“The Closer,” the sixth installment in the comedian’s Netflix deal, which the “Chappelle’s Show” comedian describes as “his last special for a minute,” includes tongue-in-cheek jokes about race, the coronavirus pandemic and negotiating “the release of DaBaby” after the rapper’s homophobic comments. But Chappelle’s comments on the transgender community, a topic for which he has received backlash, are stirring up more feedback.
Chappelle doubled down on transphobic jokes by weighing in on comments J.K. Rowling made in December 2019. The “Harry Potter” author conflated sex with gender and defended ideas suggesting that changing one’s biological sex was a threat to her own gender identity.
“They canceled J.K. Rowling – my God,” Chappelle says. “Effectually she said gender was a fact, the trans community got mad as (expletive), they started calling her a TERF.
“I’m Team TERF. I agree. I agree, man. Gender is a fact.”
While the traditional gender binary definition applies to those who were born either male or female at birth, many identify as nonbinary and don’t consider themselves solely man or woman.
Chappelle says he has “never had a problem with transgender people,” but experts say the use of TERF is problematic for the trans community.
What is a TERF?
TERF is an acronym that stands for “trans exclusionary radical feminists.” The term describes feminists who are transphobic.
In his special, Chappelle gave the proper definition but added, “They look at trans women the way we Blacks might look at Blackface.”
TERF views “deny the validity of transgender people and transgender identities,” said Sarah McBride, national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign.
Feminist glossary: we didn’t all major in gender studies
McBride noted that such views are not rejected only among most feminists in the United States and supporters of LGTBQ rights. TERF ideology can result in reinforcing prejudices that lead to other forms of discrimination many transgender men and women can experience, such as in housing or employment. Discrimination also can lead to physical violence, which disproportionately affects the trans community, especially transgender women of color, McBride said.
What does social media have to say?
Chapelle often toes the line of being adversary and harmful to marginalized communities. In his set, the comedian speaks out against transphobic laws while spreading harmful views.
“I’m very invested in the gender construct, personally, ’cause I’m a man with kids,” Chappelle says. “This does not mean that I feel like another point of view can’t exist.”
Some on social media praised Chappelle’s return to Netflix, but others rejected the comedian’s jokes, which they said were made at the expense of others.
“Dave chappelle claiming he’s a terf sorta soiled my day,” one Twitter user wrote.
“Oh the T community going to be mad once they see this Dave Chappelle standup lol,” a user wrote.
“The Closer might be the best work I’ve seen by Dave Chappelle. Amazing, eloquent, and as always, goes right for the jug,” another user said.
Another user tweeted: “Dave chappelle is the greatest at using non-sequiturs to subtly project his bigotry.”
Writer Jaclyn Moore, who also serves as showrunner for Netflix’s “Dear White People,” slammed the streaming service for creating and profiting from “blatantly and dangerously transphobic content.”
“I’ve been thrown against walls because, ‘I’m not a “real” woman,'” Moore tweeted. “I’ve had beer bottles thrown at me. So, @Netflix, I’m done.”
According to a study published in LGBTQ Health, negative media representation of the trans community is “significantly associated” with symptoms of depression within the community.
Advoacy group GLAAD criticized Chappelle for his remarks and tweeted the comedian’s brand “has become synonymous with ridiculing trans people and other marginalized communities.”
“Negative reviews and viewers loudly condemning his latest special is a message to the industry that audiences don’t support platforming anti-LGBTQ diatribes,” the organization wrote.
Past backlash against Chappelle’s trans jokes
Chappelle has come under scrutiny before for his commentary about the trans community. In his 2019 comedy special “Sticks & Stones,” he bemoaned how society is increasingly politically correct while saying sarcastically how difficult it must be for transgender people.
“They’re so confusing,” Chappelle said. “This idea that a person can be born in the wrong body – they have to admit, that’s a (expletive) hilarious predicament.”
At the end of his “Closer” special, he says he would no longer be making jokes about the LGBTQ community but with a stipulation relating to DaBaby being “canceled” for his homophobic comments and Kevin Hart stepping down from the Oscars after refusing to apologize for previous homophobic comments.
“I am not telling another joke about you until we are both sure that we are laughing together,” the comedian says. “All I ask from your community – with all humility – will you please stop punching down on my people?”
Contributing: Patrick Ryan, Hannah Yasharoff, Ryan W. Miller, Alia Dastagir and Edward Segarra
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Dave Chappelle is ‘team TERF,’ defends JK Rowling in Netflix special