This weekend, Dave Chappelle capped off an important year in his career with two new Netflix stand-up specials. In the first, Equanimity, Chappelle addressed a letter he said he'd received from a white transperson about trans jokes he'd told in the past.
"When I read this letter," Chappelle said, "this shit made me feel bad. I didn’t feel bad about what I said, you understand, I felt bad that I made someone else feel bad." He said he didn't know which transgender joke had offended the writer, but that he thinks it was his bit about Caitlyn Jenner being in the running for a Sports Illustrated cover, in which the punchline was Chappelle saying "yuck."
In response to that section of Equanimity, a man by the name of Tyler Foster posted on Medium that he believes he is the letter writer in question, and that he is still disappointed in how Chappelle is joking about transpeople. Foster said that his letter was in response to seeing Chappelle do a set in Seattle in March of 2016. He even said he received a response from Chappelle, who said while his trans jokes may have appeared offensive, they aren't malicious. Chappelle also said that Foster's friends in the transgender community "are lucky to have an advocate like" Foster, who is reportedly cisgender, but is friends with a trans comedian.
Foster doesn't appear to be 100 percent sure Chappelle was referencing his letter, although certain things do line up. Chappelle mentioned the letter was sent to his hotel in Portland, which Foster confirms is where he sent the letter. Foster is not a white transperson, though, nor did he know the fake name Chappelle apparently uses at hotels.
Foster's main beef is that, in his opinion, Chappelle seemed to use the letter as "a long set up to more of his trans material. Weirdly, the rewrite makes the bit even more dismissive, ignoring a complaint ostensibly from someone directly affected by the material rather than a bystander like myself."
As previously reported, Chappelle has gone on record as saying he's not transphobic, telling The Washington Blade, "I wouldn’t consider myself that because I’m not even sure what the term means. Do I discriminate against somebody because they’re trans? I would like to think absolutely not." In the same article, longtime Baltimore LGBT rights advocate Rev. Merrick Moise, who is a trans man, said Chappelle "is an example of many who just don’t get it. They may not have a virulent anti-trans stance," Moise continued, "but failed to grasp the hurtful nature of their jokes. Clearly he needs more education and conversation with black trans people to understand the gravity of his jokes made in poor taste."
As of this writing, Chappelle hasn't responded to Foster's post about the letter or his jokes on Equanimity.