Saturday Night Live‘s Michael Che has been accused of transphobia over a joke he told during the show’s Jan. 30 episode.
It came after President Joe Biden signed an executive order last week reversing Donald Trump’s ban on trans people serving in the military.
Che, SNL’s co-head writer, joked about transgender people’s bodies while hosting “Weekend Update” and referenced the military’s former “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy — repealed in 2010 — which required LGBTQ people to remain closeted in order to continue serving in the U.S. military.
“President Biden signed an executive order repealing Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military,” Che said during the segment. “It’s good news, except Biden is calling the policy: ‘don’t ask, don’t tuck,’ which is not good news.”
The joke instantly drew rebuke from LGBTQ people on Twitter, who called it “transphobic” and “punching down.”
Activist and writer Charlotte Clymer asked, “What is Saturday Night Live‘s weird obsession with transphobic nonsense?”
“I honestly don’t get it. It’s so lazy and sad,” Clymer continued. “Last night, Michael Che joked about the repeal of the trans ban being called ‘don’t ask, don’t tuck’ — who is this ‘joke’ for?”
She added: “For all the scaremongering over trans people, it never ceases to be incredibly creepy the way some cis people are obsessed with our bodies. It’s gross and weird and creepy.”
Singer Plastic Martyr told SNL to “do better.”
“Honestly @nbcsnl we’ve been mocked enough for 1 eternity. Do better,” Martyr wrote. “I’m tired of our genitalia & our existence being discussed, obsessed about & laughed at.”
One person described the joke as “punching down,” calling it “bad comedy” and “weak.” Another said it “gives people permission to be awful to trans people.”
“Targeting Trans folks, especially after a great week of news, isn’t okay,” one person tweeted. “The cis het bro energy has me on guard every episode. I miss the power femme energy of Tina [Fey] & Amy [Poehler] who told jokes w/o resorting to tired tropes.”
This isn’t funny and so many people had to let this joke get to air y’all are dumb pic.twitter.com/CyYQZXEeJX
— Rose Dommu (@rosedommu) January 31, 2021
Former Army infantry sergeant Natalie Drew, who is trans, told NBC News that speaking out against the kind of joke Che told was necessary.
“When you start letting these small things take place without being challenged, it eventually snowballs,” Drew said. “It’s like ‘locker room talk,’ it’s ‘boys being boys,’ but when that goes unabated, eventually you run into a situation where they keep pushing the envelope.”
She said if a transgender person had been in the SNL writer’s room, “they would have been like ‘No, we can’t do that!'”
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