Brendan O’Neill

    Barry Humphries and the transgender thought police

    Barry Humphries and the transgender thought police
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    The purge continues. The latest victim is Barry Humphries. The Melbourne International Comedy Festival is renaming its Barry Award after Humphries was accused of expressing transphobic views. And so-called transphobia, as we know, is the deadliest sin in the PC era. No one may deny the truth of transgenderism. No one may blaspheme against the gospel of genderfluidity. Just as those who questioned the truth of Christ were once cast out, now those who question the truth of trans will have their names erased from comedy awards and their reputations, if not their bodies, burnt at the stake.

    Mr Humphries’ crime was to be insufficiently obsequious towards the ideology of transgenderism. He once said transgender is a ‘fashion’. He described gender-reassignment surgery as ‘self-mutilation’. He said Caitlyn Jenner is a ‘publicity-seeking rat-bag’. Dissing Jenner is to the 21st-century what mocking the Virgin Mary was to the 15th. She is the transgender religion’s icon — in the true meaning of that word — and thus must be venerated by all. Fail to venerate her and you can expect to be publicly shamed. Indeed another outspoken Aussie — Germaine Greer — also landed herself in the metaphorical stocks when she said Jenner only became a woman to try to wrest some of the limelight from the Kardashians.

    The Melbourne festival organisers admit that Humphries’ comments 'definitely played a part' in their decision to scrub his name from their top award. So he really is being erased from a festival that he co-founded, in 1987, on the basis of his views and his comedic pisstake out of a certain celeb. What a shameful moment for this comedy institution, to so publicly dishonour one of its own founders, and a comedy colossus to boot, on the basis that he has said offensive things. If comedians can’t offend, who can?

    The cleansing of the Melbourne festival of any trace of Barry Humphries is testament to how intolerant the cultural elite has become. Humphries’ views on trans issues might alarm the bubble-dwelling organisers of a comedy shindig in one of the most hyper-hip cities on earth, but the fact is that many people share them. Many people believe transgenderism is a fashion, and a very worrying one, especially when it is embraced by teenagers who end up on puberty-blocking drugs and in a general state of confusion about their future. And some people believe trans operations are a form of mutilation; that it might possibly be unwise for people to request the removal of perfectly healthy organs. Surely there’s a better way to resolve the problems associated with gender dysphoria? 

    But even if nobody shared Mr Humphries’ outlook, so what? He is a comedy genius, most famous for Dame Edna Everage and Sir Les Patterson, of course, and it is in the nature of the comedy genius to provoke and unsettle and make us laugh at things we’re not sure we should be laughing at. PC is killing comedy. Its demand for unflinching fealty to new orthodoxies — especially the identitarian orthodoxy that it is never acceptable to mock any group of people (except white men) — is draining the lifeblood from comedy.

    Comedians say what we won’t. They offend sensibilities. They expose the absurdities which most of us in our daily lives tend to go along with, begrudgingly usually: they create the space in which we finally feel free to laugh at all the BS we spend the rest of the time pretending to respect. That is the service of comedy. And what an essential service it is. When comedy stops doing this, when it instead reinforces correct thinking and punishes incorrect thinking, it ceases to be comedy. It becomes a TED talk.

    I hope Mr Humphries doesn’t ask for the festival to reinstate the Barry Award. I’m sure he won’t — he’s far too old-world cool to do something like that. But other comedians might want to reconsider performing at the Melbourne festival. After all, say the wrong thing, crack an off-colour joke, dare to prick a stifling orthodoxy, and they might also find themselves publicly shamed by Melbourne’s unfunny PC boors.

    Written byBrendan O’Neill

    Brendan O’Neill is Spiked's chief politics writer

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