Saturday, April 11, 2015

No Joke?

'Everything human is pathetic. The secret source of humor itself is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven.'
Mark Twain

Over the last several years, between Chaz Bono, Laverne Cox and the incredible television show 'Transparent', the transgender community have seen an elevated presence in mainstream visual mediums like never seen before. When anyone, or any group, increases their visibility, especially with as many depictions that have arisen recently, attention follows.

Attention, even if it's goal is to educate, or to change how society thinks,  isn't above being made fun of.  It is strange to me that many have not learned that sometimes these jokes are a part of the journey to acceptance. I don't of course support jokes based in cruelty, but sometimes we have to, at least in the beginning, accept jokes based in ignorance. The struggles of transgender youth and adults are ofr course not new to those struggling, but they are new to many.

Recently, anyone making fun of transgender issues are criticized and made to pay penance. I think this response horribly misses the point that acceptance does not happen without a process. Will & Grace made fun, and made it's fair share of digs, at the gay community.  Decades before, Jack Tripper's sexuality (although only pretend) was the butt of hundreds of jokes over the shows run. Many of the jokes from both shows were inappropriate, many were not politically correct.  Many were off base and many were just not funny.  Both shows I would argue, and may others, paved the way for many to accept gay issues in a way no other medium could have hoped to have done as well, or as quickly.  There is nothing like laughing at something to make it less scary or less of a mystery.

Bruce Jenner's journey, whatever that proves to be, is funny. At 65, his transition is as heartbreaking and beautiful as it is hilarious. Jenner has been a member of a family that has physically sucked the spotlight onto every moment of their lives.  Even if you try, and I have,  you cannot totally ignore this family if you open almost any magazine or newspaper or turn on your TV.

Jenner was symbol of sport and masculinity for much of the 70's and 80's, appearing on magazine covers and television shows as an example of the all American male. Add to that his singing and dancing with The Village People, and the jokes literally write themselves. We laugh to cope, and although some of the laughter at Jenner is no doubt based in cruelty, some of it is a way of coming to terms with something many find difficult to get their heads around.

If Jenner is transitioning, (and I add if, because I would put nothing past the Kardashian media machine) than I wish him strength and support. But as incredible as his journey may be, don't hate me if I chuckle from time to time. Jenner owes us nothing, but given he has spent so much time trying to keep up with those darned Kardashian's, we don't owe him anything either.  I support and respect the journey of anyone transitioning, but, as part of that journey, as part of that process, the support may from time to time, come with a chuckle, or bit of laughter.   As long as the intent is not cruelty, I see nothing at all wrong with that.

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