RE: Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church

By long forbearing is a prince persuaded, and a soft tongue breaketh the bone.

Megan Phelps-Roper’s new book Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church is an elegant masterpiece of non-fiction that exposes the truth of the WBC through humanization, offering us all a lesson in compassion & humanity the whole world desperately needs today.

In this literary review, we’re going to explore Phelps-Roper’s narrative through the critical lens of Joseph Campbell’s theory of the Hero’s Journey.

Literature nerds will already be familiar with Campbell’s work, but for anyone who isn’t, here’s a brief synopsis. Essentially, the Hero’s Journey is a pattern our story structures follow in which a hero receives a call to action to leave their “ordinary world”, generally refuses, but is ultimately forced to venture out into a “special world” i.e. a far off land ruled by an evil overlord, where the hero must quest, overcome trials, and defeat the story’s antagonist. Perhaps the best example to imagine is Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, but we can find this same pattern echoing in practically all of our stories, and yes even in our daily lives.

There is no better way way to prove we carry out this pattern in the real world than through analyzing non-fiction through the lens of the Hero’s Journey.

There’s something very interesting about Phelps-Roper’s narrative in Unfollow that inspired me to tie it to Campbell’s work. For Phelps-Roper, the antagonist isn’t in the special world. It is inside herself and the church she left behind in the “ordinary world” and thus, while her story very much follows the Hero’s Journey pattern, it does so whilst turning the structure of the pattern on its head.

It’s typical in our tales for our heroes to venture out to protect the status quo of the ordinary world. Perhaps a strange illness falls over the hero’s village and they’re called to action to venture out to challenge the source of the illness or find and return with a cure.

However, in Phelps-Roper’s tale, the status quo is itself the antagonist. There are certainly challenges and trials that await her out in the special world, but the antagonizing forces which threaten the ordinary world exist back and home, left behind in her wake as she leaves the church.

Reading Unfollow, I found myself deeply impressed by the compassionate quality of Phelps-Roper’s prose. Even though this review is likely to rebuke the church and the Phelps-Roper family for their antagonistic qualities, Phelps-Roper herself does no such thing. She has only kind and loving things to say about her family, the church, and its teaching, and that’s a huge part of what makes this book so powerful.

It begins with her childhood, where we see the young Megan and her siblings indoctrinated and bent to the will of her grandfather’s, certainty. She shows us how, surrounded by certainty, in an environment free from questions and doubt, the whole of the Westboro Baptist Church came to believe as they believe, in the literal, infallible truth of specifically the King James version of The Bible.

They are told there are two types of people in the world per the story of Jacob and Esau. Jacobs, who have God’s favor and are predestined for heaven, and Esaus, godless, hopeless, immoral beings bound for hell.

It’s difficult to describe the ideological trap they fell into and I certainly can’t do it justice in this review, but Phelps-Roper certainly does in her prose, but I can say, with ironic certainty, that certainty was the trigger mechanism. Through a lens of absolute, unquestioning certainty, they knew that they were right, and their enemies who questioned and antagonized them were wrong. God was on their side, and how can the infallible Word of God be wrong?

They truly believed that homosexuals were damned and would spend eternity in hell. They saw society’s acceptance of them as a celebration of their damnation and believed that only they truly loved them as the ones who were working to change their ways and save their souls.

A little known fact about Fred Phelps, Megan’s grandfather is that before he became the leader of Westboro, he was a lawyer who took on civil rights cases fighting for the equal rights of black people in a time when practically no one else was willing to come to their defense. He used the same logic to challenge the status quo then that he would later use to derive the church’s most well-known slogans, “God Hates Fags,” believing absolutely that The Bible vindicated both his support of black people and his condemnation of homosexuality.

Knowing this, it becomes easy to see how Westboro would feel vindicated by antagonism against them. They were once on the right side of history and experienced similar antagonism for challenging the status quo at both points in history. Challenges from outgroups only strengthened their resolve and reinforced their beliefs, especially when those challenges turned violent.

Eventually, Fred Phelps who believed he would never die as he would live to see Jesus return, met health issues, and on top of them, legal and financial issues, which forced him to relinquish power over the church to a council of elders. It’s only at this point in the story when the young Megan begins to doubt Westboro’s infallible certainty.

Her doubts were her call to action, beginning the Hero’s Journey cycle.

After seeing the council’s abominable treatment of women in their debasement of both her mother and sister and catching them in the act of willfully lying for political gains, she began asking questions. At first, they were questions kept to herself. Secret doubts that she buried away as she began the next phase of the Hero’s Journey: Refusal. The idea of her beloved family and church being wrong was too much to bear, and she was trapped between an ideological rock and a hard place.

Either the church was right, and she was bound for hell like Esau, doomed for an eternity without God, or the church, and everything she had ever known and loved, was horribly. horribly wrong and had done unforgivable harm to the world.

The nagging questions and doubts were too much and like all who walk the Hero’s Journey and refuse the call to action, she reached a point where she could no longer refuse and began asking those burning questions, both internally to her family and church members, as well as externally to connections she’d made via Twitter and other social media.

This led her to the last phase in the ordinary world (though sometimes this can come in the special world) meeting the mentor. Typically this mentor figure will be the one to actually give the call to action. Think Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, but in this case, the mentor was a simple, kind, and cautious guide who called himself simply C.G.. Her relationship with C.G. began as a friendship, grew into a mentorship, and eventually would blossom into a romance. Phelps-Roper writes extensively about C.G.’s behavior and why his approach was so effective.

He didn’t antagonize her like the outsiders she was used to. He was friendly and compassionate from the very beginning. He only wanted to be a friend and to listen and learn. In doing so, Megan was transformed. C.G. didn’t see her as the monster others saw. He saw the flawed human being underneath and through his humble actions, she began to see the same, not only in herself, but in others like C.G. who occupied the special world. He never rebuked her and refused to fill her head with any ideas of his own making. Instead, he encouraged her to follow her heart and see where it led.

It was only a matter of time before she could no longer refuse the call. She, together with her sister Grace who had also fallen out of favor with the church, crossed the threshold into the special world together left Westboro.

There, she would embark on a quest for truth, seeking answers for her still-burning questions. She would face trials, befriend allies, and overcome enemies. The interest in this review lies primarily with our analysis of the nature of those enemies. If you want to experience the whole of the adventure and not miss out on all the fun parts, I highly recommend reading the book.

Those “enemies” faced by Phelps-Roper in the special world were internal. They were the demons she had inherited through her upbringing in the church and her own unaccounted for flaws. When you’re brought up to not doubt anything and to believe that your way of thinking is infallible, you’re bound to lack key survival skills and tend to be very shortsighted with regard to your own flaws.

Phelps-Roper writes, “I started to understand that doubt was the point—that it was the most basic shift in how I experienced the world. Doubt was nothing more than epistemological humility: a deep and practical awareness that outside our sphere of knowledge there existed information and experiences that might show our position to be in error.”

