Bruce Parker

LGB(T?) - Why is it okay to make gender jokes?

Filed By Bruce Parker | February 25, 2006 4:14 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement, Transgender & Intersex

I was lucky enough to be one of the people in attendance at the Kate Clinton show at Bulter University a while back. She was fabulous, fierce, and very funny. Not a bad word to say about her or her show with the possible exception of some of the jokes were very lesbian centric and thus flew right over this queer little boy's head. However, I was struck by a thought at the opening by the Indy Gay Men's Chorus and their special guest vocalist. She was a fabulous black diva who could work the stage and the crowd very artfully. Her style aside - she opened with a joke that for the life of me makes me wonder why its okay to still make fun of trans people.

She said something about "reading a book about a man who wanted to be a woman so she could be with women or something." It was out of nowhere and really strange. The joke stuck with me through the whole show. I kept wondering in this current era of increasing trans visibility how it is still okay to make jokes such as that. I mean we are post-Boys Don't Cry and post-Transamerica. Transpeople are popping up everywhere. How is it still okay to make trans people the object of jokes? Why did all the gay people in the audience laugh?

I am definitely not one of the political correctness policing guys who immediately shies away from any humor that is at all risqué. I instead am very comfortable with humor - and myself can laugh at a good gay joke. It was the lack of context and the awkwardness of the moment that caught my eye the most. Humor based on identity is funny, at times liberating, and can be very damaging.

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Bruce - there are 2 possible reasons for this. The first is the diva possibly felt so comfortable with the crowd that she honestly thought she could make that "joke" and it would be interpreted as really funny. The second is that when one group starts to crawl out of the bottom of the barrel, they find another group to put down as they themselves rise. I can't say for sure what her motives were, but these are two possibilities. Hopefully, one day, one group of people won't try to make humor out of another's.