Wednesday, January 6, 2010

David Letterman Show Promotes Trans Disgust

The David Letterman show on the CBS network has insulted Amanda Simpson, a trans woman who was recently appointed to the U.S. Commerce Department by the Obama administration. In the clip below David Letterman announces the news, followed by a guest on his show who breaks out in shock that "Amanda used to be a dude" the man is disgusted and outraged and runs off stage, the segment insinuates the man had some sort of relationship with Simpson and reinforces the sentiment that being transgender is somehow disgusting, misleading, and abnormal.

This isn't David Letterman's first transphobic problem, he made news on this blog two years ago when he insulted F2M Thomas Beatie the pregnant female to male transsexual. While we approve and acknowledge that Letterman has done some good, ie: standing up for marriage equality, his continual jabs at the transgender community cannot go on without consequence.

Contact David Letterman and tell him to apologize for this offensive jab at Amanda Simpson and the entire transgender community.

Sign the petition directed to the shows Executive Producers.


SteveDenver said...

I heard that Letterman used to be a dude, too.

Anonymous said...

Precisely what "consequences" will he incur? Trans people are everyone's punchline, including many LBGs.

Anonymous said...

It's satire, you have to take as much as we give back to straights. No-one was physically beaten up on-air during the airing of this.

Kelly Stevens said...

Lighten up. This was a funny skit. As a transgendered woman I was not offended.

Queers United said...

Everyone is entitled to their opinions but I feel very offended by this skit. I think the consequence of his actions warrants a slew of mail that he will be getting and a possible boycott if he continues his unapologetic transphobia.

Anonymous said...

Oh relax - I don't identify in traditional binary genders either, but for heaven sakes folks, lighten up. Letterman is a comedian, it's a comedy show. He has shown himself to be progressively liberal. This was so obviously for a laugh at those who are too insecure to accept folks who don't identify as they do. The laugh was at the mock conservative who ran off stage - not Simpson.
Invest your energy in productive pursuits to support us, not running around whining about a comedian because you don't or can't get the joke. Comedy always has a 'fall guy' - or 'fall person' - for those of you literal political police!

libhom said...

I agree with the petition, and I filled it out.

Giselle Renarde said...

I understand your offense and indignation. It's the "Cleveland Show" bit all over again. We can say, "Oh, it's just a joke," but when media reinforce through comedy that we ought to be disgusted or it's "natural" to be disgusted by trans people and we respond by laughing or shrugging it off, aren't we teaching ourselves and others a toxic lesson?

My girlfriend is a trans woman. Am I supposed to be disgusted by her?

I sure hope not.

Bright Blessings,

Kenny Blickenstaff said...

Imagine a heterosexual man had sexual intercourse with a male-to-female transgendered individual and didn't realize it until that person was appointed to public office and their status became a news story. I would imagine that man having a similar, if less exaggerated, reaction.

Cobalt said...

"Satire" is poking fun at people in power to deflate them. Trans people do not have the kind of power in our culture that cis people do, so picking on them IS NOT SATIRE.

The difference is crucial.

Anonymous said...

I think this is all a big overreaction - Alan Kalter (not actually a guest but in fact the show's announcer) often interjects into the show with something out of the blue, usually a zany quip where he seems out of touch and/or ridiculous... and this is no different. Just a silly joke, no harm intended whatsoever.

Anonymous said...

I watched this at home with my friends and roommates. My MTF friend was laughing the hardest.

In my opinion, the skit made fun of transphobia itself, and not the transgendered community.

Anonymous said...

Oh please, I just saw it for the first time thanks to you!

Get over it

Anonymous said...

It's always easy to dismiss prejudice when it's told through a joke, but the consequence is that joking sanctions bigotry. When we laugh at someone's reaction such as this it generates negativity. If we break down the joke, can we say it was truly funny? I can't. Will we laugh the next time someone is murdered because they are transgendered? I hope not. All the excuses can be made to justify David Letterman's joke, but when a joke possibly grants a person the authority to kill it won't funny then. The two men who killed Matthew Shepard thought it was okay because society told them a gay man's life wasn't worth much. This joke that David presented shares a similar message. This tasteless joke effects not just the LGBT community, but also the straight community by saying it's okay to be revolted by the idea of a Transgendered person. We should be able to let people express who they are by not judging them. True acceptance of an individual is a wonderful thing.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anon also- it's just satire. Don't make enemies. Lets focus on the true problem, the evangelical amd mormon churches.

Jonathan Korman said...

Being just another straight fella, I take my own reading of this with a grain of salt, but I would cut Letterman a little more slack for both this joke and the previous one you linked.

I don't see those jokes as simply playing to transphobia. It is easy to imagine much more transphobic jokes in both cases, and I read both as not being intended at the expense of transfolks.

It seems to me that Letterman's joke isn't on Ms Simpson for being a transwoman, or the man for being in a relationship with a transwoman, but rather on the man for being upset; we are meant to be laughing at him for his transphobia. If we can get people laughing at transphobia like we can get people laughing at overt racist bigotry or (more and more these days) homophobia, that's a little victory.

But unhappily the skit is also open to that second interpretation: an audience can be laughing at the man in schadenfreude at his "misfortune" of having been in a relationship with a transwoman. Horrors! I think that's a misreading of the joke ... but yes, it's an easy misreading for folks to make.

Similarly, the pregnant man routine speaks in the voices of message-senders who are funny because they're creepy in the way they respond to the pregnant man: Angelina Jolie, Maury Povich, Ralph Nader, Michael Moore ... and finally Michael Jackson. The joke is on the caller, not the recipient. For each of these, part of the joke is the caller's false expectation that the caller and the recipient are allied when they are not. So when Michael Jackson calls himself an “androgynous freak show,” the implication from the pattern of the joke is that Jackson is wrong to compare himself to the pregnant man, who is therefore NOT an “androgynous freak show.”

But of course, this joke, too, has a big opening for a more offensive (mis)reading: Jackson and the pregnant man are both freaks, hardy har har.

Even if I'm right that the transphobic readings of these jokes are misreadings, perhaps they are too easy, too close to the surface, and therefore unacceptable. How responsible is Letterman, or any comic, to make sure that an offensive misreading of the joke isn't available? I think that's a tricky question. Constructing humour in areas where we have a bigoted culture which cannot possibly be misread as reïnforcing that bigotry is very difficult. Dave Chappelle, a smart guy and talented comic who was very conscious of the challenge of doing just that famously failed to find a way to get us laughing AT racism without having some of his White viewers laughing WITH racism.

If --- for the sake of argument, at least --- we can imagine Letterman not wanting to appeal to transphobia, do you ask him to not make any jokes involving transfolks that might have transphobic misreadings? Or would that be surrendering the field to the many comics who would make a joke that is simply transphobic in its intended reading?

libhom said...

I find it interesting that all but one of the comments defending Letterman's bigoted behavior were anonymous. That sounds suspicious to me.

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