This concept epistemological humility, was foreign to me upon first reading Unfollow but it’s a powerful concept that I wish I had understood long, long ago. If I had, it might have helped me face some of my own enemies. Basically, practicing epistemological humility means never being afraid to say, “I don’t know,” and “We might be wrong.” It is humbling your flawed nature before the immensity of the universe and realizing the truth that certainty is nothing but a comforting trap for fallible minds.

Phelps-Roper continues, “Certainty is the opposite: it hampers inquiry and hinders growth. It teaches us to ignore evidence that contradicts our ideas, and encourages us to defend our position at all costs, even as it reveals itself as indefensible. Certainty sees compromise as weak, hypocritical, evil, suppressing empathy and allowing us to justify inflicting horrible pain on others.”

When we lie to ourselves and to others to claim to be certain of unknowable truths, such as the nature or will of God, we fall into a destructive pattern that follows the behaviors Phelps-Roper describes above. If this pattern is followed to its logical conclusion, it leads to not only damaging the one carrying those flawed ideas, but also to become a destructive force in the world around them. It can lead one to unquestioningly participating in deplorable acts such as picketing funerals with “God Hates Fags” signs or praying for God’s wrath to fall on your enemies.

As human beings, we are hard-wired for certainty. It’s in our nature. When lost in the woods, if we see a rock shaped like a bear, our brains automatically put us on guard and we will naturally assume that said bear-shaped rock is certainly an actual bear and we will prepare to defend ourselves accordingly. If we did not have that natural sense of certainty, even when we are wrong, we’d have long ago wandered into many a bear’s jaws.

Doubt, on the other hand is nurtured. It is a skill we have to learn through continuously mistaking rocks for bears or worse, bears for rocks! But when we’re denied doubt, as Megan was, the consequences can be disastrous.

Imagine if an individual operated on pure, unabashed certainty when spotting that bear-shaped rock. They might maintain such a powerful degree of certainty that they would be paralyzed by the experience. They might never grow the courage to cross the woods for fear that the bear, which they were certain was there, would eat them. They might turn back and the food found on the other side would never make it back to their family. They might fail in their Hero’s Journey and starve. Such is the consequence of absolute certainty.

The skill of constructive doubting is the reward Phelps-Roper garnered through her ordeals in the special world. It’s the One Ring. The Master Sword. The Holy Grail. The Scepter of Domination. The Artifact. The Aegis. The Genie’s Lamp. The Book of Prophecy. The Elder Wand.

Phelps-Roper writes, “In this environment, there is a growing insistence that opposing views must be silenced, whether by the powers of government, the self-regulation of social media companies, or the self-censorship of individuals. At the heart of this insistence lie several false assumptions, including a sentiment that Westboro members would readily recognize: We have nothing to learn from these people.”

Westboro’s flawed but certain human nature led them to paint many a false picture of reality, but none quite so damaging as the above. The idea that we should ever put our certainty above our need for compassion and communication is akin to holding our certainty that bear-shaped rock will eat us above our family’s need for food.

Thus, it was time for the final phase of the Hero’s Journey. The return to the ordinary world. However, unlike most heroes, this one never set out to protect/restore the ordinary world’s status quo. For Phelps-Roper, the status quo is not something to be protected and/or restored, but transformed. In fact, I’m sure if we asked her, she would say that the special world she’d entered into transformed into the ordinary world around her as she herself transformed through raising doubt above certainty.

Now, she must embark on a whole new Hero’s Journey. The journey home– back into the old status quo, equipped with the elixir to turn the status quo on its head and transform it.

That story may yet remain largely unwritten, but the ending of this one offers glimpses of what’s to come with Megan returning home to face her dying grandfather, only to find that he had already transformed on his own without her. What follows is one of the most touching scenes I’ve ever read in non-fiction, but I wouldn’t dare spoil it here.

In closing, Phelps-Roper leaves us with another touching scene in which she and her sister purchase ad space outside Westboro to communicate a message that only their family left on the inside would understand, “Goldbugs forever,” and a solemn hope for a transformative future.

We all like to believe that if we were drawn or born into an extreme ideology, we would be like Megan. We would have the courage and good sense to criticize the wrongdoing around us and rise above our own flawed nature to challenge and transform a harmful status quo, but the truth is most of us wouldn’t.

We wander beaten paths, following in the footsteps of many. We are content with our safety in numbers, certain it’s US who are right in our ordinary world, and THEM who are wrong in their special world.

I’d like to leave you with a reflection on the current tribalistic state of the world. The impulse to collapse under the weight of our own certainty and conform into a paradigm of “Us” versus “Them” are stronger than ever.

It’s a terrifying, uncertain world out there, and those who beckon, “Come join us. We are certain. We are safe. They have nothing to offer,” are becoming easier and easier to follow into certain hell.

But if we pay attention to the world around us and listen for our calls to action, we all can walk our own Hero’s Journey. We can develop new skills. We can unearth new artifacts. We can change the status quo. We can make the special world ordinary, or the ordinary world special.

This is how we change minds.

This is how we become heroes.

This is how we save the world.

RE: Jason Molina

A tribute to an amazing musician.

How did I live without Songs: Ohia in my life?

Been a bizarre experience of both knowing and not knowing Jason Molina. It’s strange to me that someone was making such beautiful music so close to where I’ve lived, who I never heard until earlier this year. Listening to his music and learning about him was very uplifting, and strangely empowering by the proximity.

But then my heart was crushed when I learned he’d died a few years ago. It was like experiencing a whole life’s relationship with an artist in the space of a week. Suppose we do that all the time really, but it usually just passes right by masked by things like distance, disinterest, and disassociation with death. It’s rare you look it in the face as it passes, but that’s what it feels like I did.

It’s difficult to describe how it all makes me feel. Bit like when I was a child and first met death. Must’ve liked me because it’s followed me ever since. Not in a creepy way, but more like a good friend pushing me on through life who I could appreciate the experience much more for being there. It’s terrifying to turn back and look into its face, but beautiful at the same time. I’ve never been very afraid of it, I could stare all day at my own, it’s others’ that scare me.

RE: Transcult

An analysis of the trans community through the lens of Steven Hasan’s BITE Model.

Steven Hassan’s BITE (Behavior, Information, Thought, and Emotion Control) model has become the standard tool used in analysis of groups perceived to be cults.

This article is going to explore the BITE model point-by-point and analyze what anti-trans activists have been known to call the Transcult.

Before we begin though, we should establish who exactly this group we’re examining actually is.

Immediately, we are met with a challenge in that there is no centralized leadership to this group, and depending on the person hurling the accusation, “transcult” could refer to the entire trans community, anyone who is trans, trans activists/orgs only, or perhaps only segments of any of the above populations. Considering that I have been labeled a member of the transcult and am even on @CultBlockerPro on twitter, a service which automatically blocks “trans cultists,” I must default to analyzing the trans community as a whole.

Behavior Control

Promote dependence and obedience

It would be fair to say the trans community does enforce obedience to some degree, but does not promote dependence. Many unspoken rules are set on ways which we must identify ourselves and one another. Simply calling yourself a transwoman (or heaven forbid, someone else) without the space or agreeing that trans people should be treated any differently than anyone else on the basis of their natal sex can earn you the community’s chagrin.

