Douchebag Decree: Hate Show with Dave Letterman

As you may know already, Amanda Simpson is the first openly transgendered Presidential appointee; Obama selected her as Senior Technical Adviser at the Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security. Unfortunately, this historical moment is nothing but cheap laughs on late-night television.

Letterman: Well here's something interesting. President Obama has appointed a transgender person, a transgender person. Her name is Amanda Simpson and he has appointed her to be part of the Commerce Department. We have a photo, here she is right there. Yeah, that's Amanda Simpson--
Alan Kalter: What?
Letterman: and she's a transgender...
Alan Kalter: AMANDA? Amanda used to be a dude? OH MY GOD! (Runs away, disgusted)
(Audience laughs)
Letterman: (Keeps it together, acts like, "What's his problem? Weird," then starts laughing) Will you talk to him later for me?

This of course, is not the first time late-night hosts have made jokes at the expense of transgendered people, and will probably not be the last.

When Kalter "interrupts" (in quotes because Letterman was basically just going "Transgendered person, transgendered person, picture of a transgendered person! Look at the transgendered person!" instead of actually saying anything about Simpson, her credentials, or even about her position, let alone referring to her as a woman.) and then runs out of the room disgusted, he's invoking both transphobia and homophobia, and reducing the qualified, federally-appointed Simpson to her genitals. And when he says "Amanda used to be a dude?" he once again erases her identity as a woman and insults someone who, from what I understand, has always been open about her identity. Plus the whole I-didn't-know-she-was-a-trans-woman has, as Joe and Jos have pointed out, been used to justify violence and murder of transgendered people, and is never okay or funny.

Pam from Pam's House Blend has even more on why this is not just some stupid late night schtick:

That video is such a flaming, ignorant, bigoted pile of horsesh*t, but just saying so cannot be where it stops. Letterman's clear cluelessness that any aspect of this "humor" is wrong should be a wake up call to our movement leaders that the general public, potential allies in the struggle for the passage of an inclusive ENDA, are woefully uneducated.

And what that means is when the right wing comes after us with the "bathroom arguments" and the "tranny teacher" scarefest, we have to have legitimate, thought-out responses, not silence or simply saying how ignorant it is. People genuinely have concerns because the trans population is so small overall that the majority of people have no personal frame of reference to draw positive conclusions, let alone pick up the phone and call their member of Congress to be an advocate.

Sign an online petition at demanding Letterman apologize for the harmful and tastelessness of his bit!

Anti-Trans Letterman Skit Insults Obama Appointee Amanda Simpson [Joe. My. God.]
WTF, David Letterman? [Pam's House Blend]
Stop David Letterman if you've heard this transphobic joke before [Feministing]

by Kjerstin Johnson
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Kjerstin Johnson is a writer and editor in Portland, Oregon. She is the former editor in chief of Bitch. She tweets at @kajerstin

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7 Comments Have Been Posted

The thing that I think you

The thing that I think you are missing about this is that David Letterman is one of the most sarcastic people on television. Every aspect of that joke was completely sarcastic. Maybe you don' think that that doesn't change anything, but it does for me. This is not making fun of her as directly as you seem to see it. It is making fun of those old jokes about a man having sex with a transgendered person. That, is what I see as insensitive, but his joke is not at all in the same context. Yeah, it was a little racy to say, but comedy is all about pushing the limits and being edgy. I am pretty sure that he did not mean anything hurtful by this comment, so I do not see any harm done.

the thing nobody seems to be missing but you

The fact that you don't see harm done doesn't mean that someone else is missing something. The harm done is real and it is done to me, a real person.

Fuck you, anonymous asshat.


That's your typical "angry, male, TV" attitude. I've been around enough of them to know.

Surely, you're not seriously

Surely, you're not seriously that blind, are you?
Letterman has long over-stayed his welcome on television. His comments reflect the archaic views of his generation. Not just a douchebag - but an old, irrelevant, time-to-be-retiring douchebag.

Soooo, it's ok to make

Soooo, it's ok to make sarcastic comments about minorities? If he'd done the same thing about Obama and the fact that he is a black man, I imagine some heads would be rolling.

And damnit, they would deserve to. He's an old white guy with privilege up his ass, it's not his to joke about.

I am old enough ...

(I am old enough) ... to remember when Letterman was on NBC and his show there was quite an eclectic one at that (Would you believe Lynda Barry was once a regular guest on there? She was indeed!). I quit watching him after he moved to CBS and it became more about untalented A-list guests and dumb, tired Top Ten Lists and over-repetetive-themed skits. The recent scandals, including this latest one, don't surprise me. Unfortunately, he deserves the "Douchebag Degree" because due to his all-time ratings highs, I foresee things getting worse before he finally caves in and hangs up the microphone.


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