On Monday, singer Macy Gray appeared on Piers Morgan’s Uncensored and immediately found herself in the crossfire of controversy. During the interview, the host asked her if trans women should able to compete in sports in which Gray replied:
“I will say this and everybody’s going to hate me, but, as a woman, just because you go change your parts, doesn’t make you a woman. Sorry. If you want me to call you a her, I will, because that’s what you want, but that doesn’t make you a woman just because I call you a her and just because you got a surgery.”
Gray also insisted that she “doesn’t think [she] should be labeled transphobic just because [she doesn’t] agree.” Though Morgan goaded her into the “uncensored debate”–he knowingly used a Black woman to devalue another marginalized group of people–the artist is the one who received the backlash. On Tuesday, she took to Twitter to explain that her words were “GROSSLY misunderstood.” The tweet has been deleted.
Though Gray claims that she is a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community since day one, questioning the validity of their gender on an internationally aired television show is actually the exact opposite of solidarity. She knew her words would be offensive, hence the hollow disclaimer. Even though it’s free to STFU, Gray paid the price of admission to access going viral since our culture thrives on outrage.
She isn’t alone when it comes to non trans folks chiming in on trans issues. Dave Chappelle proved that it can be quite lucrative to make transphobic jokes with the success of his 2021 Netflix special The Closer. Though he degraded the trans community and failed to recognize the intersectionality of Black people who are trans, his routine dominated cultural discourse for months, brought Chappelle around $25 million and guaranteed him several more Netflix specials.
In his latest release for the streaming giant What’s in a Name?, which came out yesterday, the comedian recaps a recent visit to his alma mater Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C.
The school planned to dedicate a theater to him but Chappelle eventually refused since the students in attendance during his Q&A criticized his material on trans women featured in The Closer. Though the star called the students “instruments of oppression,” the space was ironically named the Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression.
Like Gray, he explains that his words were perceived as hateful but he was simply “misunderstood”:
“And this is my biggest gripe with this whole controversy with ‘The Closer’: That you cannot report on an artist’s work and remove artistic nuance from his words. It would be like if you were reading a newspaper and they say, ‘Man Shot in the Face by a Six-Foot Rabbit Expected to Survive,’ you’d be like, ‘Oh my god,’ and they never tell you it’s a Bugs Bunny cartoon.”
What he fails to understand is that trans folks aren’t cartoons, they’re not fictional and their identities aren’t fodder for stand-up comedy routines. No one chooses to have their rights and lives threatened at disproportionate rates for the sake of being “taboo;” they are simply being true to who they are.
Whether it’s artists saying trans women aren’t really women or a New York Times op-ed declaring that “women didn’t fight this long and this hard only to be told we couldn’t call ourselves women anymore,” it reinforces violence against an already incredibly vulnerable population.
Violence that comes in the form of legislation attacking the rights of trans people which encompasses everything from playing sports to which bathroom they can use.
Violence that comes in the form of “Don’t Say Gay” laws which prohibit “instruction” about sexual orientation or gender identity. Violence that comes in the form of Black and Latinx trans women being more likely to be fatally shot or killed. Violence that comes in the form of armed white supremacist groups showing up at LGBTQ+ events.
Though Chappelle, Gray and other celebrities know how dangerous their remarks can be, it’s unlikely that the anti-trans rhetoric will stop anytime soon. However, if you’re a non trans person who thinks they should comment on the experiences and lives of trans people, remember: silence is golden.