Modify behavior with rewards and punishments

I think we’re all familiar with the phrase, “stunning and brave” in reference to trans people, which goes to show how prevalent this system of reward actually is, though you’ll only hear things like this when transwomen are behaving appropriately by calling ourselves women. When we behave inappropriately, we are called things like “truscum”, “TERF”, “quisling”, “self-hating”, “deluded”, and/or accused of internalized transphobia as forms of punishment.

Dictate where and with whom you live

This point I’ve never seen any instances of, but I’d be interested to hear about it if anyone has.

Restrict or control sexuality

Toward its members, the trans community is very free when it comes to sexuality. The attitude that sexuality and gender are not linked in any way is very prevalent. In this regard, I’d say no, the trans community does not restrict or control sexuality of its members. However, how we communicate about it is restricted, for instance a transwoman could never openly identify as homosexual and date men without expecting some form of behavior modification, though identifying as homosexual and dating women would be perfectly fine.

Control clothing and hairstyle

Our clothing and hairstyle is controlled, to be sure, but I’d say that comes from society’s enforcement of gender rather than being enforced in any way within the trans community. Non-conformity is actually a lot more celebrated in our community than is perceived from the outside.

Regulate what and how much you eat and drink

Nope, definitely not.

Deprive you of seven to nine hours of sleep

Only through my own anxiety over the behavior of our community and activists who wave our flags around.

Exploit you financially

This isn’t something that the trans community as a whole does, but certainly pockets do, though far more often than not, this exploitation is for a good cause that goes to helping people in need, so I’d not even call it exploitation so much as empathy and sharing opportunity.

Restrict leisure time and activities

Nope, not at all. For several years following transition, I had nothing to do with the trans community at all and literally no one cared. I’d say there is a sense of urgency we all experience to speak out and have our voices heard in our movements, but there is no force compelling us to but our own drive to be seen an understood by the world.

Require you to seek permission for major decisions

In some fringe cases, this might be true, but on the whole, I’ve never experienced anything at all like this.

Information Control

Deliberately withhold and distort information

There are certain things the trans community certainly doesn’t like being talked about. Among them being detransition, desistence, typology, questions over the handling of our rights, and anything that makes us seem different/other compared to anyone opposite our natal sex. For the most part though, I’d not call what I see deliberate withholding/distortion so much as just many trans people/activists quite honestly not being very well educated on these difficult topics. I’d advise exercising patience when it comes to talking about these things. Have some empathy and try to build understanding. These things are important to talk about, but very difficult for us, for what I would hope are obvious reasons.

Forbid you from speaking with ex-members and critics

This ties in well with the previous point. Yes, this does happen with regard to ex-members too often, which I’m sad to say leaves them ostracized. I’d say we need to be there for them and support them. They’re still part of our community and deserve our respect and support in what’s probably the most difficult time in their entire lives. Myself and many others would like to see this change. These are all community dynamics though, and not enforced by any centralized authority, they just tend to happen, therefore I’d say not very cult-like. As for critics– there’s much debate over this. Equal numbers would say our critics should be engaged with so we can build bridges to understanding with them as would say they should *not* be engaged with and all bridges should be burned. C’est la vie? Not a cult.

Discourage access to non-cult sources of information

This one’s fair to say does happen, in line with the previous two points, though again I maintain that it follows since these are all issues based in community dynamics and difficulties handling self-critique and does not come from any top-down directive or anything of the sort, it’s hard to make a fair argument this is cult-like.

Divide information into Insider vs. Outsider doctrine

This is a clear yes, and it’s something I deeply dislike about the trans community. There is a deeply ingrained “us vs them” mentality that leads both trans people and activists to view anyone expressing concerns over issues as enemies. Too often, they are far too quick to label the “enemy” as TERF/bigot and use this to control discourse. These are dirty tactics that myself and many other members of the trans community do disagree with, though in the eyes of some of the most extreme-minded among us, opposition to their tactics in and of itself can leave you seen as an enemy. This returns to the earlier points on behavior control, where people like myself are labeled with all manner of aspersions and ostracized from the community.

Generate and use propaganda extensively

This one’s difficult to say, as what would count as propaganda is really subjective. I’d say yes, certain activists/orgs do very much engage in propaganda campaigns, but does the trans community as a whole? I don’t think so, though I’m sure someone could see even my article here as propaganda so who knows!

Use information gained in confession sessions against you

We don’t have confession sessions, so no? Though I’d say I’ve certainly seen DMs and such used against people online. I think that’s typical of most any online community though. There’s never not drama.

Gaslight to make you doubt your own memory

When it comes to the behavior of activists toward their “enemies” outside the community, I’ve seen quite a bit of this, but this aspect of the BITE model is about in-group brainwashing. There’s little to none of that. Sure, there’s the people who like to deny their biological sex and any nuance that comes with it and will give me crap for publicly speaking about the fact I’m male, but as I’ve experienced things, they’re not nearly as prevalent as outsiders like to believe. That’s a loud, extremist fringe of our community. The majority of us are reasonable and realistic about our differences and would never gaslight anyone, inside or outside the community.

Require you to report thoughts, feelings, & activities to superiors

Thank goodness, no… I want nothing to do with authority figures. In fact, I kind of abhor society’s tendency to grant power of authority to celebrity figures. Caitlyn Jenner is not Queen of the Trans People, who cares what she thinks? For goodness sake, stop putting her on television. She’s rich and powerful enough as is. Sorry, just had to have a bit of a rant there.

Encourage you to spy and report on others’ “misconduct”

Again, no, though certain vindictive extremist pockets of the community might engage in this sort of behavior, it isn’t terribly common, especially not from authority figures. I can think of only one trans authority figure who has been problematic in this regard. On the whole, I’d say that the trans community is very free when it comes to information and ideas. I’ve had many healthy, respectful debates among my trans peers over our differing philosophies and experiences of the world. There certainly are pockets that dislike this sort of thing and find it unhealthy/othering, freak out, block you over it, etc. but I and many others would say they’re wrong to do so. So long as there’s a healthy battle of words, and there is, we are clearly a community, and not a cult.

Thought Control

Instill Black vs. White, Us vs. Them, & Good vs. Evil thinking

Unfortunately, yes. There is far too much of this in the trans community. It’s something I firmly believe needs to change. It isn’t good for us. Humans are naturally tribalistic. We all want to be part of a team, and we want our team to win. In that, it’s easy to internalize these attitudes. It’s part of a broader sickness growing in humanity with the rise of social media, particularly Twitter, and I think it’s something we all need to be critical of in every one of our communities.

Change your identity, possibly even your name

Erm.. Well, that’s just part of being trans. It’s not a requirement for anyone, but of course we do it as part of transition. Bit ridiculous to label it cult-like though, I think. It’s not like we’re forced to. It’s something that makes us feel better about ourselves. I didn’t jump off this bridge because everyone else did. I did it because it’s been good for me. I never expected to find all these others swimming in the water here with me, but here we are!

