Ricky Gervais knew what he was doing and why he was doing it when he took on transgender activism in his new Netflix special, SuperNature. Three quarters of an hour into his set, he told his audience:
‘I talk about AIDS, famine, cancer, the Holocaust, rape, paedophilia…the one thing you should never joke about is the trans issue. They just want to be treated equally. I agree; that’s why I include them. But they know I’m joking about all the other stuff, but – they go – ‘no, he must mean that’.’Ricky Gervais, SuperNature
The backlash to Gervais’s jokes suggest he was right. For all the subjects Gervais made gags about, it was his description of the ‘new women’ as he called them, ‘the ones with beards’, that has caused outrage.
Gervais’s show was a full-fronted assault on the mantra that transwomen are women. Was this wise? It was certainly unkind, but since when did comedy need to be kind? Last year, Dave Chappelle, the American comedian, got into hot water when he set his sights on transgender ideology in his own Netflix special, The Closer. Chapelle explored the concept of punching up and punching down, something Gervais picked up on himself.
When we punch up we can be unkind with impunity. Political leaders, the wealthy, the privileged, Royalty; when they are the butt of jokes, they are expected to take it. But punching down is different. Nowadays it takes a brave comedian to turn the heavy ammunition on the downtrodden and the marginalised. But Gervais went there when he quipped: ‘Will I ever find Schindler’s List funny ever again?’
If he could get away with joking about the Holocaust – surely the epitome of punching down – why did his jokes about transgender people spark such outrage? Gervais’s explanation, which he offered to The Spectator last night*, perhaps reveals the answer:
‘My target wasn’t trans folk, but trans activist ideology. I’ve always confronted dogma that oppresses people and limits freedom of expression.’Ricky Gervais
He is right to call this out. Whatever name we give it, trans activist ideology has shaken the foundations of our society, challenging the meaning of such fundamental concepts as men and women. When it becomes a courageous act to say that transwomen are not women, we are being oppressed and our freedoms limited.
Gervais didn’t actually say that transwomen are not women, though. He did not need to be so blunt because his comedy prised open the deception. Transgender ideology might have entranced political leaders, such as Keir Starmer, who seem unable to give straight answers to the most basic of questions. But this is no joking matter.
In Scotland, draft legislation could allow anyone over 16 to change their legal sex without parental permission. Meanwhile children throughout the UK are being told that sex was arbitrarily assigned at birth, and feelings trump biology when it comes to distinguishing boys from girls. It is nonsense, but it is also dangerous. And all the time, too many people who should have said something have avoided the issue.
Gervais might be privileged – he joked about that as well in his set – but he uses his position to speak truth to power. Trans activist ideology has run unchecked for too long, and it is time to call it to account. As Gervais told The Spectator:
‘It was probably the most current, most talked about, taboo subject of the last couple of years. I deal in taboo subjects and have to confront the elephant in the room.’Ricky Gervais
Debbie Hayton is a teacher and journalist.
* This article was first published by The Spectator on 25 May 2022: Ricky Gervais is no ‘transphobe’.
It has been republished by both the Spectator Australia (25 May 2022) and The Spectator World (USA, 26 May 2022)
2 replies on “Ricky Gervais is no ‘transphobe’”
I can’t speak on Gervais or Chapelle because I haven’t seen their shows, but I want to ask you something, Debbie. Supposedly it is transphobic to remind any trans person that he/she is not the gender that he/she wants to be. Of course, this flies in the face of the fact that most trans people these days are not having bottom surgery, so they are reminded of their original sex every time they urinate. As a gay man who likes pornography (at 71, looking at a picture while masturbating is all that I have left of my sex life), I have noticed that many young trans women ARE having TOP surgery, and that a significant portion of them are going into the sex business. Once in the sex business, they market themselves as hermaphrodites of a sort who have the best of both worlds — large breasts on top and large male genitals on bottom. (Indeed, most of them seem to be better endowed than I am.) I’m not sure what my question to you is, Debbie, except to say that this seems hypocritical to me. How can a trans woman “hate” the male portions of her body while she puts them on display? I suppose that these sex workers would say that they don’t hate the male portion of themselves, but their behavior seems to burst the bubble of transgender activists, for whom any reminder of the “deadself” is an intolerable insult.
(Maybe I’ve started to reveal too much about myself in these comments.)