On the stage of comedy, there’s a fine line between humor and hurt. In recent years, a stark spotlight has been cast on Jess Hilarious, a Black comedienne who has persistently peddled transphobia to her audiences, resulting in both outrage and heartache within the Black LGBT community. When we peel back the layers of Hilarious’s transphobia, what we encounter is an uncomfortable truth: her discriminatory rhetoric is a manifestation of the colonial patriarchy, steeped in the traditions of misogynoir and feminism, that have long marginalized black women.
Historically, the colonial patriarchy has been one of the key factors that have barred black women from the standards of “femininity” and “womanhood”. Rooted in white supremacist ideologies, these patriarchal standards have often rendered black women as "less than" in the realm of femininity. This disparity between the ideals of white femininity and black womanhood is a direct product of systemic racism and sexism.
A stark example of this misogynoir is the case of Caster Semenya, a two-time Olympic gold medalist. Semenya's high natural testosterone levels led to her disqualification from the Tokyo Olympics, reflecting a clear bias against women who do not fit the traditional molds of femininity. This gender policing is a remnant of colonial power, perpetuating patriarchal views of what it means to be a woman, particularly a black woman. This disregard for bodily autonomy and individual identity is an echo of the same oppressive systems that continue to harm black women globally.The Pitfalls of Transphobia among Black Ciswomen
The harmful narrative that Jess Hilarious espouses reflects a wider issue of transphobia among black ciswomen. By targeting trans women, Hilarious and those who share her views are upholding the same patriarchal systems that have historically marginalized black women. This toxicity not only harms trans women but also black ciswomen by reinforcing restrictive ideals of womanhood and femininity that alienate those who do not fit these predetermined molds.
The recent case of Namibian sprinters Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi being barred from the Tokyo Olympics due to high natural testosterone levels highlights the harm this causes. Just as with Semenya, these young athletes were deemed "not woman enough" to compete in their chosen field, reflecting a harmful societal bias against those who fall outside traditional binary definitions of gender.Transphobia: A Detriment to the Community
By perpetuating transphobia, Jess Hilarious not only fails to stand in solidarity with her transgender sisters but also indirectly participates in the systemic oppression of black women at large. These harmful views not only reinforce the discriminatory systems of colonial patriarchy but also create a hostile environment for black trans women, one of the most vulnerable demographics in society. In the US, 2020 was the deadliest year on record for transgender individuals, with 44 known violent deaths, and 2021 appears to be following a similarly grim trend.
As the black community continues to fight for equality and representation, it is essential that we address all forms of discrimination within our own ranks. This means holding figures like Jess Hilarious accountable for their harmful views and actions, and demanding they take responsibility for their discriminatory rhetoric.
As members of the black community, we need to hold Jess Hilarious and others who perpetuate transphobia accountable for their actions. There is no room for discrimination within our fight for equity and representation. Instead of perpetuating harmful stereotypes and hateful rhetoric, we should foster an environment of acceptance, where every black person is seen, heard, and appreciated for who they are. Intersectionality matters.
The journey to equality is a long one, and it's time for Jess Hilarious to begin her journey of unpacking and unlearning the transphobic views she holds. It's time for her, and others who share these harmful beliefs, to step back and do the necessary shadow work to root out the bigotry within. The challenge is significant, but it is an essential step toward creating a more accepting, inclusive community for all black women, cis and trans alike.
As a community, we are more than the stereotypes and harmful narratives that have been thrust upon us. We are diverse, resilient, and powerful, and it's time our narrative reflected that. We must stand against transphobia, embrace diversity, and strive to break down the harmful ideals of femininity and womanhood that colonial patriarchy has imposed upon us.
As we continue to fight for justice and equality, let's remember the words of Caster Semenya, who declared, "All we ask is to be able to run free as the strong and fearless women we are!!" Let this be our rallying cry as we push for a more inclusive future where all women can thrive, irrespective of how they identify or what their bodies naturally produce.