“Nothing bad happened to his career,” he says. “Do you see where I’m going with this? In our country, you can shoot and kill a [n-word] but you better not hurt a gay person’s feelings.”
This is the “disparity” Chappelle would like to discuss, he adds, soon afterward clarifying to the applauding audience that he doesn’t hate gay people but is instead “jealous” of them.
“We Blacks,” he says, “we look at the gay community and we go … ‘Look how well that movement is going. Look how well you are doing. And we’ve been trapped in this predicament for hundreds of years. How … are you making that kind of progress?’ I can’t help but feel like if slaves had baby oil and booty shorts, we might have been free a hundred years sooner.”
Jokingly referring to himself as “transphobic comedian Dave Chappelle,” the comic later pivots to commenting on trans people. Some of his jokes involve anatomy, such as when he compares the genitalia of trans women to vegetarian substitutes for meat products. At one point, he defends J.K. Rowling and says he’s “team TERF” — which stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminist — for agreeing that “gender is a fact.”
The special almost immediately attracted the ire of LGBTQ people and advocacy organizations.
“Dear White People” showrunner Jaclyn Moore, who is trans, tweeted Wednesday that while she has “loved” working with Netflix, she wouldn’t work with the streaming company “as long as they continue to pull out and profit from blatantly and dangerously transphobic content.”
Sharing an NPR review that claims the special “goes too far,” GLAAD tweeted that “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.” The Human Rights Campaign tweeted, “Trans women are women. Trans men are men. Non-binary people are non-binary. CC: Dave Chappelle.”
The response to such criticism is often that Chappelle’s comments were made in jest and are in line with his tradition of pushing the envelope. The comic himself says in the special that anyone familiar with his work should know “that I have never had a problem with transgender people. If you listen to what I’m saying clearly, my problem has always been with White people.”
Chappelle concludes “The Closer” with a story about his friend, the late comic Daphne Dorman, who was a White trans woman and opened a show for him in 2019. He recalls how she tweeted in his defense after he was accused of transphobia, which made her a target of criticism as well. Dorman killed herself soon afterward. In the special, Chapelle calls for more empathy.
Then, he says he will no longer joke about LGBTQ people.
“I’m telling you, it’s done. I’m done talking about it,” he states. “All I ask of your community, with all humility: Will you please stop punching down on my people?”
The use of “my people” captures another criticism leveled at Chappelle — that many of his jokes are hinged upon the LGBTQ community and Black people being mutually exclusive groups, all while Black members of the LGBTQ community face heightened levels of discrimination. (At one point in the special, he says “gay people are minorities until they need to be White again.”)
David J. Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, which aims to empower Black LGBTQ people, criticized Netflix’s decision to carry a comedy special on its platform exhibiting what he called “Chappelle’s lazy and hostile transphobia and homophobia.”
“When we fail to recognize that as long as there have been Black people we’ve been beautifully diverse,” Johns wrote in a statement shared Thursday, “it’s easy to accept the lie that Black trans, queer, and non-binary/non-conforming people don’t exist … To be sure, all Black Lives Matter.”