In the opening of Dave Chappelle’s newest comedy special on Netflix, The Closer, he tells his Detroit audience: “Comedians have a responsibility to speak recklessly.”
Now, after just three days, it appears that recklessness has gotten him into hot water with members of the LGBTQ+ community and several national organizations.
According to Deadline, the backlash stems from a handful of transphobic and homophobic jokes made by Chappelle that centered around the anatomy of trans women, sex, and gender. The comedian also seemingly sided with Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling and her stance about transgender folks, stating that he was “Team TERF” (the acronym stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminist) and lent his support to rapper DaBaby, who was also met with swift backlash from the LGBTQ+ community and various organizations earlier this year.
“Gender is a fact. Every human being in this room, every human being on earth, had to pass through the legs of a woman to be on earth. That is a fact. Now, I am not saying that to say trans women aren’t women, I am just saying that those pussies that they got … you know what I mean? I’m not saying it’s not pussy, but it’s Beyond Pussy or Impossible Pussy. It tastes like pussy, but that’s not quite what it is, is it? That’s not blood. That’s beet juice,” Chappelle said in part.
In reference to DaBaby, he later quipped: “In our country, you can shoot and kill a nigga, but you better not hurt a gay person’s feelings,” referencing the “Bop” rapper’s 2018 shooting case.
As a result of that, several organizations have spoken out against the comedian and Netflix for allowing the content to be given such a large platform. David Johns, the executive director for the National Black Justice Coalition said in a statement:
“It is deeply disappointing that Netflix allowed Dave Chappelle’s lazy and hostile transphobia and homophobia to air on its platform. With 2021 on track to be the deadliest year on record for transgender people in the United States—the majority of whom are Black transgender people—Netflix should know better. Perpetuating transphobia perpetuates violence. Netflix should immediately pull The Closer from its platform and directly apologize to the transgender community. Make no mistake: Black LGBTQ+ and same gender people exist–and have always existed. The fight against oppression is not a zero sum game, and the pervasiveness of white supremacy in the United States is not an excuse for homophobia or transphobia.”
“Dave Chappelle’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. We agree.”
However, while most find Chappelle’s comments derogatory and distasteful, the family of the late transgender comedian Daphne Dorman is coming to his defense. For context, towards the end of The Closer and after his LGTBQ+ remarks, Chappelle shared a story about his friendship with Dorman, reminiscing on their shared sense of humor and her openness to talk about her identity, per the Daily Beast. He explained how after his 2019 special Sticks & Stones, Dorman stood up for him after many labeled his jokes transphobic at the time as well, before she took her own life in October of that same year.
“I don’t know what the trans community did for her, but I don’t care, because I feel like she wasn’t their tribe. She was mine. She was a comedian in her soul,” Chappelle explained.
Now, two of Dorman’s sisters, Becky and Brandy, are calling out others who are attempting to label him as transphobic or homophobic.
“Daphne was in awe of Dave’s graciousness. She did not find his jokes rude, crude, off-coloring, off-putting, anything. She thought his jokes were funny. Daphne understood humor and comedy—she was not offended. Why would her family be offended?” wrote Becky.
“Dave loved my sister and is an LGBTQ ally. His entire set was begging to end this very situation,” added Becky, later explaining in a separate social media post: “At this point I feel like he poured his heart out in that special and no one noticed. What he’s saying to the LGBTQ family is, ‘I see you. Do you see me? I’m mourning my friend in the best way I know how. Can you see me? Can you allow me that?’... This was a call to come together, that two oppressed factions of our nation put down their keyboards and make peace. How sad that this message was lost in translation.”
Netflix has yet to comment publicly on the special or whether or not it’ll be removed from their platform.