the hahas

Was David Letterman’s Joke About Amanda Simpson Transphobic? Or Actually a Compliment?

David Letterman, the late night comic who makes the jokes, evidently approved this brilliant number to come out of the writer’s room: After noting Obama appointed transgender woman Amanda Simpson to an administration post, announcer Alan Kalter would act all disgusted about how she “used to be a dude.” The activist clique is gonna get furious over this one and start calling for Letterman’s head. Which is totally their right! But if they’re willing to give Letterman a smidge of a pass, there’s another way of taking this joke:

By understanding the funny part is about Simpson being hot. Which — have you seen her? — she is. And that she’s accomplished passing as a woman — the ultimate goal of so many transgender women. If Kalter was fantasizing about her (thus, his being so upset upon learning she was born a man), that means her transition was that good.

Or, you know: OFF WITH HIS HEAD!

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  • Fitz

    Or think of it as an inoculation. He was going to say something. Everyone is. It’s a big deal. Now it’s done, and old news.

  • hardmannyc

    Your take is right, but the joke still backfired big time. Letterman’s feet will be in the fire over this one until he apologizes — again: remember Bristol Palin, his own affairs, etc. etc.

  • Mike in Asheville, nee "in Brooklyn"

    I watched the Letterman clip. I laughed; am I bad?

  • Miss Understood

    It’s offensive but also totally uncreative. We see this same tired story over and over and over again: The Crying Gamce, Crocodile Dundee, etc. In reality many straight identified men fetishize transgender women. They may be to “closeted” to date them but they are obsessed with sleeping with them. Generally the men who go home with trannys absolutely know what’s up and are into it. Anyone who is transgender or has transgender friends know’s that these sort of jokes are just part of Americas cultural denial that transgender people are arousing.

  • enrev

    What’s the laugh about? It comes across as a tasteless attempt at humor; the announcer himself is more of a joke.

  • Tara

    The problem with things like that it that is not normalizing. This joke leads directly to the “Panic Defense” so many of our murders use. Also There are a lot of transpeople, myself included, who do not like being thought of as something disgusting Thank You Very Much.

  • Lady Ga-Gasp

    If I see reference to the tepid the term ‘gender normative’ one more time, I’m going to dig out my Dolly wig and size 12 heels and go out and cut somebody.

  • FakeName

    The ultimate goal of transwomen is to “pass as a woman”? Morons. Do us a favor, stop writing about trans-people at all as long as you’re this ignorant about the subject.

  • Jake the libertarian

    I guess I am a baaaaad gay… I thought it was funny. But I’m kinda tough to offend.

  • Tara

    @Lady Ga-Gasp:
    I am largely with you. But some people want to be normal So, let em.

  • Lynn

    Laughing at someone who acts like an idiot is pretty common. Its the basis of much of the humor we see on television or in the movies. So, yes, an immediate laugh at the announcer’s antics isn’t out of the ordinary.

    However, I do think that the joke was offensive. It plays to the notion that transsexuals are not “real women” or “real men”, and by extension, plays to homophobia. Its not a joke we should be comfortable with.

    Justifying insulting remarks with the back handed compliment of “well, I was just praising her beauty” is a defense worn out by male harassers of women. An involuntary laugh? Okay. But defending the joke? No, that is indefensible.

  • mark

    You had to ASK if this bit was transphobic?

    go back to LGBT 1-001

  • RJ

    Letterman is pretty liberal, and the joke wasn’t hateful or malicious. So what? The premis of the joke was a straight guy finds out the woman he’s banging was a dude and he’s grossed out. If I was dating a guy after we had sex and then found out he use to be a female I too would be slightly grossed out. But does that make me hateful? Absolutely not. Plus Kalter’s character on the show constantly dresses up as a woman and plays off his androgyny.

