Sometimes, laughter is the best medicine.
Wednesday was a particularly difficult day for the transgender community — but it ended with some messages of support and education on late-night TV.
President Trump’s announcement that he is banning trans military service not only had implications for the thousands who might soon be unemployed, but also communicated to transgender people that they are unworthy of support and inclusion. Social conservatives celebrated the change as a victory and seized the opportunity to rehash myths demonizing transgender people, like that trans people impose on others’ privacy and religious privilege or that being trans makes a person more prone to mental illness or suicide.
But last night, every late night comedy show took on the topic of the trans military ban. While some of the comedians dissected the issue with their usual wit and flair, others found some creative ways to respond that were both educational and supportive of the LGBTQ community.
Stephen Colbert dedicated most of his opening monologue to the issue, reading Trump’s tweets to a round of boos from the audience. Noting Trump’s past espoused support for LGBTQ people, Colbert exclaimed, “What the Hell does he think the T in LGBT stands for? Trump? Tomato? ‘I’d like an LGBT sandwich, hold the mayonnaise, and no gay stuff, okay?’”
Seth Meyers turned his show over to four of Late Night’s female writers to respond to the ban. They set their sights on Ivanka Trump, highlighting the fact that she claimed last month to support the LGBTQ community, and repeatedly introducing her to speak. Of course, she never showed.
Jimmy Fallon, after cracking a few jokes himself, also set aside time for someone else to chime in: transgender comedian Patti Harrison. “Now I don’t necessarily want to serve in the military, but I want the right to serve,” she explained. “You know, it’s like, I don’t want to go to your baby shower, but I want the invite.” She also turned some of Trump’s rationales for the ban back against him.
Opting for a more creative response, James Corden tapped into his musical talents with an original “L-G-B-T” song-and-dance number that was as touching as it was funny and informative. “How is their disruption worse than Trump’s corruption? Why’s it such a crisis, thousands willing to fight ISIS?” he sang.
And on The Daily Show, Trevor Noah went above and beyond. After picking apart Trump’s announcements and mocking the president with a montage of him struggling to say “L, G… B, T… Q,” Noah dedicated the entire B-segment to interviewing two transgender veterans, Jennifer Marie Long and Joey Whimple. The full 15-minute interview, available exclusively online, gets to the heart of the prejudiced and harmful effects of the ban.
Of course, none of these comedic responses can remedy the damaging rhetoric being tossed around — but the saturation of the issue on late night shows does speak to the growing nationwide support for transgender equality. Nevertheless, anybody who watched a late-night show before bed last night heard affirming messages about transgender people, and many also had a chance to hear from transgender people themselves.
The cathartic responses to Trump’s trans military ban on late-night TV was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.