President Barack Obama made history when he appointed Amanda Simpson, one of the nation's first transgender executive-level appointees, to a position with the U.S. Commerce Department. But rather than celebrate the history behind this, the Late Show with David Letterman turned the appointment into an opportunity for transphobic "humor."
To them, Simpson's appointment was a chance to say that transgender people are sick. Funny? Hardly. Transphobic? Absolutely.
Send a message to the producers at the Late Show letting them know that transphobia isn't funny. Amanda Simpson is well-qualified, distinguished in her field, and will prove an asset to the U.S. Commerce Department. For the Late Show to make a joke about how "sick" she is because she's transgender is offensive, rude, and fosters the types of discrimination and violence that affect the trans population at large.
Yet, instead of recognizing the historical significance of Simpson's appointment, the Late Show with David Letterman used it as an opportunity to put forward a transphobic skit that sent a message to millions of Americans that transgender people are "sick."
To be clear, transgender people in the U.S. (and around the world) face unprecedented levels of violence. The National Center for Transgender Equality reports that, for years, transgender people have been murdered on an average of more than one person per month, with many more assaulted. The reason behind such attacks? Hatred. Fear. And the type of sentiments stoked by the joke that the Late Show with David Letterman used to diminish Simpson's appointment to the Obama administration.
I urge you to apologize for this joke. It was unacceptable, and while it may not have been ill-intentioned, it fostered the type of transphobia that lies at the heart of violence and discrimination. Instead of making a joke that Amanda Simpson is enough to make one sick, why not invite her on your show, so that the staff of The Late Show -- and a huge chunk of America -- can see that she's well-qualified and respected in her field. It might even be a teachable moment for your staff and the country, as opposed to putting out sophomoric jokes that only foster irrational phobias.