Dave Chappelle Is A Transphobe

While we know Chappelle has a history of anti-LGBT jokes that are not even funny, he has had many successful Netflix specials. Photo by Kathy Hutchins on Shutterstock.com

The latest standup special from Dave Chappelle, “The Closer” has garnered a lot of controversy for the comments Chappelle made throughout the show that directly targeted the trans community. 

While many have criticized Chappelle, he has also seen a lot of support from fans and right-wing celebrities. The backing of these hateful comments from a sizable amount of Chappelle’s audience signals a much larger trend of transphobia, which has changed very little in the past few years. 

In the special, Dave Chappelle spends roughly his whole time on stage cracking jokes at the expense of the trans community ranging from maliciously misinformed to hateful. 

Throughout the show, Chappelle misgenders trans individuals, propagates disinformation on the state of transness and most odiously, tries to draw dividing lines between two different marginalized groups, black people and transgender people. 

In terms of misinformation, the most notable moment in the special was when Chappelle vocally supported J.K. Rowling, who has spent much of her post-Harry Potter career facing backlash for her various transphobic comments. Chappelle also reinforced the idea that “gender is a fact.” 

This idea, of course, incorrectly conflates the two concepts of gender and sex. As a reminder, sex is the biological makeup based on chromosomes people have at birth. Gender, however, is fluid and subject to change in an individual, as gender encompasses more the idea of personal expression. 

Whether Chappelle is aware of how transphobic these comments are or not is irrelevant because his material indicates that he couldn’t care less if the information he is spreading is true. It exists to rationalize his discomfort with the existence of ideas that feel true to him. 

Throughout the special, Chappelle also seems to have a sense of contempt for the trans community, for what, to him, seems like an all-encompassing corporate push for trans acceptance. 

Chappelle has framed this to be an issue of free speech, which seems to disregard the fact that he was paid $20 million for this special. Photo by Kathy Hutchins on Shutterstock.com

While I believe it is reasonable to be dissatisfied with the status quo regarding its treatment of minority groups, I also think that it should inspire unity rather than putting different experiences against one another. 

Chappelle’s conception of white trans people trying to “cancel” him completely disregards the many trans people of color who regularly face discrimination based on their gender expression in addition to their race. 

Society often compounds the struggles of many trans people through class barriers that frequently bar transgender people from purchasing hormone treatment and other costly procedures. These insults do not even consider trans people without dysphoria who may face stigmatization from their LGBT+ and non-LGBT+ peers.

What is most upsetting about this whole ordeal is the aftermath and the discourse surrounding it. 

Among the first to criticize the special were two transgender Netflix employees who found the stand-up special transphobic. The company responded by firing the employees and inaction, standing by the statements of Dave Chappelle. 

Chappelle would like to tell everyone that this is a matter of his free speech and what corporate interests will not allow him to say. The first problem with this line of thinking is that it obfuscates corporations’ performative marketing with actual activism. 

The other is Dave’s seemingly bottomed-out self-awareness, which has blinded him to the fact that he is a famous, cisgender multimillionaire. 

Whether he wants to admit it or not, his hostile takes on the trans experience will almost always be more visible (and rewarded with millions of more dollars) than those who confront it directly every single day.