In my world of stand-up comedy (proud member since 1980), free speech, and a person's right to it, is the bedrock of our profession. I can't tell you how many arguments I've listened to over the decades both condemning and defending a comedian's right to be "offensive" if he or she so desires. Personally, I find poorly crafted jokes far more offensive than salty language, but free speech means taking the good with the bad. If you don't like a comedian's act, don't listen...no one is forcing you. The same holds true for television shows. We should all have respect for others' opinions. They might like what they are hearing or seeing even if you or I don't.
And then there's Jerry Springer.
Sometimes, when I'm flipping through the channels and this human version of a pit bull fight lights up my screen for even a second, I get this sense of just having been physically violated. My first inclination is to go shower, but even a "Silkwood" decontamination shower couldn't remove whatever pernicious, infectious, brain mildew this sad excuse for a television show has implanted in my skull.
Personally, I was surprised to find that it was still even being aired, but then again I have been known to get ahead of the evolutionary curve from time to time. Clearly, there are some who still find this modern day version of gladiators at the Roman Coliseum entertaining.
Boy howdy, Jerry Springer loves him some transsexuals though, doesn't he? Seems like he never misses an opportunity to show transgendered folk (and other minorities) in the worst possible light. Don't believe me? Here's a partial list of some of Jerry's past 'shows' in which transgendered (supposedly) folk have appeared and which appear now on YouTube.
NOTE: *The exclamation points illustrate the urgency and importance of all things transsexual in Jerry Land.
1. Transsexuals Fight!
2. Transsexual Takedown Part 1
3. I slept with a transsexual
4. I am pregnant by a GIANT transsexual! (Yes, the giants are the most fertile)
5. Transsexual Cravings! (Chocolate? Ice cream? Chocolate Ice Cream?)
6. Dumped for a transsexual
7. Transsexual secrets, Part 2. (Part 1 was apparently a secret too)
8. He-She confessions!
9. "Bacon", the transsexual. (This is a person's name I think. To the best of my knowledge, actual bacon is genderless.)
10. Emilio Trannies Tell All! (Don't ask me. I don't know what an Emilio Tranny is either)
11. My Transsexual Summer (Starring Sandra Dee and
12. Transsexual Tell All!
13. Transsexual Secrets Explode! (Which is why you should keep them in a cool dark place)
14. Guess what? I'm a man!
15. Honey, I'm really a guy (originally titled, Honey, I Shrunk The Dick?)
16. My boyfriend is a woman!
So, for nearly twenty years ole "Jer" has been convincing some pretty far out people to display their supposed private lives to a national audience. Whether they are actors or not is irrelevant. I sure don't begrudge any actor who is out there just scraping by the chance to earn some rent or chump change by being on television, even if it is at the bottom of entertainment food chain. If the guests on The Jerry Springer show are indeed genuine, and have sold their souls for a free trip to
then we, as a country, have much bigger problems with our education system than
originally thought. Chicago
What bothers me now and what has bothered me for years about this show is Jerry's depiction of trans people as demented, home-wrecking sex maniacs who spend their entire lives in crotch high, skin tight skirts and stiletto heels. He has diminished an entire segment of the population (already laden with enough social stigma to last two lifetimes) to a stereotype which it is constantly trying to shed. It is our version of blackface, and until recently, not much was being said or done to combat it.
Thanks to the Internet and social media, more and more of us are moving into the mainstream public eye. As a comedian, I have to prove myself to be funny in order to work just to get a gig. Yes, I may have to push myself a little harder and be a little better than the average male comic in order to get work, but that doesn't bother me. My audiences seem to accept me as just another working class comedian. While I play gay clubs, I also play major casinos and comedy clubs around the country. I am whatever my audiences perceive me to be. If I present a positive image of a human being, then my being transgendered is irrelevant. If TGLB audiences like me because I'm 'one of their own' so be it. Just as long as I'm funny.
Trans people are popping up everywhere now and in every profession. As time goes on and more of us 'come out', our normal quotient grows around the country. We don't need to be accepted by everyone, but we demand to be respected. And Jerry Springer has zero respect for trans folks; at least publicly.
He has come under fire recently for his repeated use of the word tranny. For many of us, that term is a pejorative, the transgendered equivalent of the word nigger. No matter the context, I can tell you that every time I hear it, I cringe. For me, it carries all the hatred and derision that so many of our trans folk have had to endure over the years. Also in the word category? He/she, It, She/male and the rest of them. Jerry Springer has used them all with great abandon until now.
There is a growing Transgendered movement in this country. We are joining hands and tightening up the ranks. We are standing up for ourselves, asserting our place in this society. It will not stop, that I can assure you. Our numbers grow each year and with them, our voices grow louder and stronger. Jerry Springer immediately declared that he did not know the term 'tranny' was offensive and has said that he will not use it anymore. Good for him. But I am fairly certain that his depiction of trans folks will not change until the pressure for that too comes to bear on him.
I am not for censorship, God knows. My job requires that I have the freedom to say what I feel to achieve my comedic goals. But I also am acutely aware that each and every time I step onto a stage, I have a responsibility to know where my personal boundaries are and if I choose to cross them. Jerry Springer has that same responsibility. In my humble opinion, he has decided that compounding his fortunes are far more important.
For the time being at least, there will always be a market for the stupid, insensitive, idiotic type of program that Jerry Springer does. But I can guarantee you this; there will come a day when the people who appear on that 'show' will seem to be anachronistic. They will be looked upon then the way anyone who would dare show up in black face at any event--with scorn and derision. When that day comes, Jerry Springer may do an about face mea culpa, but it will be too late. No one will be watching.