It is not enough to ‘not mind’ trans people

It is not enough to not mind trans people

Noelle Borges, Guest Columnist

Last fall the media went into a flying frenzy over comedian Dave Chapelle’s latest comedy special for transphobic jokes he made during its runtime. It wasn’t the first time Chapelle has received backlash for jokes against the transgender community, as he has gone on record multiple times to voice his opinions on them, none of which yielded positive results. 

But this article isn’t about Dave Chapelle, I’m sure we’ve all heard enough opinions on that

subject to last us multiple lifetimes. It’s about one thing he said in particular. In researching the history of Chapelle’s comments on my community, the trans community, a single phrase is what stood out to me: “I never had a problem with them.” 

This is a seemingly harmless quote, right? After all, if he doesn’t have a problem with trans people, then what’s everyone up in arms about? The thing is that the situation just isn’t that simple. Oppression as a concept in itself isn’t that simple— nothing about this subject is.

Last year saw an all-time high for the deaths of transgender people, with at least 375 trans and nonbinary people on record as victims of hate crimes worldwide, and who knows how many more off record. One in four of these people were killed in their own homes, 58% of these people were sex workers and an overwhelming majority of these people were people of color.

We as a society love to talk about how we are becoming “more progressive,” “more accepting” and “more welcoming of different peoples,” but the numbers say otherwise.

These transgender men and women, my brothers and sisters, were not killed by hitmen or secret agents or the CIA, they were killed by everyday people who live in a world where society treats trans people as less than human. We are accused of being child predators when we ask to use public restrooms. We are accused of being rapists when we do not disclose our gender history with every person we have sex with. We are accused of being liars and cheaters when we ask to enter women’s spaces. And yet we are accused of being “too sensitive” when we become upset when people with real power and influence mock us from behind a microphone.

Over the past year, many of us have gone through our own social and political awakenings, of sorts, a lot of which were influenced by the Black Lives Matter protests that reached a new level of exposure following the death of George Floyd. Because of this, many of the people in my life began to realize that their previous notion of “not seeing color” when it came to race was a harmful perspective to have. We all know the saying “silence is violence,” and that’s exactly why “not seeing color” is harmful, because it perpetuates a culture that ignores very real issues that have to do with race.

Now I realize it’s a bit harder to swallow when this reasoning is recontextualized to apply to transgender people such as myself, but saying you “don’t mind trans people” and then immediately following that up with your opinions on how we “trick men into having sex with us” and how you “don’t agree with our views on gender,” only perpetuates a society in which we are killed for simply existing.

This is why Dave Chapelle’s seemingly harmless position is actually a very dangerous stance to take, because you can’t claim that you believe “people should be allowed to live however they want,” but then turn around and call trans women men. That’s what perpetuates the violence against us, that’s why our world is not as “open-minded” as a lot of the media likes to portray, and that’s why it is not enough to be indifferent toward injustice anymore.