COLUMN: Dave Chappelle’s transphobia has a lesson beneath it

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Elise Keane, Columnist

I have been a causal fan of Dave Chappelle for a few years now. I thought his stand-up was funny and enjoyed his opinions on most things. His previous Netflix special “Sticks and Stones” I enjoyed for the most part, but his comments on the trans community did rub me the wrong way. However, I figured that after the backlash he faced from his previous special that he would no longer touch on the trans community or the LGBTQ community in general. To my surprise, he did not shy away. In fact, he dived all the way in. 

In the beginning of his special, he does an interesting job of toeing the line between funny and offensive. Then, he decides to take a turn around the ten-minute mark. He says that he would like to answer any questions about his previous special starting with the “LBGTQ” community first. Already off to an awkward start with the wrong acronym. Chappelle continues down a path of incorrectly worded and offensive jokes. 

Dave Chappelle tells a lot of stories in this latest special. One has stuck with me though. He told this story about a fight he almost got into with a gay man at a night club. Before the dispute turned physical the man threatened to call the police on Chappelle. Chappelle remarked about the experience that “gay people are minorities until they need to be white again.” This is something that I have had to grapple with. I believe that for most white gay people this statement is true. With the world becoming more accepting of white LGBTQ people, it’s much easier for people to shed the identity when being white is more convenient for the situation. White members of the LGBTQ community, we need to listen to this point.  

My criticism lies with Chappelle echoing a point that younger LGBTQ people have heard time and time again. Chappelle misses the “Stonewall gays” and that young LGBTQ people are too sensitive and brittle to stand up in this cruel world. Well, to that I usually respond with that we have had to be sensitive. Chappelle brings up Stonewall as if those who were brutally assaulted weren’t sensitive to know when enough was enough. After Chappelle’s numerous jokes about the AIDS crisis, I assume he knows what happened during that time. It’s estimated that 36.3 million people have died due to this disease. Before our LGBTQ elders died, they didn’t write a rulebook of what to do or say when we feel wronged. Young LGBTQ people are putting back together the pieces of a fragmented community. That is inherently sensitive.  

Dave Chappelle is failing to see that he can be the oppressor while still being oppressed. His comments about the LGBTQ community are hurtful and only cause future damage. We are all bound to get things wrong sometimes, but his repetitive egregious comments prove that he doesn’t care about being wrong. He cares about the reaction. His “respect” is transactional. 

Elise Keane is a sophomore neuroscience major. They can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]