The trans community says this kind of joke is a set back and gets people killed.
A recent video circulating around the internet shows a clip from "The Real Dumbass World," a show that is currently airing on the internet streaming video network, Zeus.
The problematic and potentially dangerous "Springer" style ambush set-up involves online comedian Holy Gxd who is on a blind date with an African American woman.
In the video that’s been viewed more than 3 million times, they are having dinner and everything seems to be going fine until Holy Gxd begins to suspect his date is in drag or transgender. As he grows increasingly uncomfortable, the trans woman of color becomes more aggressive eventually taking off her wig and insinuating that she is going to sexually assault Holy Gxd.
Terrified, Holy Gxd picks up his knife to protect himself before becoming so terrified he starts screaming to his roommate for help. A quick Facebook keyword search will bring up the vid if you care to see it.
If you're laughing, you don't see the potentially murderous problem of this prank, so you may want to read what prominent trans journalists and activists had to say about it once I brought it to their attention.
"This is what so many seem to get wrong about trans women," said Gwendolyn Ann Smith, founder of Transgender Day of Remembrance. "They view us as deceptive, that we're fooling people who date us. That is what this 'prank' is all about. This is so anti-trans, and makes light of the real plight of trans women, particularly trans women of color, just to survive."
Last year 29 transgender people were reported killed according to the Human Rights Campaign. This year Dana Martin was the first reported homicide, her body found in an Alabama ditch, killed with a bullet.
"The Real Dumbass World" is featured on the Zeus network, an online subscription service that offers a variety of shows that highlight mostly African American web talent with programs ranging from comedy to fitness, to reality.
This particular episode is described as a challenge between two comedians; Holy Gxd and Funny Mike who are in disagreement about who gets the most girls between them.
But what may be lighthearted and hilarious to them is not the experience a trans woman is having when placed in a similar situation looking down the barrel of a gun or the thick end of a baseball bat. The consequences for releasing this type of skit into the ether for viral fame is irresponsible and may endorse how cisgender men should react in the same situation.
"It's cruel, it's mean spirited and it paints transgender people as the aggressor," adds Smith.
Distinguished trans journalist and recently appointed managing editor at Outsports, Dawn Ennis said she was very upset after watching the clip, "No trans woman would ever turn tables like this, rip off her wig and threaten to rape a partner. If there's a story, it's that Zeus staged this (or whoever) to fulfill the entrapment fallacy and show straight men that they have every right to distrust us and that we are out to 'trick' straight men."
Even though this type of portrayal affects the trans community collectively, there may be no better person to weigh in on this story than a transgender woman of color. Connecticut activist and organizer Chardonnay Merlot was equally concerned about the depiction but says it's pointless to overact to the ugliness of "punch down" culture when instead that energy should be put forth in efforts to become proactive influencers and educators.
She says the skit in question has a glaring lack of creativity and no understanding of what being trans means.
"What you have is the same, tired, shopworn cliche that somehow we're not real and we're trying to trick somebody," said Merlot. "In the real world, a transgender woman is not doing that with anyone, especially with a cis-gender man because cisgender men have about a 100-percent kill rate when it comes to who murders trans women especially in the case of trans women like me; an African American trans woman -- it's scary."
Merlot says the public should support people in the industry who are putting forth the counter-message and the counter-narrative to enlighten rather than frighten.
One way to start that is to challenge entertainment creators and comedians to visit the list of names which are read every year for Transgender Day of Remembrance. "One thing that's going to come at them real damn quick is that (they're) being flippant with a list that has too many names and more often than not, too many people with no name." She adds, "Too many people known as 'Jane Doe' too many people without even a name, but they're dead."
The deaths are not just becoming an unspoken epidemic in the United States. Merlot says she is constantly updated on trans deaths from around the world.
"Trans people have no rights that anyone is willing to respect," she explains. "But in the arena we're talking about, there is an even a greater tacit approval for the lack of rights or no rights at all."
Historically, The entertainment field has had a great influence on the public and should fulfill a responsibility in updating their intellectual prowess. Racially-mocking stereotypes are no longer recognized or tolerated as a source of comedic pleasure in any medium.
Sadly, reckless online shows such as "The Real Dumbass World" side-step this etiquette and can only become successful with clicks and shares, usually from content that is grossly inappropriate.
In their goals to gain a seat at the table of viral fandom, they become toxic sources in their disregard of any accountability for public safety even within their own community. This is something Merlot also recognizes.
"Yeah, people are falling all over themselves to make the next edgy trans joke or give the next edgy anti-trans hot take. I mean from the Bible-thumpers and the intellectual prigs in this country to these TERF-y women in the UK who have nothing good to say and everything ugly to say," said Merlot.
San Diego Gay and Lesbian News reached out to Zeus Network for comment, they have yet to respond.