Use loaded language and cliches to stop complex thought

Yes. Of all the points on the BITE model, I think this one is most accurate to the trans community. The “trans women are women” mantra, while something I agree with in certain political aspects, is unfortunately too often weaponized to stop complex thought. When the answer to complex questions about trans issues becomes, “trans women are women and if you disagree with me you are a TERF/bigot,” we have a very big problem. Even if “trans women are women and cis women are women” is a true statement, within it we have acknowledged a great deal of difference. We may as well translate it to, “male women are women and female women are women” to properly understand it. Like it our not, our biological sex and all the experiences/nuance that comes with it does matter and I find it important to defer to our differences when we discuss complex topics. To deny them isn’t only foolish, it denies the entire depth and breadth of our pre-transition experiences; our entire dysphoric life histories. It needs to stop.

Induce hypnotic or trance states to indoctrinate

Nope, not in my experience. In fact I’ve never experienced anything I’d call “indoctrination” at all, only that I struggled in a horrific war with my own body that I sought, and sought, and sought treatment for; I tried everything, no treatment helped but transition very much did.

Teach thought-stopping techniques to prevent critical thoughts

This doesn’t seem so much of a problem with the trans community as it’s a problem with social justice activists. They’re the same ones who tend to take the “trans women are women” mantra far too far and weaponize it as I’ve described above. You’ll see them behaving the same way in all forms of social justice activism, “If a woman/trans person/person of color/etc is speaking, shut up and listen.” I’ve seen several documents written, tossing about dictation on how people should behave when in the presence of any given group that read exactly the same in spite of the fact each is about a different group. It’s an awful, divisive form of activism and I’m not here for it, no matter what form it takes.

Allow only positive thoughts

This one’s fair to peg on the trans community, but I think it’s with the best intentions. A problem I’ve seen is an unwillingness to be critical of our own. I’m not a fan of blindly believing the best in everyone calling themselves part of the trans community. There’s this incredibly regressive idea that our group can/has/could never do wrong. But that simply is not true. We are human, and as such we are flawed. We make mistakes. We need to be willing to own them and be critical of them. Thankfully, these days I’m seeing more and more of that and fewer and fewer uncritical blind eyes.

Use excessive meditation, singing, prayer, & chanting to block thoughts

Hmm.. The only example I can think of here is again the “trans women are women” mantra, which truthfully is more intended to be a counter to the hurtful idea we are men than anything, but as I’ve discussed activists do take it too far too often. I’m sure there are other examples you might find here and there at protests and the like especially, but would you ever call them “excessive”? I think not. They’re fringe.

Reject rational analysis, critical thinking, & doubt

This is one we are split on. As I’ve said previously, I’ve had a lot of healthy, respectful, rational debates with members of the trans community. You’ll find one faction that celebrates all of the above, and another that rejects them.

Emotional Control

Instill irrational fears (phobias) of questioning or leaving the group

This doesn’t seem common, but I’m sure that it does happen, especially when it comes to people considering detransitioning, but I think when that happens it isn’t driven by malicious intent, and instead more often driven by concern for the individual. We might fear someone’s detransition will lead them back to living in constant dysphoric distress or just generally be detrimental to their well-being. I don’t think any of that’s irrational, and I’m sure that it’s exactly what the detransitioner is struggling with themselves. The concern’s valid, but when you think about it, it really only adds to their burden. I’d say the proper response should be to give them all the support and positivity we can muster.

Label some emotions as evil, worldly, sinful, or wrong

Emotions? No, I’d not say anything emotional is restricted by the trans community in any way, unless you count fringe extremists who attempt to enforce that very narrow-minded and misguided view that anyone calling themselves trans can do no wrong and we must be positive and uncritical about ourselves at all times! They’re a bit nuts, I think most anyone would agree.

Teach emotion-stopping techniques to prevent anger, homesickness

Again no, I don’t think either of these apply. I could draw some abstractions, but honestly I don’t think that would be worth my time or yours.

Promote feelings of guilt, shame, & unworthiness

I’m going to be very honest here. Yes, I’m of the mind that the beliefs of too much of the trans community do promote all of the above. In our quests from AMAB/AFAB to becoming women/men, we are at impossible odds, as sex is ultimately immutable, and there’s only so far our transformations can carry us. It helps us a great deal, but it isn’t perfect, and there’s a lot of complexity and nuance that is a constant burden on us, which we are made to feel guilt and shame over. We are taught that our differences are bad. Being “other” is shameful. That living with our differences somehow means we are unworthy of womanhood. I don’t think that’s true at all. I think our experience has a lot to bring to the table. We can speak of what it’s like to walk the world being perceived as both men and women. With that, comes so much complexity I find worth celebrating that too many of us deny. I don’t think this is driven by any kind of cult mentality though, it’s a natural extension of dysphoria. It’s us pathologizing society, and taking our need to pass and be included as women and men too far, to the detriment of both ourselves and society. I’m very critical of myself in this regard and encourage all other trans people to be also. I’ve found that most of us truly are self-critical, it’s the activists waving our flags around who engage in the vast majority of the denial of our differences. We can only hope they listen to us and learn something one day.

Shower you with praise and attention (“love bombing”)

Stunning and brave.

Threaten your friends and family

This certainly happens. It hasn’t happened to me personally, but I have friends it has happened to. Actions like this are nearly universally condemned across the trans community, but individuals and pockets of extremists will engage in this kind of crap. It’s so ugly, but I’m proud of how critical the community as a whole is of anyone engaging in it.

Shun you if you disobey or disbelieve

Yes, again going back to the behavioral control we see from certain extremist pockets of the community.

Teach that there is no happiness or peace outside the group

The only way I can see this applying is again to detransitioners, who might be told they’ll never find peace by detransitioning by people with good intentions who pave the road to hell with them.

Conclusion

And that’s that! The whole BITE model.

So, what do you think? Is the trans community a cult?

On the whole, I’d say certainly not, but we do have a lot of concerning behavior in pockets of our community worth criticizing. You may disagree, and if so I welcome your disagreement (on this point or any other I’ve written here) and am happy to discuss this further.

From my experience of things, it seems far more accurate to declare that there are cults of personality within the trans community that coalesce around certain figures, activists, and orgs and share ideas in echo chambers whilst blocking out any critical voices that might rattle their walls.

As I alluded to earlier, this kind of thing is a sickness we can see springing up all across humanity, in most all of our endeavors recently. Look any discourse over most any political alignment. Western society is deeply divided generally right now. We have a multitude of gaps to bridge, and too many people who are only interested in burning bridges rather than building them. This is way bigger than what we see happening within the trans community.

It’s everywhere, in all things, and I’d say that every community should be mindful of this sort of thing and be willing to apply a critical eye and analyze itself with tools like the BITE model.

I hope that the points of concern I’ve raised can help us build a better community that will move out into our divided world and work to mend those divides rather than deepen them.

RE: He Who Must Not Be Named

Avada Kedavra

I’ve been suspended from twitter for 7 days for “hateful conduct”.

I’m not going to lie, I said some hateful things about He Who Must Not Be Named. Even typing his name can get you banned from some platforms.

