A day before Dave Chappelle’s Untitled documentary is set to screen at the Hollywood Bowl and the comedian is expected onstage, his new Netflix special The Closer is generating a growing backlash over remarks about the trans and LGBTQ+ communities.
“Gender is a fact,” Chappelle declares in the special, which debuted on the streamer Tuesday. “Every human being in this room, every human being on earth, had to pass through the legs of a woman to be on earth,” he adds, conspicuously negating C-sections, which make up about a third of all births in America alone. “That is a fact,” Chappelle goes on to say before launching into an anatomy line that “trans women” genitalia are “not quite what it is.”
Standing up for Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling’s 2020 much criticized tweets about the transgender community and exclaiming he is “Team TERF!” (the acronym for trans-exclusionary radical feminist), Chappelle’s sixth Netflix special also seeks to offer a contrast between rapper DaBaby’s homophobic statements this summer and systemic racism.
“In our country, you can shoot and kill a [n-word], but you better not hurt a gay person’s feelings,” the comedian says, in reference to a 2018 incident involving the rapper at a Walmart in North Carolina that saw another man shot and later die.
After years of Chappelle using the trans and LGBTQ+ communities in his stand-up, GLAAD today drew a line in the digital sand.
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. https://t.co/yOIyT54819
— GLAAD (@glaad) October 6, 2021
The organization also retweeted a post from the handle going by HolyBullies that said: “I would suggest, Mr. Chappelle, that before you start on another one of your stupid routines about #LGBTQ people . . . google some names – Bayard Rustin, Monica Roberts, Barbara Jordan, Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Angela Davis, James Baldwin, Audre Lorde.”
Taking the Sir Thomas More approach, Netflix declined comment on the controversy. Reps for Chappelle did not respond to request for comment.
The National Black Justice Coalition’s executive director David Johns certainly had something to say. The current head of the nearly 20-year-old civil rights group wants The Closer taken off Netflix ASAP:
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.
At the end of The Closer, Chappelle, who opens the special with a “not saying it to be mean, I’m saying it because it is funny” quip, shifts focus, kind of. “I am not telling another joke about you until we are both sure that we are laughing together,” he says in a personal address to the trans and LBGTQ+ communities. “All I ask from your community – with all humility – will you please stop punching down on my people?”
The Closer is currently fifth on Netflix’s U.S. Top 10 list.