Jamie Foxx joke insensitive to transgender community



By Associate Editor

American society has become increasingly accepting of the LGBTQ community, but some of the country’s most influential figures have a long way to go in accepting and respecting the historically oppressed community. This ongoing need for acceptance was demonstrated March 29 at the iHeartRadio Music Awards show.

Noted black actor and comedian Jamie Foxx hosted the awards ceremony and volleyed an insensitive joke at Bruce Jenner, Olympic gold medalist and former spouse of Kris Jenner—matriarch of the reality-TV Kardashian clan—and his widely speculated transgender status. 

“We got Bruce Jenner, who will be here doing some musical performances,” Foxx said during the opening remarks of the show. “He will be here doing a his-and-hers duet all by himself. I’m just busting your balls while I still can.”

Although parts of the audience could be heard laughing at Foxx’s joke, others rightfully found the comments crude, repugnant and far from amusing. Targeting people based on a private part of their identity that already receives a lot of criticism from other outlets is careless and cruel.

In addition to Foxx’s comment, Jenner has already received a considerable number of judgements from other sources. Through tabloid articles and social media trolls, Jenner’s transgender status has been treated inappropriately, something Foxx should have considered before making the joke.

But this is not the first time a celebrity has made light of an LGBTQ individual. Isaiah Washington, formerly a regular on “Grey’s Anatomy,” reportedly used a gay slur against co-star T.R. Knight on set in 2007. Three months later at the Golden Globe Awards show, Washington used the same slur again, which later resulted in his being fired from the show. Following the incidents, Knight said he felt he had no choice but to come out as gay to the public.

Ignorant comments like these worsen the social issues the LGBTQ community faces. In an age when many progressive members of society are fighting for the equality and acceptance for LGBTQ individuals, it is counterproductive to make the community a punch line. Making a joke of Jenner’s gender identity was a personal attack and an attack on all individuals on the trans spectrum who already endure a myriad of oppressive actions.

At a time when acceptance of the transgender community remains sparse, Jenner is beyond brave and is certainly resilient. Being in the spotlight as part of the Kardashian clan—arguably one of the most famous families in the world right now—experiencing criticism and being made fun of for his transgender status must be difficult, and support from his Hollywood allies would be admirable.

According to a 2008 survey conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National LGBTQ Task Force, 63 percent of participants experienced acts of discrimination that affected their financial and emotional well-being. Participants reported that they were losing their jobs, being evicted from their homes and being physically and sexually abused. 

Transgender people are also losing their lives at the hands of bigots. There have been more than 1,500 cases of reported killings of transgender individuals worldwide from Jan. 1, 2008, to March 31, 2014, according to Trans Respect Versus Transphobia, an ongoing research project in Europe that aggregates transgender discrimination information. Victims have been beaten and stabbed, shot, dismembered and tortured to death.

In the first seven weeks of 2015, seven transgender women were murdered in the U.S., according to a Feb. 20 report by The Advocate, an online LGBTQ publication. In the midst of all the violence toward transgender people, remarks like Foxx’s only perpetuate the problem. Foxx may have meant for his comment to be a harmless joke, but that joke has the power to implant the idea that it is acceptable to disrespect transgender individuals, whether it be through a snide comment or a gruesome murder.

Americans have come a long way in accepting the LGBTQ community and more specifically the transgender community. Amid centuries of oppression, LGBTQ individuals are finally living in a time in America where they can be more open about their sexual and gender identities. 

However, when spotlight individuals make public insults toward members of this community, it is not just a reckless mistake for the person who made the comment, but it is also a step back for society as a whole, which should be fighting for equality. Jabs at the LGBTQ community are oftentimes overlooked, but if someone used a racial slur at an award show, Foxx would likely be outraged at being the punch line in a tasteless joke.