Amid Netflix Employee Walkout, Transgender Artists Share Their Differing Views on Dave Chappelle's 'The Closer'

Two members of Hollywood's Black transgender community, Flame Monroe and J Mase III, join PEOPLE Every Day to respond to the comedian's latest controversial special

Flame Monroe, J Mase III
Photo: Flame Monroe/Instagram; J Mase III/Instagram

The backlash over Netflix's release of Dave Chappelle's latest comedy special continues, and now transgender artists are sharing their reaction to the situation with PEOPLE.

PEOPLE Every Day host Janine Rubenstein talked to two members of the Black transgender community in Hollywood who have differing responses to several controversial jokes about the LGBTQ community in Chappelle's special The Closer.

For comedian Flame Monroe, it's a matter of censorship, explaining that nothing should be off-limits in the name of humor.

"All we want to do is argue and fight over ridiculousness," she shared. "He did his job and I applaud him. And thank you Netflix for keeping it on Netflix. I appreciate that."

Dave Chappelle
Dave Chappelle in The Closer. Mathieu Bitton

Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos told Variety on Tuesday that he will not remove the comedy special from the streaming giant, but admitted that he "obviously screwed up" with addressing the concerns of Netflix employees.

"I should have led with a lot more humanity," Sarandos said to the outlet. "Meaning, I had a group of employees who were definitely feeling pain and hurt from a decision we made. And I think that needs to be acknowledged up front before you get into the nuts and bolts of anything. I didn't do that. That was uncharacteristic for me."

Monroe believes the controversial special has sparked important discussions that will actually bring about progress for the transgender community.

"If [Chappelle] did nothing else with this special, he brought forth the conversation that needs to be had between us and them so we can let down this shield between us and them so there will no longer be an us and them," she added.

Poet and educator J Mase III doesn't share the same sentiments about the special, which on Wednesday, led to a walkout by hundreds of Netflix employees who believe it is transphobic.

"[Chappelle] has consistently made jokes at the expense of trans folks and trans people and trying to, in some way, pretend like he doesn't know that that causes harm," Mase III said. "It's going to be repeated in our general communities, and this is not going to impact white trans people in the same way that it's specifically going to impact Black trans people."

"I feel like he is smart and attuned enough to get that and just has not understood that we are a group of people within [the] Black community that is worth protecting," Mase III added, reiterating his belief that Chappelle added fuel to a stereotype that "trans people are dangerous."

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Monroe is concerned that this line of thinking is pessimistic and ignores major advances for transgender people on a wider scale. "We have Sarah McBride, the state Senator. Joe Biden just appointed a doctor who's a trans woman. Mj Rodriguez just made history by being nominated as the first trans woman actress in a leading role," she pointed out. "So do you see the glass half empty or do you see the glass half full? I see the glass half full because I have a target I'm trying to reach."

But Mase III is alarmed that Chappelle's comedy has elicited an increase in hate-filled responses to the community on social media.

"We're the ones that actually are dealing with — on the ground — the ramifications of what he said and could tell that very instantly what the impact was because those folks are in our families, those folks are in our Twitter mentions. Those folks are everywhere harassing us these last couple weeks," he shared. "There is a lack of nuance and we are used to being the butt of jokes, we are used to the harassment that we get. We shouldn't have to be."

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Mase III would like to see Netflix pull down the program and instead focus on more inclusive content, he said, adding, "it's not like there's this mythological world in which Black trans comedians don't exist."

Monroe previously appeared in a 2019 episode of Netflix's Tiffany Haddish Presents: They Ready, and is concerned that giving into the demands of protestors will set a precedent for comedians to be silenced going forward.

"I hope that we can find a common ground and a happy medium because if Dave's special has got them all in an uproar and a tizzy, what's going to happen with mine come," she pondered. "As a comic, I will not be censored, as a trans woman, I do want respect, and as a Black person, I want everything that's been promised to me."

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