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Bill Maher Defends Dave Chappelle: “I’m Team Dave, but That Doesn’t Mean I’m Anti-Trans.”

Of course, HBO’s Bill Maher took some time on his show, Real-Time, to push back against criticism aimed at comedian Dave Chappelle, whose Netflix special has come under fire for being transphobic and caused a walkout from trans employees.

On a panel with failed presidential and New York mayoral candidate Andrew Yang and John McWhorter, a writer who once said, “victimology, separatism, and anti-intellectualism underlie the general black community’s response to all race-related issues,” they talked about the issue. So you know we are dealing with the cream of the crop right here.

The discussion opens up with Maher wanting to set up that all three cis-men favor laws to protect trans people and that if they said that can they have “an honest conversation?”

McWhorter then goes, “Many people don’t think so but—.” Already a great start.

Then it comes to discussing the concept of the “one true opinion” and what that does for online discourse.

“I’m a free speech guy. Now, I’m Team Dave, but that doesn’t mean I’m anti-trans. We can have two thoughts in our head at the same time,” Maher says.

Sadly, it is so comedic to watch because he takes umbrage with the idea that there are no “two sides” to the discussion and that disagreeing with trans people doesn’t equal hate. Yet, he is not saying what he disagrees with. So then it goes into this “we just got gay marriage” and “we were ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ for a long time,” and Yang and McWhorter nod there. Very generic statements that don’t actually seem to discuss anything about the issues at hand, besides generational discomfort.

The thing that makes Maher’s comments so frustrating is that it edges on this “common sense” discussion line where he’s making it clear that he doesn’t hate or fear trans people, but he also seems to think people should be allowed to be uncomfortable with the realities of what it means to be trans. And he says it in a way that makes me realize why parents all over the world are trapped into thinking he’s making good points.

McWhorter is a former professor of linguistics. Now I only have a master’s degree, but even I’ve read Gender Trouble by Judith Butler and The History of Sexuality by Michel Foucault. Hell, Christine Jorgensen was the face of trans issues and was famous for being a trans woman in the 1950s. So these things are not new. So as an intellectual, he could easily push back, but his record shows that he is against the idea of people being “victims” and his upcoming book definitely sees there being an agenda with “woke” culture.

Maher says that he doesn’t think he is “down” with the idea of people not having a gender when they are born and that he doesn’t have to be. And he’s right, and he doesn’t. But there is a difference between not realizing what that means and using your platform to knock it.

It is funny to me how McWhorter tries to make this point that Chappelle is a comedian, and therefore what Chappelle is saying is nuanced and symbolic, but people read it like “it’s The Three Bears.”

Yet, at no point do they say what exactly is nuanced or symbolic about Chappelle’s special. McWhorter also tries to make the point Chappelle erred by not addressing power differentials. Still, a significant part of what Chappelle says is asking the LGBTQ community to stop “punching down” on his community.

Maher says he condemns trans hate but doesn’t think that Chappelle has anything to do with it. Is Dave Chappelle responsible for transphobia? No. Does his comedy special promote ideas that are used to invalidate trans people’s existence and identity and promote them to the mainstream as common sense rational discussion? Yes. And that does matter to trans people.

Don’t want to call it transphobic because you don’t hate or fear trans people? Fine. It’s ignorant. It’s dismissive of how trans people discuss themselves. It is just not as clever as y’all think it is.

Are there issues in the LGBTQ community with whiteness, anti-Blackness, and using morality as a gotcha? Yup. And you know who is most affected by that? People within the LGBTQ community.

Not Dave Chappelle, who has a ton of money and public backing from people. Not Kevin Hart, who has his own show and is still a popular actor/comedian. Not Da Baby, who is still performing big shows.

Free speech works both ways, and people are allowed to say, “no, actually, we can’t debate my existence while it is still legal on the books to discriminate against me.”

Maher doesn’t think you should be afraid to speak in America. Well, it doesn’t look like Dave Chappelle is afraid. Trans people are, though, but I guess they should be okay with it because “we’ve had girls and boys for a long time.”

(via Deadline, image: HBO)

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Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.