I spoke to concerns I have over the diluting of “trans woman” to mean “anybody who identifies as one” because that’s asking me to accept someone on the basis of faith.

For your benefit, here is the thread I was suspended over.

You’ll find there’s a tweet missing that I was forced to delete in order to begin the 7 day countdown on my suspension.

In this tweet, I spoke directly to He Who Must Not Be Named and said I don’t trust him. I explained how I see him from my perspective, a “perverted, misogynistic man who is pretending to be trans to exploit a poorly designed law and abuse women”.

Is what I said the truth? By no means can I know that, and as you can see in the remnant of my thread, I strongly hope I’m wrong. I’d hoped to discuss this with He Who Must Not Be Named, but have subsequently been tagged as hateful and silenced for 7 days on one of the world’s biggest social platforms.

This presents are serious problem. I have genuine concerns I’m unable to speak to and no one seems interested in addressing them. I’m being punished for questioning something subjective and faith-based.

Whether I’m right or not, He Who Must Not Be Named represents a serious threat to the trans community we need to talk about. So let’s disconnect ourselves from personal feelings about this individual and look at the broader threat.

Let’s face it, if trans people are being defined on the basis of self-identity, then accepting what we are is a matter of faith.

Socially, this idea is workable. I’m happy to accept anyone who says they’re trans actually is. I have faith in people generally like that. But it’s dangerous to enable it through laws and policies.

If being trans is a matter of faith, then we must recognize faith is something that can be manipulated and take a measured approach to prevent that manipulation. The direction we’re moving in is the opposite.

I’ve written about “Turd Flinging Monkey” on twitter, but never in my blog.

Have a watch. Here’s a wicked man who has recognized this same truth and is advocating others like him manipulate it to their ends. This one’s an anti-feminist ideologue who’s pushing a movement to manipulate faith in trans identities to undermine feminism and cause it to “eat itself”. I could show you dozens more examples.

It’s frustrating, I know, but we have to face it, everyone.

These people exist. They behave like terrorists, and we must take care to not enable them.

This is also empirically evident all around the world. Wicked men everywhere manipulate forces to direct faith toward them for personal/political/financial gains. Look no further than your nearest televangelist or politician for proof of this theory.

Our world leaders often invoke faith in order to justify the horrible things they do. “I prayed about this,” they’ll say, or “God is on our side.”

That may pull the wool over the eyes of some sheep, but not me. I see right through it to the wicked heart of it all.

It’s powerful, dark magic.

My invocation of Harry Potter as I say “He Who Must Not Be Named” is appropriate. If He Who Must Not Be Named is invoking faith as I’m describing here, to manipulate people’s concern and sympathies toward wicked purposes, I’m here to say, full stop, it’s wrong, and I pray such people will not be allowed to get away with this.

As I’ve said in my tweets though, ultimately, it’s not my place to judge.

Some things are best left to God.

RE: RuPaul and the Participation of Women in Drag Race

An exploration of the recent controversy behind RuPaul’s commentary on bio queen and transgender women’s participation in RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Last week, RuPaul told The Guardian, “Drag loses its sense of danger and its sense of irony once it’s not men doing it, because at its core it’s a social statement and a big f-you to male-dominated culture. So for men to do it, it’s really punk rock, because it’s a real rejection of masculinity.”

In this statement, it is made clear that what are sometimes referred to as “faux queens” or “bio queens” are not welcome to participate in RuPaul’s Drag Race.

In a followup question, Decca Aitkenhead of The Guardian asked, “So how can a transgender woman be a drag queen?”

To which RuPaul responded, “Mmmm. It’s an interesting area. Peppermint didn’t get breast implants until after she left our show; she was identifying as a woman, but she hadn’t really transitioned.”

Decca continued, “Would you accept a contestant who had? ”

“Probably not. You can identify as a woman and say you’re transitioning, but it changes once you start changing your body. It takes on a different thing; it changes the whole concept of what we’re doing. We’ve had some girls who’ve had some injections in the face and maybe a little bit in the butt here and there, but they haven’t transitioned.”

In a followup tweet which has sparked a great deal of outrage, RuPaul tweeted:

Before I speak to this topic, let me just go ahead and deplatform myself immediately in establishing that I am an outsider to queen culture.

Queen culture is something I have always avoided association with because I have never liked having who I am conflated with what I (and many others) have perceived as a male-exclusive form of artistic expression.

My life as a trans woman is not art nor entertainment for anyone.

I do not want to be on display. In fact, I want the opposite. I want to be myself and live a normal life free from the distress of being forced to live the life of a gender that I am not.

That distinction isn’t easy for many people to make. Just yesterday, an anti-trans activist compared me with Divine, who is best known for their role in John Waters’s Pink Flamingos.

We are not the same.

Avoiding that conflation has led me to avoid appreciation of the expression of the drag artform. I recognize myself as an outsider to this culture and approach my criticism to it as such.

As would be the case with any form of artistic expression, I feel that biologic sex should not matter in the expression of the form. Exclusion of women from queen expression strikes me as similar to excluding women from forms of artistic expression such as writing, painting, music, acting, comedy, etc.

One might say that women have the option to participate in king culture and to create caricatures of men to put on display on their own art, but it’s really not the same, and bio queens very much do exist. As I have come to understand drag, it is more about the expression of extreme femininity in queen culture and extreme masculinity in king culture. It is less about biology and more about the portrayal of a caricature. As such, I do not see why it would be problematic for anyone, in spite of sex or gender, to express themselves as a queen/king or participate in a competition such as RuPaul’s Drag Race.

In a piece by Kashmira Gander of The Independent in which Kashmira, a female at birth, explored the concept of women’s participation in queen culture by, herself, undergoing transformation into expression of the form as a caricature known as Trashmira, Kashmira wrote, “But a question remained. How can a woman be a drag queen, when a drag queen is a man dressed as a woman? This issue has divided the drag community – with bio, or “faux”, queens defending their right to perform alongside their male counterparts. The answer comes down to the fact that drag is about more than just a man wearing a dress, but about questioning gender stereotypes and the norms we are expected to conform to – norms that can stifle us all – all while putting on a blinding show.”

This attitude has brought me to view the artistic intent of drag in an entirely different light. If attitudes like this were more embraced toward queen culture and women were openly welcomed to participate in drag competitions, I would personally begin to find queen culture far more appealing.

Many have been outraged by RuPaul’s exclusionary statements regarding trans women in particular. Initially, I was not offended because I viewed queen culture through the frame that it was a male-only form of expression, as RuPaul himself appears to believe. But I then began to think about how sexist that sounded, a “male-only form of expression” and I began to consider that perhaps it may be time to re-evaluate our perceptions of queen and king culture. The issue here seems to me to be less about trans-exclusion and more about female exclusion.

What exactly precludes women from the expression of themselves as queens?

What exactly precludes men from the expression of themselves as kings?

I’m not convinced these questions have valid answers. I can only speak for myself as an outsider who has never appreciated the form. The boundaries we might construct in answering these questions are a detriment to the form. If we can push these boundaries, I know that I personally will become much more interested in these forms of expression because, as is true in most things, diversity brings strength to forms.

