Comedian Dave Chappelle is scheduled to perform on New Year’s Eve at Climate Pledge Arena. This performance follows his October Netflix special, “The Closer,” a show in which he made transphobic remarks and comments about the LGBTQIA+ community. Climate Pledge Arena is in the heart of Seattle — a city that celebrates its storied history supporting LGBTQIA+ lives and continues to foster one of the largest LGBTQIA+ communities in the U.S.
Allowing Chappelle to perform on New Year’s Eve hurts the LGBTQIA+ community and the Seattle community at large. Transgender people are among the most marginalized groups in society. When someone with a wide audience, like Chappelle, abuses their platform to punch down on the transgender community, it gives others the signal that this behavior is acceptable, if not encouraged.
Comments like Chappelle’s also discourage people who may have wanted to come out as transgender prior to hearing his remarks. How can one live as their authentic self, void of fear, when prominent figures in the media tell them they’re not valid — not even real?
In his special, Chappelle jokingly referred to himself as transphobic and from there pivoted to a string of jokes centered on the transgender community. He crudely referenced the genitalia of transgender women and compared it to vegetarian substitutes for meat products. He also defended transphobic author J.K. Rowling and agreed with a previous statement of hers that “gender is a fact.”
Chappelle is not the only abuser with a popular platform — he is one of many. But like others, Chappelle sets an example for anyone watching, and he can do better. He should do better.
What Chappelle said was not a slip-up. He has since doubled down on his comments, and these are not the first he’s made against the LGBTQIA+ community. Chappelle has a history of pushing the envelope, but it’s not in his job description to insult and disregard the transgender and greater LGBTQIA+ community with offensive remarks.
Despite calls to do so, Chappelle’s show has not been postponed, and Chappelle has not issued a sincere apology to the transgender and LGBTQIA+ community. While I understand the contractual obligations in place for large arenas, and the First Amendment right to free speech, I still ask that the greater Seattle community stand up against transphobic remarks made by powerful people, including Chappelle, as well as in their everyday lives. Write letters, make phone calls, call out transphobic rhetoric in conversation — through small but impactful actions, make Seattle a safer community for everyone.
Krystal Marx is the executive director of Seattle Pride, an LGBTQIA+ organization that produces the annual Seattle Pride Parade and that is dedicated year-round to creating unity, honoring diversity and achieving equal human rights throughout our region and the world.
Read more of the Dec. 29, 2021-Jan. 4, 2022 issue.