Dave Chappelle faces backlash over new Netflix special 'ridiculing trans people'

·Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
·6 min read

Dave Chappelle is facing allegations of transphobia and homophobia over remarks in his Netflix special, The Closer.

The special, his sixth and last (for now) with the streaming service since a 2016 deal, came out Tuesday and immediately sparked backlash, including from GLAAD and National Black Justice Coalition, for jokes directed at the LGBTQ+ community, specifically trans people.

At the show, recorded at The Fillmore in Detroit in August, Chappelle, who has long been criticized for remarks about LGBTQ+ people, stirred things up again by making comments like, “Gender is a fact. Every human being in this room, every human being on earth, had to pass through the legs of a woman to be on earth. That is a fact." He went on to make fun of the genitalia of trans women.

Chappelle also defended Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling who has faced allegations of transphobia for years.

90th Academy Awards - Oscars Show - Hollywood, California, U.S., 04/03/2018 - Dave Chappelle  presents the Best Original Song nominee Stand Up for Something from Marshall. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Dave Chappelle is facing backlash over latest Netflix special which targets a favorite mark: transgender people. (Photo: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)

“They canceled J.K. Rowling — my God," he said. "Effectually she said gender was a fact. The trans community got mad as sh**, they started calling her a TERF," Chappelle said, which means "trans-exclusionary radical feminists," whose views about feminism are seen as anti-trans. He added, "I'm team TERF... Gender is a fact."

At another point, Chappelle addressed the LGBTQ+ community directly, asking to "negotiate the release of DaBaby," the rapper who was criticized for homophobic comments this summer, saying he "punched the LGBTQ community right in the AIDS." Chappelle brought up DaBaby firing a gun that killed a 19-year-old in 2018, but said it was his anti-gay comments that got him canceled.

"In our country, you can shoot and kill a n*****, but you better not hurt a gay person's feelings," Chappelle said. 

At another point, he talked about getting into a fight with a lesbian, quipping, “I’m glad TMZ didn’t believe that — because I did beat the sh** out of her. I’m not gonna lie. It was her fault. I had no choice."

At the end, Chappelle again referenced DaBaby and other Black celebrities (like Kevin Hart) who have faced scrutiny for anti-gay remarks, saying he will no longer make jokes targeting the LGBTQ+ community until "we are both sure that we are laughing together. I'm telling you, it's done, I'm done talking about it," he said. "All I ask of your community, with all humility: Will you please stop punching down on my people?"

There has been extensive criticism online with GLAAD issuing a statement, saying "Dave Chappelle's brand has become synonymous with ridiculing trans people and other marginalized communities," and calling for people not to stream the special. 

The National Black Justice Coalition, a civil rights advocacy group dedicated to the empowerment of the Black LGBTQ community, called it "deeply disappointing that Netflix allowed Dave Chappelle's lazy and hostile transphobia and homophobia to air on its platform."

Dana White, from True Colors Unite, which helps combat youth homelessness with a focus on LGBTQ, said, "Nothing Dave Chappelle says changes the facts that trans women are women, trans men are men, non-binary people are non-binary, that LGBTQ+ people should live free of harm and discrimination. He is wrong. And Netflix has empowered him to be wrong loudly."

While Netflix hasn't commented, nor has Chappelle, those associated with the platform have been speaking out. Jaclyn Moore, showrunner for the Netflix series Dear White People who is part of the LGBTQ+ community, said in a thread she's “done” with the company.

Terra Field, a programmer at Netflix who is trans, detailed her issues with Chappelle's comments in a thread. She said it's not about being "offended," but "the harm that content like this does to the trans community (especially trans people of color) and VERY specifically Black trans women." Field included a list of Black, trans people who have recently been murdered.

Meanwhile 50 Cent, who has denied he's homophobic himself, came to Chappelle's defense, calling the special "flawless."

Chance the Rapper told his followers that he hopes they "watched The Closer. And I hope you really listened."

For years now the question has been posed: What Is Dave Chappelle’s Problem With Gay People? He's targeted the community in multiple specials over the last few years, previously singling out Caitlyn Jenner and mocking pronouns. 

And it's not been limited to his specials. During his 2017 residency at Radio City Music Hall he “almost exclusively talked about trans issues” for the first 20 minutes of his set, Vulture noted at the time. “Chappelle didn’t come off as a free-speech fire starter or an inflammatory punk trying to get a rise out of people,” the review read. “He just sounded old and out of touch, a fact that he touched on very briefly throughout the set, but not enough.”

Earlier this year, as guest host of Saturday Night Live, Chappelle poked fun at himself for not being “woke” enough.

The comedian's relationship with Netflix seems cemented despite the latest. He will be reviving his Chappelle Show for the streaming service later this year.