It shouldn’t really be a surprise that the comedian Ricky Gervais has insulted and upset people once again, after all, he made his intentions to upset people clear through social media before he even went on stage at the Golden Globes.
During his opening speech Gervais spouted a torrent of abuse at the audience, calling them ‘pill-popping, sexual deviant scum’, but then quickly turned his attention to everyone’s favourite subject (apparently) Caitlyn Jenner.
‘I’ve changed,’ he said. ‘Not as much as Bruce Jenner , obviously. Now Caitlyn Jenner, of course. What a year she’s had! She became a role model to trans people everywhere, showing great bravery in breaking down barriers and destroying stereotypes. She didn’t do a lot for women drivers.’
These comments have already sparked arguments online, with LGBT advocates condemning the fact that Gervais used Jenner’s former name, as well as making general jokes about the trans community, and those who feel that because of her ‘edgy’ and insulting style of humour there was nothing wrong with what was said.
It’s not an easy argument, Gervais does insult people from every walk of life, he makes targets of everyone, even himself, so some people are arguing that not mocking trans people would be censoring himself and go against free speech.
However, others are arguing that it’s not right to make insulting jokes at the expense of a community that deals with as much hate and violence as the transgender community.
Reports made by the University of Leicester Hate Crime project found that a third of trans people are regularly verbally abused in their day to day lives, whilst nearly two thirds have experiences some form of physical abuse, having been targeted simply for being transgender.
Last year saw the highest rate of transgender murder on record, with record highs in the US, where more trans women were killed in the first six months of 2015 than the whole of 2014. Couple this with the fact that transgender suicide rates are so high, much, much higher than any other community, it makes mocking trans people a dangerous thing to do.
Mocking trans people, even someone like Caitlyn Jenner, is reinforcing the notion that it’s okay to mock trans people. It’s telling people that it’s okay to deadname them, that it’s okay to insult them in the street, to make jokes at their expense. It’s stuff like this that means trans people are more likely to be murdered, sexually assaulted or take their own lives.
Comedy that relies on insulting and mocking people doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it informs people’s opinions and normalises actions that are unacceptable.
Unfortunately people use the fact that it is ‘comedy’ to act as an excuse to dismiss this kind of negative action. If you try to call it out you ‘have no sense of humour’ or are trying to censor people. Well, you know what? You’re 100% right. When it comes to the violence and hate the trans community face I don’t have a sense of humour about it.
I also don’t appreciate it when a group that says it stands up for the LGBT community and equality feels that it’s appropriate to excuse those actions and tell people offended to ‘take it easy’. The Facebook group LGBT Equality World Wide shared an article on Gervais’ comments and immediately excused his actions. Maybe they should look at renaming themselves LGB Equality World Wide, because they don’t seem to be caring about the T part at the moment.