the last couple of weeks have been hard. We can’t always control what goes on screen. What we can control is what we create here, and the POV we bring to internal conversations.
— Most (@Most) October 13, 2021
Last week, over 100 Netflix employees were laid off, with a significant number of cuts made to those specific groups that ran those accounts.
Netflix is not only avoiding internal criticism of what is on its platform, but actively removing those and gutting resources to improve representation in those areas.
In response to criticism of the special, Gervais said the following in an equally incendiary article in The Spectator:
My target wasn't trans folk, but trans activist ideology. I've always confronted dogma that oppresses people and limits freedom of expression.
"Dogma that oppresses people"? Who the hell is being oppressed by trans people?
It sounds more like you want to take liberties at the expense of a group that can't defend itself, and know that the second the tide turns, your career is in jeopardy.
At the end of his special, Gervais says that he supports trans rights, saying that “trans rights are human rights. Live your best life. Use your preferred pronouns. Be the gender that you feel you are.”
"But meet me halfway, ladies. Lose the cock."
Fuck off with that.
Trans rights are human rights, and one of those rights is to live free and equally, with dignity.
Freedom of speech is not freedom of consequence, so if you're going to continue spreading hate, don't be surprised when it comes back your way.