Agnostic.com
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A post text from Star Trek acting alum Wil Wheaton...

"For anyone who genuinely doesn't understand why I feel as strongly as I do about people like Chapelle making transphobic comments that are passed off as jokes, I want to share a story that I hope will help you understand, and contextualize my reaction to his behavior.

When I was sixteen, I played ice hockey almost every night at a local rink. I was a goalie, and they always needed goalies, so I could show up, put on my gear, and just wait for some team to call me onto the ice. It was a lot of fun.

One night, I'd played a couple hours of pickup with some really great dudes. They were friendly, they were funny, they enjoyed the game, they treated me like I was part of their team. They welcomed me.

After we were finished, we were all in the locker room getting changed into our regular clothes.

Before I tell you what happened next, I want to talk specifically about comedy and how much I loved it when I was growing up. I listened to records and watched comedy specials whenever I could. One of the definitive comedy specials for me and my friends was Eddie Murphy's Delirious, from 1983. It had bits that still kill me. The ice cream song, aunt Bunny falling down the stairs, mom throwing the shoe. Really funny stuff.

There is also extensive homophobic material that is just fucking appalling and inexcusable. Long stretches of this comedy film are devoted to mocking gay people, using the slur that starts with F over and over and over. Young Wil, who watched this with his suburban white upper middle class friends, in his privileged bubble, thought it was the funniest, edgiest, dirtiest thing he'd ever heard. It KILLED him. And all of it was dehumanizing to gay men. All of it was cruel. All of it was bigoted. All of it was punching down. And I didn't know any better. I accepted the framing, I developed a view of gay men as predatory, somehow less than straight men, absolutely worthy of mockery and contempt. Always good for a joke, though.

Let me put this another way: A comedian who I thought was one of the funniest people on the planet totally normalized making a mockery of gay people, and because I was a privileged white kid, raised by privileged white parents, there was nobody around me to challenge that perception. For much of my teen years, I was embarrassingly homophobic, and it all started with that comedy special.

Let's go back to that locker room.

So I'm talking with these guys, and we're all just laughing and having a good time. We're doing that sports thing where you talk about the great plays, and feel like you're part of something special.

And then, without even realizing what I was doing, that awful word came out of my mouth. "Blah blah blah F****t," I said.

The room fell silent and that's when I realized every single guy in this room was gay. They were from a team called The Blades (amazing) and I had just ... really fucked up.

"Do you have any gay friends?" One of them asked me, gently.

"Yes," I said, defensively. Then, I lied, "they say that all the time." I was so embarrassed and horrified. I realized I had basically said the N word, in context, and I didn't know what to do. I wanted to disappear. I wanted to apologize, I wanted to beg forgiveness. But I was a stupid sixteen year-old with pride and ignorance and fear all over myself, so I lied to try and get out of it.

"They must not love themselves very much," he said, with quiet disappointment.

Nobody said another word to me. I felt terrible. I shoved my gear into my bag and left as quickly as I could.

That happened over 30 years ago, and I think about it all the time. I'm mortified and embarrassed and so regretful that I said such a hurtful thing. I said it out of ignorance, but I still said it, and I said it because I believed these men, who were so cool and kind and just like all the other men I played with (I was always the youngest player on the ice) were somehow less than ... I guess everyone. Because that had been normalized for me by culture and comedy.

A huge part of that normalization was through entertainment that dehumanized gay men in the service of "jokes". And as someone who thought jokes were great, I accepted it. I mean, nobody was making fun of ME that way, and I was the Main Character, so...

I doubt very much that any of those men would be reading this today, but if so: I am so sorry. I deeply, profoundly, totally regret this. I've spent literally my entire life since this happened making amends and doing my best to be the strongest ally I can be. I want to do everything I can to prevent another kid from believing the same bigotry I believed, because I was ignorant and privileged.

