On Friday’s broadcast of HBO’s “Real Time,” host Bill Maher defended comedian Dave Chappelle over his special by arguing that words have to mean things, and it’s not “transphobic if I merely disagree with you. It’s not hate.” And that “There just isn’t one true opinion.” He also said that while he agrees with “all laws that protect trans people,” and “all the dignity, equality, and respect that can be afforded to trans people,” it is “very new and very radical” to say that we’re not any gender at birth.
Maher said, “Now, if we establish right here at the beginning that all three of us are supporters of all laws that protect trans people, that we believe in all the dignity, equality, and respect that can be afforded to trans people, can we have an honest, free discussion about this?”
After author and linguist John McWhorter responded, “Many people don’t think so.” Maher stated, “That’s what bothers me to begin with. That there is — this is what I call the one true opinion, very apropos of your religion theme, John. There is the one true opinion, and there isn’t. There just isn’t one true opinion. I’m a free-speech guy. Now, I’m Team Dave, but that doesn’t mean I’m anti-trans. We can have two thoughts in our head at the same time.”
Maher later added, “Words have meaning, but not anymore. And when I hear, ‘transphobic,’ ‘phobic’ has a meaning, fear. I’m not transphobic if I merely disagree with you. It’s not hate. I mean, here’s what one of the reactions from someone who worked at Netflix said, this is not an argument with two sides. Well, right away, you lost me. It is an argument with trans people who want to be alive and people who don’t want us to be. Well, that’s just ridiculous. Dave Chappelle does not want you to not be alive. It’s just — and you’re not automatically right if you’re trans. You’re completely equal, you’re just not automatically right and it doesn’t behoove everybody to get their mind around very new changes. I mean, we were boy and girl for a very long time. It’s only been ten years, since — how long have we had gay marriage? I mean, talking about the Democratic voter, I’m sure there’s a guy in Ohio going, I just got on board with gay marriage, could you give me a minute? This idea that we’re not any gender when we’re born is very new and very radical, that you’re born and it’s just [a] jump ball, you have a penis, it could mean you’re a boy. I mean, that’s a very new idea and I’m not sure I’m down with all of it and I don’t have to be.”
After McWhorter said, “But Dave wasn’t battling power differentials. He wasn’t immediately onboard and that person from Ohio [who doesn’t believe that gender is a choice] needs to do some learning and some adjusting,” Maher agreed.
Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett