It must be hard being Lady Bunny, always being surrounded by people who don’t get that her brand of shock value humor isn’t meant to offend. Constantly having to explain that it’s her audience’s job to not be offended by her jokes, rather than her job as a performer to edit what she says out of decency and human kindness, must be tiring.
Yet she remains tireless, bringing her latest show, Trans-Jester, to Seattle’s Egyptian theater next month. Some folks may look at bringing a show like that to Seattle, the city that helped put to rest other transphobic show titles such as Trannyshack and Hey Tranny, It’s Tranny, is at best a little tone-deaf. Those folks would find the show’s description to be no better.
“Bunny breaks down some of the latest buzzwords that we’re all supposed to remember for every occasion as we ‘evolve,’” reads the show info. “Sometimes, Bunny feels, that we’re evolving away from common sense! Take the new name for our community – LGBTIA. Does anyone even know what that means?”
Yes Bunny, a lot of people do.
“She doesn’t shy away from gender politics,” continues the show’s description, “and the new pronoun we’re forced to learn every time Will Smith’s son puts on a dress.”
Bunny is unapologetic about her inability or unwillingness to learn new pronouns, of course.
“The outrages over what we can and can’t say is giving me new examples every month,” said Bunny in an interview about the show, “of everything from fat-shaming to slut-shaming to cisgender to gender queer. It’s hard to keep up. I do see a sort of Oppression Olympics with the content outrages of twitterverse. Do all of these coddled babies realize that the words they consider slurs are tools of even the most mainstream comedians?”
By coddled babies, one can assume she’s not referring to her own demographic – namely gay, white, cisgender men in late middle age. Slinging around barely conceived excuses for her work (“The mainstream does it to!”) does nothing to assuage the feeling that she needs to turn some the most vulnerable members of the queer community into punch lines (and show titles) both to serve her savage refusal to change and line her pocketbook.
Even in her no-holds barred attack on celebrities such as Caitlin Jenner, Bunny demonstrates a disheartening refusal to exhibit any knowledge of subtlety or nuance.
“I’m not saying I have proof of this,” Bunny told another interviewer, “but I know many people in the trans community, my friends, who are beginning to think it’s all fake, that she’s not a transgender woman, but a crossdresser who’s wealthy enough to afford facial feminization surgery. No trans woman is going to talk in a Jimmy Stewart, deep voice like that, and not know anything about feminist theory, which, you know, she doesn’t.”
Poking fun at Jenner’s politics (and similar lack of nuance) is one thing. But Bunny’s take on whether or not Jenner is really trans is neither needed nor desired.
The show does include a content warning of sorts, stating that it isn’t “politically correct by definition – that’s the whole point. So if that’s not your cup of tea, you should honestly skip it.” But that worn out non-apology isn’t really applicable here, when even the very title of the show is a transphobic slur.
What’s most problematic about this show is that it’s happening at a time when the trans community in particular desperately needs the support of the queer community at large. Bunny’s blind, seemingly willful ignorance of the cost of using transgender people as the butt of her jokes could be considered highly hypocritical of someone who weathered the worst of the early HIV/AIDS crisis, and the discrimination and homophobia that came with it. After all, the federal government recently rescinded Obama era transgender anti-discrimination rules, there are at least 15 states now considering anti-trans legislation, and there have been at least 8 reported murders of trans women this year alone, all of whom were people of color. Stacking that up against Bunny’s desire to make rape jokes onstage easily tips those scales.
Consider instead attending an event that is meant to support the trans community. Gay City, Three Dollar bill Cinema, and Gender Justice League are all collaborating to present May as Trans Arts Month. This includes events such as Translations: Seattle Transgender Film Festival, and Rising Up, a queer social justice play presented by Gay City Arts, both of which will be happening that same evening. Voting with your wallet, by supporting events like these, is a great way to remind entertainers, producers, and promoters that the lives of trans people matter more than any whiny Drag Queen’s need to be transphobic just to stay edgy.