  • Michael Letterman

    It was a joke, not being a watcher of Late Night I did not see this originally but thank you for posting the clip. Now that I have seen it I think it was hilarious. Though the photo you posted of Amanda Simpson does make her like like a man with a wig on. One more reason why the democratic party is on its way to defeat in 2012.

  • dontblamemeivotedforhillary

    The Daytime Queerty Editor is a British pompous ass!

  • John Raymond Barker

    I will always defend my trans brothers and sisters, but I don’t think this joke on Letterman merits all of the outrage I am seeing. It’s slightly offensive, but slightly a compliment as the title of this article suggests.

    But the dialogue that follows will hopefully be good. And that’s certainly a good thing.

  • Mark Snyder QueerToday

    Letterman’s joke played into the “Trans panic” defense that so many violent criminals use. It was wrong.

  • alan brickman

    she still won’t sleep with him..get over it David!!!

  • Michael Dean Montgomery Brockway

    If this was so offensive, why aren’t LGBT people screaming their heads off about jokes that Ryan Seacrest and Simon Cowell make on “American Idol”? Maybe if David Letterman looked like Ryan Seacrest, he wouldn’t be getting slammed like this.

  • jason

    Letterman is symptomatic of liberal males from New York. Sleazes around with women, votes Democrat, yet is homophobic and transphobic . Just weeks ago, he had Robert Downey Jr on using words like “homos”.

    Letterman liberals kind of remind me of the Jerry Springer Show. Lesbians and bi chicks are “hot” but gay and bi guys are “ewwww”. There you have it, guys – Letterman liberalism.

  • TVS

    Letterman’s ‘transgender panic’ joke can be easily made into a ‘gay panic’ joke if necessary –
    Person A : Did you know that person xyz you used to know has come out? Yeah, he’s gay!
    Person B : Ewwwww gross! I used to hang around with that dude!

    FYI, Amanda is a not a ‘dude’. She’s a woman.

  • jake

    He made a joke get over it. People try to kill comedy with political correctness.

  • Michael Dean Montgomery Brockway

    Blanche: “I don’t really mind Clayton being homosexual, I just don’t like him dating men.”
    Dorothy: “You really haven grasped the concept of this gay thing yet, have you, Blanche?”
    Blanche: “Well there must be homosexuals who date women.”
    Sophia: “Yeah. They’re called lesbians.”

    As a gay male I find this incredibly offensive and I am going to demand an apology from the Golden Girls, living and dead. If it wasn’t for the Golden Girls, we would have stopped humor a long time ago and we would not have to deal with evil comedians like David Letterman being funny.

    In order to not offend anyone, we must bring an end to all humor. Only through censorship and suppression of thought can we truly be free! We need a humor death panel!

    I think President Obama should be impeached for laughing at scenes from the “The Producers” at the Kennedy Center Honors. When it comes to humor I’m all about whoopie cushions and rubber chickens. But if the rubber chickens are gay, I’m offended.


    After we ban humor, music is next.

  • Joanna Sue

    Letterman is about as funny as a swift kick in the genitals anyway. CBS should just fire this jerk and move that Craig Ferguson up to Letterman’s time slot. This lack of sensitivity from a serial adulterer is just another example of how out of touch this guy is with people in general. To those who feel it was fine to bash the Transgendered people as a group, try to imagine if you would how well this would have gone over if it were directed at Female Basketball players oh, lets see that has been figrued out when they fired Don Imus for his comments. Or wasn’t it CBS who fired Jimmy the Greek for a comment too? This comment was mean and degrading to one group of people. It is not humor.

  • Fitz

    There are some seriously overly sensitive reactions out there. the joke wasn’t at the woman’s expense. We loose credibility when we cry wolf at every turn. Think about how dismissive most of us are of GLAD. He made fun of a buffoon’s buffoonish reaction, not of the woman. Good lord.. save your righteous indignation for the people who really hate us.

