Dave Chappelle isn't one to shy away from controversial takes, and he's back in what CNN calls "familiar hot water." This time, the backlash has emerged after comments the 48-year-old comedian made on gender and transgender women in his new Netflix special, The Closer, which debuted Tuesday. In addition to making eyebrow-raising jokes about transgender women's bodies, Chappelle had this to say: "Gender is a fact. Every human being in this room, every human being on Earth, had to pass through the legs of a woman to be on Earth. That is a fact." (Deadline notes Chappelle seemed to forget about C-sections, among other things.)
He did say at the end of the special, however, that he'd be taking a break from jokes about the LGBTQ community "until we are both sure that we are laughing together." It's not the first time Chappelle has broached such subjects and been blasted for it. Over the past few years, the comedian has received criticism for his jokes on gay men and trans people—including Caitlyn Jenner, whom he's deadnamed and misgendered—both in live shows and during televised specials. Chappelle references the past backlash in his newest set, as well as defends others who've made derogatory comments about the transgender community, including JK Rowling, per Variety.
LGBTQ activists and organizations are calling the comedian out. "Dave Chappelle's brand has become synonymous with ridiculing trans people and other marginalized communities," GLAAD noted in a Wednesday tweet, adding that "audiences don't support platforming anti-LGBTQ diatribe." The National Black Justice Coalition, which advocates for the LGBTQ community, takes it a step further, imploring Netflix to yank the special and apologize. "Netflix should know better," the group's director, David Johns, said in a statement. "Perpetuating transphobia perpetuates violence."
Chappelle is getting backing from a corner that may surprise some: the family of the late transgender comedian Daphne Dorman, a Chappelle friend who used to defend him before she took her own life in late 2019. "Dave loved my sister and is an LGBTQ ally," Dorman's sister Brandy tells the Daily Beast. Another sister, Becky, who says Chappelle set up a college fund for Dorman's young daughter, adds Daphne "did not find his jokes rude, crude, off-coloring, off-putting, anything. She thought his jokes were funny." (Read more Dave Chappelle stories.)