“You need to learn to laugh at yourself” is something I’ve often heard. It’s true. We need to laugh at ourselves. When people who have oppressed trans women for decades, erased them from the very riots they started, deny their existence, and even helped passed legislation against them, tell these same people to ‘laugh’ they are saying, “let us laugh at you, your lives, your identities. Let us laugh at your suffering, your pain, your dehumanization, and your objectification!” Not so funny now, is it?
When people defend the use of slurs, by telling those affected to just laugh, this is what they are saying. The use of slurs is funny! The pain, the assault, the murder, the rape, the dehumanization, it’s all hilarious! Comedy based on the age old trope that you can tell a trans woman from a cis woman because they are obviously male is hilarious! Who cares if it is not only fake, but run into the ground! Everyone loves beating dead unicorns!
This is not an issue that is just present in drag either. This isn’t and issue contained to RuPaul and his supporters/defenders (who are being rightfully called out). This is an issue that is deeply ingrained in the idea that jokes suddenly make everything ok. They erase the history and power of words, under the guise of humor. Suddenly these realities do not exist because the joke totally isn’t funny only because these ideas are rooted as truths! …Right?
However, how dare you point this out! You just need to learn to laugh! Right? Laughter fixes everything. No harm was done, even though you are implying that you can tell trans women are really men! Forget that part! HAHA TRANS WOMEN, RIGHT!? Give me a break, not even science is behind you on this one. Jokes cause harm if they are at the expense of people who are already marginalized through the type of stereotypes and ideas being presented in the joke. They strengthen these ideas. So much for breaking down the structures with that idea, huh?
When you say that people need to learn to laugh at themselves, you are telling them that they are jokes. Their identities are jokes. Their existence is a joke. Seems funny, right? I’m sure if the person was the literal embodiment of comedic relief, you might have some semblance of an argument. These people don’t exist unless we are suddenly transported into the most recent box office romcom.
What you are really arguing for, is that you want to laugh at these people. In this case, trans women. You want to be able to laugh at them, hold up tropes and stereotypes, and feel no repercussions over it. Comedy at the expense of another person’s life, especially their identity and existence, is not comedy, it is cruelty. You are saying, “it’s so funny you are murdered, raped, and assaulted for existing!”. You do not want us to gain a “sense of humor”, you want to be able to laugh at us, not with us.
Because for you to laugh with us, you would have to drop the transmisogyny and transphobia. You would have to drop the idea that you can sling slurs, slurs harbored in violence and objectification, without ramification. You would have to drop the ‘humor’ at the expense of others for simply existing. You would have to learn that identities are not jokes. You would have to allow these people to make jokes about themselves, jokes you cannot touch.
You would have to understand that, there is nothing funny about transmisogyny. There is nothing funny about cissexism. Nothing funny about the violence enacted by the very slurs your sling. The objectification and fetishization of the slurs you use. There is nothing funny about the objectification, dehumanization, and oppression of trans women. That is nothing to laugh at. However, that is what you are defending when you defend those types of jokes.
You are defending these very things through the use of jokes and the use of these slurs at the hands of anyone besides cis woman. You are normalizing these stereotypes. You are normalizing the violence enacted against trans women. Your jokes are not innocent. They are one of the many cogs that allows for trans women to be seen as jokes, as non-human objects. You are very much part of the problem. So, before you tell someone to “gain a sense of humor”, think about what you are finding humorous. There is a reason we’re not laughing with you.