Friday, March 5, 2010

Being progressive or queer means never having to say you're sorry

Dave Chapelle has a big rep in the progressive community as a thinking person's comedian. Someone who isn't afraid to talk about tough issues and take people to task for hypocrisy. In honor of Mr. Chapelle's need for honestly and candor about calling society on its bs, we now need to call Mr. Chapelle on his transphobic bs. Barbara Lopez, a lesbian-cis woman in the East Bay went to see Dave Chapelle a few days ago at an Oakland club called the "New Parish," a venue with a reputation for progressive politics and supporting queer performers (more about that later) . What she saw was him opening his act with a diatribe about him walking in San Francisco:

He began with a story of being in San Francisco and being approached by a "man" with "titty balls" and how weird that was and began to mock a gay male voice. He said he was trying to not look at this "man with titties." He talked about how he was uncomfortable and how he was worried about "US Weekly catching them together." He even said "I thought I was gonna walk away without his gayness offending me." He then talked about how the trans individual asked him out to lunch and he reacted angrily.
Yes, it's 'man with titties' humor. Dude in a dress funnies. Nothing like a few tranny and shemale jokes to loosen up the crowd and make then laugh, right? Ms. Lopez then told Chapelle:

"I came to hear you talk about politics and race and instead what you are saying is fucked up." He told me but you have "real titties." I told him I was a lesbian and was offended. He said "I love lesbians." I was gonna tell him to fuck off more (I was angry by this point) but by then I had security guards around me. My baby and I stated we were leaving.
She then engaged with the owners of the club about what was wrong with Chapelle's transphobic diatribe.

I was bothered when one of the owners said that they support artistic merit and he wouldn't censor artists. "Chapelle is edgy." Well...hate speech is NOT edgy. It is a type of language that breeds violence. He said he had Lesbian family members. I told them I was ready to organize against them and at that point I felt the conversation was not going anywhere productive.
Ridiculing trans women... always good for a few bucks
Ah yes, transphobia, ridicule, and hate speech towards trans women are "artistic merit" and "freedom of speech." I've heard that one many times before. Kind of like virulently homophobic reggae artist Buju Banton expressed freedom of speech and his artistry by extolling audiences to "kill faggots." And the New Parish club owners have "lesbian family members" which translates as "if I'm okay with one part of the LGBT community, I can support discrimination and ridicule against another part of the community and not be called on it. Good one, I have to remember that. It's like getting keys to the kingdom. So Dave Chapelle is the new Eddie Murphy, only he's keying in on transphobia rather than Murphy's often expressed homophobia (and we all know Murphy had, let's say, a very personal fascination with trans women sex workers of whom he was a regular client).

Rebecca Kaplan... lover of anti-trans humor: for Oakland City Council

Representing the community - hypocrite's version
But what makes this even more interesting is how a current Oakland City Councilwoman, Nancy Nadel, was also in the audience and didn't seem to have any issue with Chapelle saying hate speech. Guess if they can attract a celebrity to perform in Oakland, that gives him carte blanche. And even worse, Rebecca Kaplan, a lesbian-identified District Transit Director and candidate for the City Counsel (under the, woo-hoo... LGBT community flag) was also in attendance and seemed to have a wonderful time lapping up the transphobia. Good way to represent our community there, Ms. Kaplan. Laughs are on us.

JD Samson of LeTigre (center) Queer means being as trans exclusivist as you want

Hip Queer music in a transmysogynistic package
To make even more sense of why the club is cool with having Chapelle mouthing off, two days later, they're featuring a show with JD Samson, from the feminist band "Le Tigre" presented by "Hella Gay Live". Sounds oh-so Queer/progressive, doesn't it? Unfortunately, Le Tigre is known as one of the primary bands which has supported a policy which excludes trans women from the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival—a conflict which has been going on for more than 15 years. Here's an excellent essay by feminist blogger Ciara Xyerra on the problematic nature of Le Tigre, and their best known member Kathleen Hanna and their troubled history of discriminating against trans women. Moreover, members of Le Tigre have been known to specifically make comments against the womanhood of trans women and supporting the MichFest policy. So... sounds like this is "bash trans women" week at The New Parish.

Remember Michael Richards of "Seinfeld" who did a "comedy routine" in at an LA which involved racist humor? Remember how Richards was called out on it and told, in no uncertain terms, his attempts at getting laughs using bigotry were not going to be tolerated? So I guess what Dave Chapelle said was totally different? It was about a far more powerless group of people who have a higher murder rate than any other minority group in the country. And East Bay progressives were there to laugh at Dave and share the good times and enjoy freedom of speech's finest hour—the liberty to bash and ridicule trans women and make a lot of bucks doing it.

Allies vs. wannabes
I applaud Ms. Lopez as a real ally, who is taking what might be an unpopular step and speaking out about the hypocrisy of Chapelle, the club owners and the progressives who laughed along to the transphobic comments. There are many times where, as a trans women, it's hard to feel much love from much of the LGB communities who tend to throw us under a bus at the first chance. However cynical someone like Rebecca Kaplan (and all the LGBT community who will be boogying at JD Samson's show) make me feel, Barbara Lopez gives me hope there are people from outside our beleaguered community who actually get it.

If you wish to complain to the owners of The New Parish, kindly let them know being a progressive, an LGB member or having a lesbian in your family doesn't excuse making money off the backs of trans women's lives. I suggest not supporting Dave Chapelle's numerous appearances on television until he actually understands what he said was hate speech and owns up the affects of such speech on marginalized communities.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Any posts found to contain transphobic, homophobic, racist or sexist content will be deleted. Personal attacks will not be tolerated.