Comedy is one of the most difficult areas for transgender people. They routinely feel abused, ridiculed and humiliated by material which presents them as weird, disgusting or worse. They wonder what they’ve done to deserve such treatment and often compare the language they hear with the way black people were treated by many comics forty years ago.
Many trans people understand that comics fiercely protect their right to free speech and that comedy can be a powerful tool to puncture the self importance of the pompous, powerful and the undeservedly privileged. But trans people often face very challenging lives, surrounded by prejudice that leads to family breakdown, loss of job, friends and home, together with verbal and even physical abuse in public. Some of this abuse is framed in language which can be traced back to the media, and to comedy in particular.
Trans people have the right not to be heckled and even attacked in the street whilst being called a ‘Laydee’, or a ‘Tranny’. They have the right not to be confronted by casual bigotry in comedy which portrays them as freaks. Trans people believe that without curtailing their right to free expression, comedians should be encouraged to exercise decency and restraint rather than perform easy, victimising material which is adopted by a non comprehending public to make their lives worse and add to their pain.
The question is how?