RE: Equanimity – Dave Chappelle Stand-up Special

Dave Chappelle’s recent Netflix special touches deeply on transgender topics and provides personal insights into his experience coming to terms with transgender people. This article will analyze and respond to this introspective journey into Chapelle’s worldview.

Trans people have existed in varying forms in every culture throughout the course of human history. Dysphoria has always been a part of the human condition.

It’s something that all people of all these cultures have had to come to terms with, and for many, it isn’t an easy bridge to cross.

Dave Chappelle said of us, in his special The Age of Spin, “They’ve got the longest mental gap to bridge.”

This comment, as well as a few other offending jokes in both this special, and the next which followed, Deep in the Heart of Texas has stirred up controversy in the media and in various trans/transactivist communities.

Personally, I thought both specials were hilarious and would recommend Age of Spin especially.

Here’s a thing about comedy:

All comedy transgresses.

By its very nature, comedy is an act of transgression. Either your expectations are transgressed as a clever comedian subverts them, your senses are transgressed as something comedic teases at them, or your personal life is transgressed in such ways that highlight relatable things you can look at in a different way after a comedian shuffles them about and reorders them to their own subjective liking.

Comedians walk this fine line of transgression in all of their work. At any moment, any thing they say and/or do could cross the line drawn between comedy and offense into dangerously transgressive territory.

As it turns out, though from my perspective, Chappelle’s above specials were quite good and transgressed without offending me, he did offend a lot of other trans people.

In Chapelle’s next special, Equinamity, he spoke to this experience:

But motherfuckers are just taking it too far. I don’t know why or how everybody got this goddamn sensitive. You know who hates me the most? The transgender community. Yo, yeah, these motherfuck– I mean, I didn’t realize how bad it was. These motherfuckers was really mad about that last Netflix special. It’s tough, man. I don’t know what to do about it ’cause… ‘Cause I like them. Always have. Never had a problem with them. You know. Just fucking around.

As he mentioned in his previous specials, Chappelle genuinely does not seem to be any sort of transphobe. He has built the bridge required to cross the mental gap he mentioned in Age of Spin and he has accepted us as a part of culture he doesn’t have a problem with. As such, he’s incorporated us into his comedic transgressions.

Equanimity, the word Chappelle employs in the naming of this special is defined as follows by Merriam-Webster:

Capture

Chappelle strives to maintain this equanimical balance in his transgressions as he works his way through many of the uncomfortable discussions western civilization currently faces.

A matter fact, I think I make fun of everybody. I mean, as a group of people, they have to admit that… it’s kind of fucking hilarious, man. I’m sorry, bro. It’s like… I’ve never seen somebody in such a hilarious predicament not have a sense of humor about it. They’re born feeling like they’re something other than they’re born as, and that’s… That’s kind of funny. I mean, it’s funny if it’s not happening to you.

I have long been of the mind that the world desperately needs transgender comedy. Preferably from a mainstream transgender comedian, but I think Chappelle’s voice is a good start. He’s absolutely right. Our predicament is hilarious, as most all human predicaments are. If we are so stressed in our predicaments that we can’t step back from them to allow a comedian to transgress upon them and make us laugh, then we have a problem.

And there’s the rub, transgressing upon the current transgender predicament can be a detriment to us if we aren’t equanamical. We trans folk suffer such horrendous attacks on our equanimity, that when a comedian transgresses upon it, any boundary they might cross risks causing distress.

From my own perspective, I greatly appreciated Chappelle’s specials because I am equanimical. I’ve had a wonderful life and for me, transition has been nothing but an uplifting, life-affirming, stress-free experience. My family, friends, co-workers, and communities have all accepted and embraced me as who I am. I’ve never once suffered any sort of serious conflict over gender identity with anyone in my life.

Online, sure, but I purposely seek out those conflicts myself in engagement with transphobes.

All-in-all, I have a great life and am not burdened by any form of stress centering on my gender post-transition.

Others aren’t so lucky.

For others, to transition is to suffer the slings and arrows of social outrage. It would have likely been the same uplifting, life-affirming, stress-free experience that it has been for me, but something went wrong for them.

Maybe the people in their lives rejected them. Maybe their social support structure collapsed. Maybe they lost access to the medical or psychological care they needed. Maybe they’ve fallen into poverty or even homelessness. Maybe they’ve been assaulted or abused.

Anything could happen.

Ours is not an easy road to travel.

However, in spite of the sensitivity I have to the feelings of trans people with regard to comedy, I do feel that Chappelle fields the topic well, because he turns the topic inward, and gives his audience a personal introspective of his own life’s journey in coming to terms with transgender people.

Chappelle continues:

It’s like that white black bitch that’s in the news all the time. Rachel Dolezal. She always says that. She– She– She was– She’s a white woman, but then she dressed up like a nigga and… shot her way up to the very top of blackness. And I always wanted to meet her just so I can understand. I just wanted to have dinner with her, so I can just look in her eyes… and call her a nigga to her face. What the fuck is that bitch talking about? “I identify as black.” That is trans-talk, lady. Stop biting. Stop biting. There’s a big difference between her and a trans. The difference between her and a trans is I believe transgenders. I don’t understand them either, but I know they mean what they say. Them niggas cut they dicks off. That’s all the proof I need. Never seen somebody just throw their dick away. Don’t need it. I don’t understand, but I believe you, and I support your decision, motherfucker. But how far is Rachel willing to go? Hmm? What is Rachel willing to do so that we blacks can believe that she believes she’s actually one of us? Bitch, are you willing to put a lien on your house? So that you can invest in a mix tape that probably won’t work out. She didn’t even change her name. Didn’t even change her name. Her name is Rachel. I can’t believe in that name. You want my support , you gonna have to change your name to the blackest shit I’ve ever heard. Bitch, you gonna have to change your name to Draymond Green. I don’t know a blacker name than that. That shit is black on paper. If you type “Draymond Green” in the Airbnb… that shit will log off automatic.

I’d like to, first of all, speak to Chappelle’s main point here, which I believe is to show that there is a big difference between identifying with a gender and identifying with a race.

Race is an arbitrary marker of culture.

It very much makes sense for people to appreciate and identify with cultures. It doesn’t make sense for people to identify as a race, because race is only an arbitrary marker of that culture. Sometimes cultures close themselves off, which is understandable, but in most, everyone can participate in and appreciate culture in spite of race as long as it’s done out of respect and with the purest intent.

Changing your skin color really doesn’t change any of that. It’s probably not going to gain you any sort of cultural acceptance. In fact, it runs you at great risk of cultural rejection.

So, when Chappelle criticizes Rachel Dolezal by saying, “That is trans-talk, lady. Stop biting. Stop biting. There’s a big difference between her and a trans.” I agree, but by completely different logic.

There is nothing physiological about feeling like another race. In fact, I’m not convinced a race is something anyone can feel like at all. Races are skin pigments which arbitrarily indicate culture.

