Gilead is beige. The world envisioned in The Handmaid’s Tale is a regime where everyone is assigned a role from a narrow set of possibilities. Anyone who questions the range or doesn’t fit neatly within the limited scope of possibilities, is eliminated…completely. This is especially true for LGBTQIA people.
It doesn’t matter that the range of roles is too small and unrealistic for the humans trapped in Gilead. The point of structuring this new society is not realism, truth or authenticity. The point is to impose a single world view and to force everyone to pretend as if they fit it. Failure to fit, to conform, to go along with the vision is cause for elimination.
This may sound far-fetched, but in our own world where transgender people face deadly consequences – not by the hand of the state, but by rogue elements who seem to feel empowered to police the gender and sexual identities of people who don’t fit their vision of acceptable options – the violence of Gilead is the reality for some Americans.
So some people had a very immediate, strong and disapproving reaction to jokes told about transgender people by comedian Dave Chappelle. I did not have that reaction. I saw The Closer as a clumsy attempt to foster dialogue on a topic at the root of much conflict in our society – difference. The U.S. may not sanction violence to the extent and with the immediacy we see in Gilead – but despite the great diversity of American people, some of us are clearly uncomfortable with difference and apparently feel empowered to eliminate people who challenge our views on acceptability. Presumably this is why both police and vigilantes routinely kill Black people. Difference. One supposes this is why Texas has empowered vigilantes to terrorize women who exercise choice. Difference. It appears, too, that the unchecked violence unleashed on transgender people is an expression of discomfort with people who don’t fit a certain pre-determined model. Difference.
Perhaps Chappelle should not have used his considerable platform to talk about a subject that makes some people uncomfortable – or to be open and honest about his own views on a complicated topic. He upset a lot of people and is dealing with the fallout of his choice to discuss a subject some consider out of bounds. He may have offered cover for those who choose to police the difference presented by transgender people, and paved the way for more violence toward a visible and vulnerable population. However, it’s not clear to me when, where and how Americans can have the conversation about difference…how it makes us feel…why we try so hard to fit everyone within a narrow range of possibilities…how much destruction we unleash when people fail to fit our own narrow confines of acceptability and respectability. And if we can never have these conversations, how on earth do we stop…the coming tyranny? — LMO
For a small taste of the reaction to Chappelle’s act, see this story.
“The National Black Justice Coalition has called on Netflix to remove The Closer—Dave Chappelle’s controversial standup special that has been deemed transphobic.
“Immediately after its release on Tuesday, The Closer began receiving backlash over a series of anti-trans comments from the 48-year-old comedian. At one point during the gig, Chappelle declares himself a TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) and expresses support for J.K. Rowling, the Harry Potter author who claimed trans women posed a threat to those who were assigned female at birth.
“’It is deeply disappointing that Netflix allowed Dave Chappelle’s lazy and hostile transphobia and homophobia to air on its platform,’ NBJC executive director David Johns said in a statement to Deadline. ‘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…’” — Joshua Espinoza | Complex
Article continues at link below.