Australian comedian Barry Humphries has angered the entire transgender community, as well as most people with an ounce of humanity, with his insensitive comments about Caitlyn Jenner, formerly US Olympian Bruce Jenner. Humphries described Jenner as a “a mutilated man”. “Self-mutilation, what’s all this carry on? Caitlyn Jenner — what a publicity-seeking ratbag,” Humphries said in an interview with the London Telegraph.
Humphries has also said that he backs controversial feminist Germain Greer, who said last October that transgender women “aren’t real women”. According to Greer, “trans” women such as Jenner are men “who believe that they are women and have themselves castrated.” Humphries, who is about to return to the stage as Dame Edna for the last time, has been criticised widely for his comments.
As trans rights continue to advance and more stories of transgender people are told in the media, one might hope that Humphries’ comments are the remnants of a fading generation. But sadly, Humphries has received messages of agreement and support.
“Well done Mr. Humphries, well done,” wrote on supporter on NineMSN.
“Well said Germaine and Barry. I find this Caitlyn fella quite freaky,” writes another.
“Woman of the year? It hasn’t even lived as a woman for a full year!” a third supporter added.
Perhaps anticipating backlash, Humphries tried to preemptively defend himself, saying, ““If you criticise anything you’re racist or sexist or homophobic.” He forgot to mention transphobic – casting doubt on the legitimacy of transgender lives and identity qualifies as one of the many textbook definitions of transphobia, according to SameSame.
However, some have seen the irony and hypocrisy of Humphries’ comments, and have hit back against him on social media.
The irony of Barry Humphries preaching negativity towards Caitlyn Jenner, after he has made millions impersonating a women.
— Mikkayla Mossop (@MikkaylaMossop) January 5, 2016
The BBC’s most famous transgender actor Rebecca Root, star of “Boy Meets Girl” on BBC Two, has even called for him to be sacked from BBC radio as retribution for his “retrograde” views. Root says that the BBC should fire Humphries if he does not apologise. “If he retracts the statement I’d say he’s said sorry, and move on. But if he does a Germaine Greer, I’d say he’s gone too far and the BBC should reconsider its position on giving him a show,” Root said. “The fact is that this sense of humour resonates with the bad old days. It’s very retrograde, and I hoped we’d moved on from it.”
This wouldn’t be the first time that Humphries has lost a job for inflammatory comments. In 2003, he was sacked as Vanity Fair’s Agony Aunt Column writer when he responded to a question asking if learning Spanish was a good idea with the remark, “Why Spanish, who would you talk to – your maid?” Many took offence to this thoughtless remark, including Mexican actress Salma Hayek who penned a critical letter in response.
Unfortunately, 9news reports that the BBC said it would not sack the presenter. A spokesman said: “Barry Humphries is a freelance presenter for BBC Radio 2 and these are his personal views, which are not reflected in his radio programme.” Humphries’s new series, Barry’s Forgotten Musical Masterpieces, begins on Radio 2 on January 13.
A spokesman for Trans Media Watch said the comments encouraged “hostility towards trans people”. But in spite of comments like Greer’s and Humphries’, society continues to break ground on transgender rights. Adults are to be given the right to choose their legal gender under proposals that would consign to history the long and traumatic process of having gender reassigned, reports the Sunday Times. Transgender actors such as Orange Is The New Black‘s Laverne Cox and movies like The Danish Girl and Tangerine are breaking out of their former niches and being embraced by mainstream society.
One can only hope that Humphries’ comments really are the remnants of a fading generation after all.