So this stuff that Chapelle did? That all these Cishet white men are so keen to defend? I believe them when they say that it's not a big deal. Because it's not a big deal TO CISHET WHITE DUDES. But for a transgender person, those "jokes" normalize hateful, ignorant, bigoted behavior towards them. Those "jokes" contribute to a world where transgender people are constantly under threat of violence, because transgender people have been safely, acceptably, dehumanized. And it's all okay, because they were dehumanized by a Black man. And the disingenuous argument that it's actually racist to hold Chapelle accountable for this? Get the fuck out of here.

I love dark humor. I love smart, clever jokes that make us think, that challenge authority, that make powerful people uncomfortable. I don't need a lecture from some dude in wraparound sunglasses and a "git 'er done" tank top about how I don't understand comedy and I need to stick to acting. I don't need a First Amendment lecture from someone who doesn't understand the concept of consequences for exercising speech the government can't legally prohibit.

Literally every defense of Chapelle's "jokes" centers white, cishet men and our experience at the expense of people who have to fight with every breath simply to exist in this world. Literally every queer person I know (and I know a LOT) is hurt by Chapelle's actions. When literally every queer person I know says "this is hurtful to me", I'm going to listen to them and support them, and not tell them why they are wrong, as so many cishet white men do. If you're inclined to disregard queer voices, especially as they relate to this specific topic, I encourage you to reflect on your choices and think about who you listen to and why.

Too many of my fellow cishet white men are reducing this to some abstract intellectual exercise, which once again centers our experience at the expense of people who are genuinely threatened by the normalization of their "less than" or "outsider" status. Thirty years ago, I centered myself and was appallingly hurtful as a result.

I was sixteen and didn't know any better. I still regret it. Frankly, a whole lot of y'all who I've already blocked should feel the same shame about what you said TODAY that I feel for something I did three decades ago when I was sixteen and didn't know any better. But you don't, and that is why people like me need to keep using our voices to speak up and speak out."

MikeInBatonRouge 8 Dec 9
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4 comments

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1

Very honest and expressive. I know that when I was much younger I was frequently exposed to racism, bigotry, and homophobia living in the outer suburbs of Atlanta in the 70's and 80's. There were times (now decades ago) where I've said mean and hurtful things I wish I hadn't... largely due to immaturity and ignorance and fear.

Me too. Like Wil, I am still haunted by a specific memory of something ignorrant and hurtful I said in middle school, a slur toward Asians that I did not even understand at the time. The instant I said it, Another kid I did not even know but of Asian heritage, shot a look straight at me and quickly looked away without a word, and I immediately knew I had fucked up and conveyed bigotry toward someone out of my own ignorance. And like Wil, I was too prideful, immature, and also just embarrassed, to own up to it by apologizing. Ouch.

1

Wil crushed it. Very empathetic and level headed view (which is what I expect from a Star Fleet officer). I think Will uses two words too much, white and cishet (which is new to me). C's comment wasn't a racial thing but I do agree that he can't be callous with identities so long as white folks can't use the N word. Mostly I think all humans would do well to stop conversing with each other completely. We're all a bunch of oafs and blowhards. Everything we do is a problem for someone so just accept other human beings as clowns in a bad play and return to personal mindfulness. That's what chimps do.

rainmanjr Level 8 Dec 9, 2021
3

I have always like Wil Wheaton. As a gay man I can forgive him. We all do and say things in our youth that we later regret. Why should he be treated any differently? I have never been a super fan of Chapelle. I am quite sure he would be responding with sharp criticism if a white man had made bigoted jokes using the "N" word, and he would furthermore be very unapologetic for his anger.

I even like Chapelle. He has a sharp wit and important perspective on some social issues. But like any of us, he can have blind spots and benefit from some further enlightenment. I don't want to demonize public figures forever if It think they can be an ally someday. That is the problem with cancel culture, imo.

What I love about Wheaton's message is he is making a point with his own mistakes as the fodder for the lesson.

I watched the whole Chappelle performance that has been slammed for its anti-trans message. I cringed. He was trying to be thoughtful and balanced, and he was just wrong! I got no sense he was trying to hurt anybody, and it ended up being quite hurtful, because he has a big platform and was misinformed. "Team TERF." Ack!!

3

Well put.

Mofo1953 Level 9 Dec 9, 2021
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