Dear Ricky Gervais, trans women are not a joke

Ricky Gervais hosted the Golden Globes again last night, marking the 4th time he’s hosted the awards. Gervais hosting was not without controversy, given some of his less than savory jokes over the years. It wasn’t 20 seconds into his monologue, that he cracked a joke about Caitlyn Jenner’s transition, and women driving, both of which were tasteless.

There are some who might argue that comedy is meant to offend, but I am inclined to argue that the point of comedy is to make the audience laugh. Gervais focuses more on making the audience cringe and being mean, and frankly I’m so over it.

Gervais may have said that Caitlyn “became a role model for trans people everywhere, showing great bravery in breaking down barriers and destroying stereotypes,” but that came after a crack about how Gervais hasn’t changed as much as Jenner. He even referred to her as “Bruce,” publicly undercutting her identity as a woman while framing her transition as a simple “change.” No amount of love Gervais smothers on top of that shit sandwich excuses deadnaming Jenner, I don’t care if she transitioned publicly or not. That kind of joke is a cheap thrill aimed to excite society’s obsession with trans bodies without caring about making life better for trans people.

And it gets better. And by better, I mean worse. Obviously.

After his shot at Jenner, Gervais moved on to Jeffrey Tambor, and his role as a trans woman on Amazon’s Transparent. He said, “What a year he’s had. What an actor, what a role. Every day he has to put on all of the women’s clothes and the hair and makeup and let people film it. That takes balls, so, I don’t know how he does it. I really don’t. I’ve seen his balls, they’re huge and long…” I think I missed the joke, because none of that is funny or even particularly cleaver. Is this the standard tucking joke? Is the joke simply that a cisgender man is brave for putting on a dress and portraying a woman transitioning later in life? Because, again, no part of that is a joke or the least bit funny.

Coming off an historic year of violence against trans women of color, Gervais’ jokes were more than flippant – they contained a willful ignorance of the struggles trans people face in our society. The jokes were unacceptable, but unfortunately for everyone, Gervais wasn’t done.

Just before the end of the show, Gervais introduced Eddie Redmayne as a presenter. After stating his role as Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl, Gervais smirked and asked, “It’s a dude?!” He was then seen perusing Redmayne’s body, presumably trying to “figure it out” as he left the stage.


Gervais’ transmisogyny aside, perhaps the most infuriating part of this whole debacle is that trans people were hardly represented in the room as straight cisgender white men reaped praise for portraying “difficult” roles. Laverne Cox was there, but that should make no one feel better. As transgender folks become more visible in the media, and more trans stories are being told, those roles are not going to trans people. Instead, trans folks are subjected to the ass backwards transmisogyny dressed up as comedy and are told to be grateful. That’s messed up.

Animation Producer Shadi Petosky lit up Twitter last night with a few reminders of the fuckery at play.

Shadi 3
Shadi 2
Shadi 1

There were a couple of (ahem) golden moments last night, however, the best of which was Eva Longoria and America Ferrera. The pair poked fun at racism in Hollywood, and everyone confusing them with other Latina actresses. Here’s the full text:

“I’m Eva Longoria, not Eva Mendez.”

“And, hi, I’m America Ferrera, not Gina Rodriguez.”

“And neither one of us are Rosario Dawson.”

“Nope. Well said, Salma.”

“Thank you, Charo”

Now that’s actually funny. I hope Gervais took notes.

Header Image Credit: Rolling Stone




Katie Barnes (they/them/their) is a pop-culture obsessed activist and writer. While at St. Olaf College studying History and (oddly) Russian (among other things), Katie fell in love with politics, and doing the hard work in the hard places. A retired fanfiction writer, Katie now actually enjoys writing with their name attached. Katie actually loves cornfields, and thinks there is nothing better than a summer night's drive through the Indiana countryside. They love basketball and are a huge fan of the UConn women's team. When not fighting the good fight, you can usually find Katie watching sports, writing, or reading a good book.

Katie Barnes is a pop-culture obsessed activist and writer.

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