Yes, that was a real reaction to a post I made on a subreddit where amature comedians such as myself post photos of ourselves with little selections of our bits in order to build up a little publicity.
Yes. If you are following this blog and didn’t know, I am transgendered, I am a comedian. I am a transgendered comedian.
And no, not all my jokes are about being transgendered. Some are about being a Southerner, some are about being a veteran, some are about being slightly crazy, some are about music, pop culture, on and on.
But, I’m still transgendered.
When I first started doing stand up again after taking a break for about 9 years, I didn’t want to be just “the tranny comic.” That seemed hacky to me. Telling nothing but jokes about how my penis is like a strap-on that doesn’t need adjustment, or that my big hands just mean that I’m well hung for a lesbian. Stuff like that. I didn’t want that to be me. I have opinions about our government, music, the way we view celebrity, drugs, police, race, on and on. I am a person with depth and experience.
I buried both of my parents before I was 19. I have been a complete drunk. I spent 9 years in the military. I’m a veteran of the war in Iraq. I’ve been in jail for a week (pay your fines folks!). I’ve been to college. I’ve lived on dump trucks and in Victorian homes. I’ve driven a Cadillac and Geo Prism. That’s only a SMALL fraction of my life experiences, and they are all mine. They are the filter through which I see the world. Every experience I have ever had is the culmination for who I am today. All the bad, all the good; the joys of being love and having my heart broken, the things I’ve worked for and gained and the things I’ve had unfairly taken from me. It’s all me.
Some transgendered people when they transition go out, burn all their old photos, burn their yearbooks, destroy any trace of who they were before they transitioned. Not me. My army uniform sits folded in a trunk in my closet. All my old photos I have of me with my parents are from when I was a boy, and how could I get rid of the pictures of me like that without getting rid of them? They never knew this part of me, and so I keep the memories of them alive along with the memories of who I was as well. It’s all part of me, and cannot be erased with a simple pink eraser.
And so, when I tell jokes it doesn’t matter if it’s a knock knock joke or a joke about Hootie and the Blowfish, it comes from me being transgendered. I cannot ever divorce myself from who I am for a joke. I can’t joke about being a guy, I’m not. I can’t joke about being born a woman, I wasn’t. I can’t joke about being black, because I’m not. I can joke about guys though, women, black people, because I encounter them every single day. When I joke about guys it’s from that inside outsider viewpoint as I spent 28 years living in their world. When it comes to women, I joke with a wide eyed innocence about how they have to experience the world because it’s still so new to me. When it comes to race, I can see more the the disparities of privilege as I have forfeited the privilege of being a man and can see more clearly, but not perfectly, what it’s like from the other side.
When it comes to stand up comedy, the view is overwhelmingly that of the white straight man. Their income, place of birth, religion, or education may vary, but it’s always from the straight white guy’s view. And before you get blustery…that’s perfectly okay! It’s their view, it’s their experience, they can’t change it! For God’s sake, look at them! They can’t help being born white straight men, cut them a little slack! Seriously though, their voice carries out because the vast majority of the audience who consumes stand up comedy are white straight people and probably about half are men, so they have a built in audience. It’s familiar, it’s relateable, it’s something that they know. And that’s why it sells.
Women have a smaller audience, and so they have to tell jokes that men and women get. Black people have a smaller audience, so they have to tell jokes that white people get. On and on, the jokes have to be something that translate out beyond their world into a greater shared experience. Though, if you listen, even the universal jokes still come from that perspective and you cannot escape that. When Bill Cosby jokes about being a father you can’t help but think, “He’s black,” and you know what…that’s actually a good thing! Because when you see a black man experiencing the same foibles of being a father that a white man experiences, it closes the gap of our differences. When Sarah Silverman makes those uncomfortable racial or sexual jokes it hits us, “Hey women aren’t dainty flowers that only talk about knitting,” and we realize, if we are self aware enough, that women aren’t terribly different than men in that regard.
But, I’m a new voice. There’s never been a lot of trans comedians. There’s not been a lot of LGBT comics who publicly talk about it to a greater audience in general. It’s rare, it’s odd, and it seems like it’s all we LGBT comedians talk about. That’s only because it’s not a perspective you hear everyday. You hear straight comedians talking about gay people all the time, both good and bad. You don’t often hear gay comedians talking about themselves, or God forbid, about straight people. That’s why it stands out so much to you straight folks. It’s like having the hum of the T.V. pointed out to you, and now you can’t unhear it. If I tell a joke about being trans, it’s all you hear from that point on no matter the subject I talk about. I could talk about music or cars, and it’s always in your mind, “This is a transgendered woman talking about cars.” You don’t notice things like that with the more familiar voices of cisgendered people, or white people, or even these days black people depending on the subject, because it’s a noise you are accustomed to. But me, I’m a new voice. I’m a new hum.
A lot of people don’t like that hum sometimes. They want that hum to shut up and stop. The hum makes them uncomfortable, or is always noticeable, like a scratchy underwear tag. “Why is it always about that with you?” Because it’s from me, and it’s who I am, and it’s part of me. I can’t make it NOT about that, because that is a core part of who I am, and it’s not something you are used to, and it’s something you haven’t thought about, like that lump in your shoe.
Feel it now don’t you? It’s going to be noticeable, and honestly, I want it that way. I want you to hear me. I want you to see how I see the way you see me. I want you to see how I experience dealing with your prejudices and fears. You need to see my concerns and fears. I want you to know that I loathe dating just like you but in my own way. That I deal with stupid people in my own way. Worries about jobs, sexual contact, popular culture, the government I share with you in my own unique way and that I’m more like you than not.
I’m a transgendered comedian. I tell jokes about being transgendered. But if you listen close enough, they’re jokes about all of us.