Sexes are very different biologies with different physiologies and differing sensual, social, psychological, and emotional experiences of reality. I couldn’t live as the sex I was born into, so I’ve done everything to minimize it and live as a transwoman.

Aside from differing impacts by outside influences and perhaps an internalization of heritage, can it really *feel* that different to be another race? If so, would these feelings ever create such distress in someone as to disrupt function and necessitate a racial transition?

I’m skeptical.

Though I am open-minded.

If you disagree, I’d love to hear your opinion.

People get mad, bro. People get mad about everything I say. I was doing a show. I was in Portland, Oregon. And I was checked in a hotel under the name Charles Edward Cheese. I came back to my room late at night… and there was a note. It was like a letter on my desk. It was addressed to “Mr. Cheese.” So, obviously, I’m gonna assume that whoever wrote this letter must be an intimate friend. This is not some kind of name that a person would just guess. But then I open the letter, and it turns out I don’t know this person at all. It’s a fan letter. I’m not even used to the idea that I have fans, but I’m grateful for it. And… And even though I’m grateful for fans, I… I don’t read those letters. Be nice if I did, but realistically, it’s like, “What am I, Santa Claus, nigga? I don’t have time for this. Got shit I wanna do. I’m trying to chill.” Read all these dreams and wishes from strangers. But then– But I read it. I’d already opened it, so I just read the whole letter. And you know what, man? Whoever wrote this letter truly loves me. I mean, they were really fucking nice in the letter. And then they described to me what it was like to come to the show. How excited they were and how much fun they were having. And then they said… that when I got to my jokes about transgenders… that they were quote, “devastated.” ‘Cause turns out that whoever wrote the letter was transgender.
I’m gonna be real for a second. As a policy, you gotta understand, I never feel bad about anything I say up here. And I would never admit this to you if I hadn’t locked your phones up. But it was the weirdest thing, like when I read this letter…the shit made me feel bad. I didn’t feel bad about what I said, you understand. I felt bad that I made somebody else feel bad.
But I feel like… I feel like it was probably… this joke I’m about to tell you right now.

Chappelle rebounds from the empathy and introspection above and goes on to tell an unapologetic joke about Caitlyn Jenner, which I’ve spared you in this text. I’d personally never heard of Jenner prior to her transition and I don’t have feelings one way or the other over her. The thing that bugs me is just that people have for some bizarre reason crowned her queen of the trans people.

Chappelle shares his perspective as someone who knew Jenner prior to transition. As such, her transition was a shock, as it was to many, to his worldview. It’s almost traumatic to some degree, certainly for atheletes who may have at one point idolized or positioned Jenner as a role model.

It’s a lot to come to terms with for some.

I can see how someone could see this joke as terribly offensive, but my takeaway is that Jenner’s shock to Chappelle’s worldview was the beginning of his journey to coming to terms with transgender people and, ultimately, he worked that out via comedy.

I don’t know what I said that upset that person. But I’m gonna tell you something. When I read that letter… in the moments after I read it, I did something that many black men in America do not have the time or the money to do. I thought about how I felt. Asked myself a very basic question that I don’t think I ever directly contemplated. I said, “Man, Dave, if you’re writing all these jokes, do you have a problem with transgender people?” And the answer is absolutely not. The fuck you guys think I am? I don’t understand all the choices that people make. But I do understand that life is hard, and that those types of choices do not disqualify you from a life with dignity and happiness and safety in it. But if I’m honest… my problem has never been with transgender people. My problem has always been with the dialogue about transgender people.

Chappelle makes great points above and I will let them speak for themselves.

He continues, to make some terrible, but true, points:

I just feel like these things should not be discussed in front of the blacks. It’s fucking insulting, all this talk about how these people feel inside. Since when has America given a fuck how any of us feel inside? And I cannot shake this awful suspicion that the only reason everybody is talking about transgenders is because white men want to do it. That’s right. I just said that. If it was just women that felt that way or black dudes and Mexican dudes being like, “Hey, ya’ll, we feel like girls inside.” They’d be like, “Shut up, nigger. No one asked you how you felt. Come on, everybody, we have strawberries to pick.” It reeks of white privilege. You never asked yourself why it was easier for Bruce Jenner to change his gender than it was for Cassius Clay to change his fucking name?

My main criticism of Chappelle’s position here is that black people transition too and he seems to have forgotten about them in the framing of this statement.

However, the rest of what he says does have a ring of truth to the dark heart of America and I believe Chappelle’s apparent lack of empathy for those of his own race who transition is a symptom of that very issue.

DISCLAIMER: I am not anti-capitalist, though what follows here and elsewhere in this article explores criticisms to capitalism. Critique of capitalism is not anti-capitalism.

Where Chappelle remains wrapped up in racism with a twinge of transphobia in forming this idea, I point my finger to capitalism, where the blame belongs.

If the most privileged among us didn’t want to transition, transgender people would never be accepted in capitalist society.

It shouldn’t be that way.

Everyone should have access to the care they need and all of our concerns toward those cares should be considered equally in a Democracy.

Capitalism has stifled Democracy.

Figures like Jenner carry much more weight in public consciousness than anyone else ever could because capitalism has deemed it so.

It’s about time we had a reigniting of Democracy in America.

And if I were to be brutally honest… the only reason I ever have been mad at the transgender community, is because I was at a club in LA and danced with one of these niggas for six songs straight. I had no idea. Then the lights came up and I saw them knuckles. I said, “Oh, no!” And everybody was laughing at me. WorldStar.
I said, “Why didn’t you say anything?” Then I heard that sultry voice. “I didn’t say anything, Dave Chappelle, because I was having a wonderful time. And I wasn’t sure how you’d feel about it.” I said, “You knew how I’d feel.” And she said, “I’m going home. I don’t want any trouble from you.” I said, “Home? It’s only two songs left. I mean, we might as well… finish the night.”And we ended up having breakfast together. Oh, grow up. That doesn’t make me gay. I just titty-fuck them. Those titties are as real as any titties in LA. It was two o’clock in the morning. I was just borrowing a little friction from a stranger. Whoops! It’s the madness of youth. It’s the types of mistakes a man makes when he’s young. I wouldn’t even know that it’s necessarily a mistake. It was a wild night out. But I don’t do it like that anymore.

Remember, this is an introspective journey Chappelle is taking us through. He expresses transphobia comically here, but he expresses it in reflection on his past self, which he acknowledges to be foolish.

His past self’s transphobic reaction to the woman he was dancing with, however, is one that I would like to speak to.

For Chappelle, who had at that time in his life not yet come to terms with transgender people, the experience of not knowing, but enjoying his time with a transgender person was quite a shock for him.

The experience Chappelle relays here is a microcosmic view of an experience I have had in entirely different, non-sexual contexts, with many transphobic people in my own life.

In the majority of my career, I have never disclosed the fact that I’m transgender to any employers or co-worker but in moments of my choosing. I’ve also worked with a great many people and customers in both my life’s work and my career who have appreciated my efforts on their behalf and have never once called into question the validity of my womanhood.

I have always just been Ella to these people.