  • Kat

    I am a transgendered woman. As much offense as I took to this skit, one thing I do need to point out is that this is David Letterman. I’m not going to excuse him or his writers for being crude, out of touch, and often unfunny. But the fact of the matter is that we were largely expecting exactly this sort of reaction from his show. Does anyone recall when Rosie O’Donnell came out? Or when Lindsay Lohan came out? Letterman isn’t high-brow humor. It’s often aimed at the lowest common denominator.

    What should bother us is that this “lowest common denominator” still finds this reaction funny. Or do I need to begin compiling a list of gay and lesbian persons killed by exactly this same sort of humor? People like Scott Amedure who went on the Jenny Jones show to admit his crush on the homophobic Jon Schmitz? Scott was killed by two shotgun blasts to the chest because Jon reacted almost EXACTLY like Alan Kalter in this skit.

    This isn’t funny, anymore.

  • CCCole

    Ugh! Really, Queerty? Really? Transphobia is OK because she’s hot and can pass?

    Part of why Letterman’s comment was so infuriating is because he chose to focus on her transgender status rather than her accomplishments. Thanks for being sexist and transmisogynistic, too.

  • Michael Dean Montgomery Brockway

    Um…David Letterman makes money by making people laugh. It’s his job. I challenge anyone, including CCCole, to write a joke about Amanda Simpson’s accomplishments that anyone would find humorous.

    Humor is often based on tragedy. Why was President Obama laughing his ass off watching scenes from “The Producers” during the Kennedy Center Honors? Is the death of millions of Jews, homosexuals, and people with disabilities funny. Yes, in a certain context it is. That is a quirk in the human condition.

    I’m a 55 year old gay male with multiple disabilities. I encounter jokes about gays, age, and disabilities on a daily basis. Does it bother me? No. I have tough skin and can dish right back. I have gained acceptance from my toughness, not from whining.

    David Letterman is an easy target. Some of us hope we can wring an apology out of him, although that is looking quite unlikely at this time. If anything, this “controversy” that was created by the LGBT has made us look worse in the public eye than he does. When we cannot change society, the government, or the corporations that oppresses, we seek an easy target and hope for some miniscule victory to celebrate. Yet it does nothing to change the status quo.

    We have a habit of putting so much time and energy into worthless efforts. For example: The National Equality March. WTF was that? Did it improve anything for the LGBT? Within a month of the March, the Equality Across America website, which was supposedly going to be focus of the efforts that March attendees were being “trained” for, stopped being maintained. Meanwhile, urgent marriage equality initiatives have failed. Instead of working to gain real legal rights, money and energy was wasted on a lame rally that very few people appeared to attend to it’s completion.

    We need to stop wasting our efforts on meaningless little battles that don’t mean shit to anyone just because we might wring some small victory from it. Full legal equal rights (which, I am sorry to say, will not change our lives that much…but that’s a whole other topic)should be our focus, not a some stupid joke that we can use to score drama points.

  • Raquelita

    I totally agree with Michael Dean Montgomery Brockway (wow! long username!) and Fitz. People really need to toughen up, learn to recognize and accept humor, dish it right back, and save the energy for battles that are worthwhile and will actually make a difference.

    It seems a lot of those offended by this skit are missing a very important point. Back when the Jenny Jones tragedy happened, people laughed but sympathized with the homophobic Jon Schmitz. In this case we were laughing AT Alan Kalter, not with him. Alan Kalter always plays his character as sexually confused, bizarre, and a bit of a nutjob in general.

    The homophobe has become the butt of the joke, people. Surely that is progress!!

  • Stephen Worley

    I have a lot of empathy for transfolk, being an occasional TV myself. I also wasn’t offended by this. Amanda wasn’t the butt of the joke at all, and in fact it’s really kind of complimentary for her. I’m over people being squeamish with regard to my sexuality or gender identity, and that’s all this joke was about. Squeamishness. The quickest way to get over the squeamishness is to put it out there and share a laugh.

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