Comics must stop bullying transsexual people | Ben Alborough is angered by a Fringe comedian

Comics must stop bullying transsexual people

Ben Alborough is angered by a Fringe comedian

Out of ironic curiosity, a couple of friends and I went to a free low-brow late-night stand-up show at the Edinburgh Fringe the other night, in which the MC followed a five-minute routine path of comic logic that involved asking the audience if they'd ever been on a porn site and seen a ‘shemale’, then asking if they’d rather fuck Angelina Jolie with a cock or Les Dennis with a vagina.

It was was lazy, uninspired and unnecessary – and symptomatic of an entire culture in current stand-up to mock transsexual people, the most victimised, marginalised and misunderstood minority in society.

By introducing the concept of a ‘shemale’ through the topic of pornography, the MC immediately set up two precedents: that the subject of humiliation is sexualised and also that her gender identity is invalidated by the ambiguously gendered term. ‘Shemale’ is a horrible slur. Publicly apply language of equal magnitude to race or sexuality and you’d be outcast.

Transsexuals are routinely sexualised for their problems, then mocked for them. An outrage exacerbated by prevailing amateur thinking that no comedian should ever apologise or restrict themselves from using content that may be provocative and upsetting, regardless of the consequences.

The idea that comedians have no need for social responsibility is a belief commonly held by comics who use crass, easy-target and aggressively sick humour, usually because they are incapable of doing otherwise.

It’s difficult to justify this.

Transsexual people are continually operating under blankets of stealth, so as not to be outed for their birth gender and live a normal life. Jokes about sexualising physical attributes are often the only way that the average person will learn about these issues. Providing controversial commentary through humour is sometimes necessary, but when you’re targeting victimised individuals publicly and providing no sort of valid statement alongside this then that argument collapses.

Yesterday it was revealed that the boxing promoter and UKIP supporter formerly known as Frank Maloney was undergoing gender reassignment, and now lives as a woman, Kellie. This attracted transphobic criticism from both the comic left and right wing. Most were unable to separate the ideas of sexuality and gender and then began publicly criticising her not for her horrible politics, but for her decision to transition; her ‘wanting to be a woman’ rather than actually being a woman. It further demonstrates how difficult it is to come out in the current climate.

Here are three of the dozen of common ideas that are wrongly embedded in the public consciousness about transsexualism that have been reinforced in comedy shows I've seen.

1) It’s a personal choice and an extension of male drag.

Transsexualism is identifiable from the onset of puberty and is a product of sexual body dysmorphia. It’s already humiliating growing up as a teenager but more so if you are surrounded in close proximity by contemporaries who aren’t actively disgusted at the idea of their own physical sex – especially in PE. The process to transition is costly, irreversible and allows people with sexual dysmorphia to function far better on a day-to-day basis – with added self confidence, stealth and functionality. It’s not a career choice for pantomime dames.

The surgery leaves genitals unidentifiable and pointless OR they retain 'disgusting' masculine/ feminine characteristics

Manifestly untrue. Scientists are now at the point where they can create functioning rabbit penises artificially and graft them onto rabbits. We’re not at that stage with humans thus far but progress is consistently optimistic. Results from labioplasty are physically indistinguishable from actual female sexual organs. That episode of Family Guy you saw was very uninformed about this.

The reason you never see as many transsexuals as gay people is because they are physically identical to their cissexual (non-transgender) counterparts. In addition, the only people who use the words ‘pre-op’ and ‘post-op’ are straight men on the look out for fetishistic sex.

The main departure point for transsexual individuals is the ‘coming out’ process and it is from there that their gender identity is usually marked, with surgery being more of a supplement towards living a normal life.

They’re not real men/ women

The suicide rate for transgender people is nine times above the national average, with 41 per cent of all transgender people having attempted suicide at one point (successfully or unsuccessfully). Reasons cited? Discrimination and violence based on the fact that the sex they were assigned at birth differed from the gender that was hard-wired into their brain when they were born.

Quite simply, t’s time to end the constant reinforcement of discrimination by comedians targeting the vulnerable.

Published: 11 Aug 2014

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