In many moments, I have known exactly how someone might feel.

I have encountered a great deal of transphobia in my life, but none of it has ever been directed at me. It’s always something I overhear, directed at no one in particular, or at someone else.

Often, I never come to know someone holds those sorts of feelings until after I have known them and/or worked closely with them for a year or more.

This leaves me in a powerful position to combat transphobia, like the woman Chappelle danced with, I’ve just had a wonderful time helping others in my career and I choose to not share the fact that I am transgender with most along the way because I don’t know how anyone will feel and I don’t feel it demands mentioning.

It’s scary every single time, but my reaction to encountering such external transphobia is to come out to the person expressing transphobia.

Such experiences have a healing effect over transphobia.

Again, I have only ever been Ella to such people, a hard working, respectable woman.

The idea that I could be anyone else is impossible for them to grasp.

They consider this, and it re-shapes their thinking.

Because the truth is, having known me as they have, the idea that I could ever be a man is foreign to them.

They realize that if I were to “de-transition” and would become a man, this would invoke a similar negative reaction in them to the reaction they would have if they’d known me in the first place. They would have to begin using a new name and new pronouns. The process would be exhausting for them and they would be equally inclined to not participate.

My coming out in this way tends to bring transphobes to terms with transgender people.

As I said, this is a scary thing to do, but I would encourage any trans person lucky enough to find themselves in the types of positions I’m describing to do as I have done when you encounter external transphobia among those with whom you interact with regularly.

It can work wonders.

In Chappelle’s comedy, he relays this experience well, through the lens of sexual comedy.

He shows himself encountering and then overcoming transphobia to finish the wonderful night he was having with the trans woman he’d met and he scolds his audience for any notion that might form that this is a homosexual act.

Chappelle is not gay, he’s had straight male interaction with a transwoman.

His view here says all we need to know about whether or not Chappelle is transphobic any longer.

Chapelle ends his special with this:

You know, I’m gonna give you a history lesson, ’cause I’m sure this wasn’t on your entry exam. But every naturalized American has heard something about what I’m about to tell you. Picture, it’s the early ’50s in the United States. This 14-year-old boy goes down… from Chicago to Mississippi to meet his extended family for the first time. He’d never been to Mississippi. And before he went, his mother said to him, very pointedly, she said, “If a white man looks you in your eyes in Mississippi, look away.” And I don’t know what you know about black people from Chicago, but they’re not a scared people. Legend has it, he was in front of a convenience store, hanging out with his cousins, having a good time, and a white woman walked out of the store, and he thought she was pretty, and he said… [wolf whistles] “Bye, baby.” Not realizing that he had just made a fatal mistake.
Four days later… Four days later, a group of adult white men burst into this family’s home and snatched a 14-year-old boy out of bed, in front of his family that was powerless to stop them, and he was never seen alive again. His name was Emmett Till.
They found his body maybe a few days later. It was in a creek, tied to a wheel so it would sink, horribly beaten and bloated. Hideous. And lucky for everybody in America… his mother was a fucking gangster. She was. If you can imagine , in the very midst of a mother’s worst nightmare, this woman had the foresight to think about everybody. She said, “Leave my son’s casket open.” She said, “The world needs to see what they did to my baby.” And every publication here in the United States, from Jet magazine all the way to the New York Times, had this boy’s horribly bloated body on its cover. And if our Civil Rights Movement was a car, this boy’s dead body was premium gas. This was a very definitive moment in American history, where every thinking and feeling person was like… “Yuck! We gotta do better than this.”
And they fought beautifully, and here we all are.
And the reason that I bring that up tonight and why it’s relevant now, is because less than a year ago, the woman that he allegedly whistled at… admitted on her deathbed… that she lied in her court testimony. And you can imagine, when we read that shit, we was like, “Ooh! You lying-ass, bitch.” Was furious. That was my initial reaction. And initial reactions, we all learned as we get older, are often wrong or more often incomplete. They call this phenomenon “standing too close to an elephant.” The analogy being that if you stand too close to an elephant, you can’t see the elephant. All you see is its penis-like skin. You gotta step back and give it a better look.
And on stepping back and thinking about it for a few moments, I realized that it must have been very difficult for this woman to tell a truth that heinous about herself at any point in her life.
Even the very end.
And I was grateful that she had the courage to tell it before she left this world. Because it’s an important truth and we needed to know. And I said to myself, “Well, thank you for telling the truth… you lying-ass bitch.” And then time goes on, and then after time, you can kind of see the whole elephant. And it’s humbling. ‘Cause you realize that this woman lied and that lie caused a murder. But that murder set in motion a sequence of events that made my wonderful life possible. That made this very night possible. How could this be that this lie could make the world a better place? It’s maddening.
And that’s how I feel about this president. I feel like this motherfucker might be the lie that saves us all. Because I have never felt more American than when we all hate on this motherfucker together.
Jesus Christ. It’s good.
And when it happens, I can see everybody that’s stuggling. So if I’m on stage and I tell a joke that makes you want to beat up a transgender, then you’re probably a piece of shit and don’t come see me anymore. Or if you don’t understand that when a football player takes a knee during the national anthem, he’s actually standing up for me, then you might not want to fuck with me anymore. ‘Cause I swear no matter how bad it gets, you’re my countrymen, and I know for a fact that I’m determined to work shit out with y’all. And if that woman that said that heinous lie was alive today, I would thank her for lying.
And then I would kick her in the pussy.

Chappelle tells the story of Emmett Till, who died a tragic death after 21-year old Carolyn Bryant claimed the then 14-year old Till made sexual advances toward her.

This led to Till’s kidnapping and brutal murder and his mother showed the world what the racists had done to her child.

In Carolyn Bryant since confessed that the accusation she made against Till, which led to his death, was false.

Rosa Parks is said to have had Till on her mind in December 1955 when she refused give up her bus seat in Montgomery, Alabama, kickstarting nationwide protests.

The killing has been the subject of a play by the Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, it has inspired a myriad of stories, poetry by Langston Hughes and Gwendolyn Brooks, Elizabeth Alexander, Jericho Brown, and even a song by Bob Dylan.

This lie, which sparked this horrific tragedy, led, somehow, to such great healing for our nation.

Chappelle ends by tying this to President Trump, calling him, quite aptly in my opinion, “The lie that saves us all.”

Donald Trump, with his air of capitalism has become a symbol for the people to unite against.

A common capitalist adversary to overcome.

And I have seen it spark Democracy the likes of which I haven’t seen in America in my entire life. The kind of Democracy I’ve only heard stories about from times before I was born.

It feels so good to see Americans being American again.

We are coming together.

We are finding common ground.

We are becoming a Democracy again.

We all know the truth of Donald Trump’s campaign slogan isn’t that he is going to Make America Great Again™, it’s that we are, in uniting to face the adversary of Democracy.

Chappelle closes with slaying a few adversaries of his own, in calling out any transphobe who might read a hateful message in his comedy and later unleash it as abuse against a transgender person.

He tells it like it is.

He shows us the whole elephant.

They aren’t worthy of his transgressions.