Dave Chappelle Says He Won’t Tell Any More LGBTQ Jokes, But Not Before Making a Few More Transphobic Ones

The comedian's new Netflix special includes a few problematic jabs at trans people

Dave Chappelle, recipient of the Mark Twain Award for American Humor, arrives at the Kennedy Center for award ceremony on October 27, 2019 in Washington, D.C.
Dave Chappelle, recipient of the Mark Twain Award for American Humor, arrives at the Kennedy Center on October 27, 2019.
AFP via Getty Images

Dave Chappelle’s latest standup special The Closer dropped on Netflix on Tuesday morning, and as The Daily Beast points out, the hour-long special (which was recorded at The Fillmore in Detroit in August) includes a promise from the comic that he’ll stop telling jokes about the LGBTQ community — but not before he gets in a few last jabs at trans people.

Chappelle kicks off the bit by saying he wants to address “the LBGTQ [sic] community directly,” noting that he comes in peace and wants to “negotiate the release of DaBaby” — who lost out on several festival gigs after making homophobic comments during his set at Rolling Loud last summer — before talking about how jealous he is of the progress that the LGBTQ community has made in this country compared to Black people.

He also mentions how the transgender community “want me dead” because of his long history of transphobic jokes.

“Any of you who have ever watched me know that I have never had a problem with transgender people,” he insists. “If you listen to what I’m saying, clearly, my problem has always been with white people.”

At that point in the special, Chappelle (falsely) claims that he’s never made any explicitly anti-transgender jokes and defends J.K. Rowling over the way she was “canceled” for her transphobic beliefs, saying, “I’m team TERF!” (A “TERF” is an abbreviation for “trans-exclusionary radical feminist,” or transphobic feminists who do not believe trans women are women.)

“Gender is a fact,” he says. “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 trans women aren’t women, I am just saying that those pussies that they got… you know what I mean? I’m not saying it’s not pussy, but it’s Beyond Pussy or Impossible Pussy. It tastes like pussy, but that’s not quite what it is, is it? That’s not blood, that’s beet juice.”

That’s obviously a transphobic joke that perpetuates the dangerous notion that trans women aren’t “real” women. And yet, despite that, later in the special Chappelle insists he won’t be doing any more LGBTQ jokes “until we are both sure that we are laughing together.” (Spoiler alert: When you make jokes about trans women having “Beyond Pussy or Impossible Pussy,” you’re not laughing together with them.)

“I’m telling you, it’s done,” he says. “I’m done talking about it. All I ask of your community, with all humility: will you please stop punching down on my people.”

It’s unclear exactly what he means by that last comment. Black trans people are his people, yet he continues to insist on punching down on them. The idea that his jokes about trans people are actually simply jokes about white people ignores the countless Black trans people who not only exist, but are in desperate need of allyship.

According to the National LGBTQ Task Force, nearly half of the Black trans population has attempted suicide at one point, and 41% of them have been homeless at some point in their lives (a rate that’s roughly five times higher than that of the general population). They’re often targets of horrific violence and hate crimes, and they have an unemployment rate of 26%, double the unemployment rate for transgender people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds. How are they the ones who are punching down?

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