The Colbert Report Takes on Trans Medicare Coverage

By Parker Marie Molloy

Originally published on Advocate.com June 04 2014 2:32 PM ET

On Tuesday's episode of The Colbert Report, host Stephen Colbert riffed on the recent ruling by the Department of Health and Human Services that paves the way for Medicare coverage of transition-related surgical care.

"But now men are becoming women, women are becoming men, and my inbox is becoming full with your angry letters every time I talk about it," Colbert deadpanned to the camera. "I know, I'm cis-hetero nazi scum. I accept your judgement."

Colbert has a mixed record on transgender topics. In February, trans writer and activist Janet Mock dropped by the show to discuss her new book, Redefining Realness, as well as her infamous appearances on the now-canceled Piers Morgan Live.

Prior to that, however, Colbert had been criticized for relying on transphobic humor on his show in several instances. 

"Folks, it's just like when someone lies to you," Colbert said during an October 2013 segment of  "The Word." "Technically, they're telling you the truth, as long as you never find out it was a lie." As he said this, text on-screen read "Or notice her Adam's apple."

"President-elect Obama is meeting every day with his transition team, or in beltway lingo, 'trannies,'" Colbert joked in a November 2008 episode.

"Colbert isn't using these jokes to mock conservatives' transphobia, he's just using time-tested trans jokes for easy laughs," reads a post on the blog Your Moment of Transmisogyny. "And because liberals — as well as conservatives — find the idea of a trans person to be the most hilarious/disgusting thing ever, these jokes fucking kill."

Other bloggers — like PQ Monthly's Leela Ginelle — have noted Colbert's propensity to use trans women as punchlines, and a Change.org petition calling for Colbert — along with Jon Stewart, Comedy Central, Viacom, and producers of both The Daily Show and The Colbert Report — to stop making jokes at the expense of trans individuals has more than 6,000 signatures as of press time.

To his credit, Colbert's latest segment seems more in line with the traditional, satirical nature he applies to other subjects, making the punchline of the joke conservatives who "don't get it," as opposed to trans women themselves.

"I agree to be totally cool with it — which I clearly am, which Time magazine clearly is, which all the people lobbying for [Carmen Carrera] to be a Victoria's Secret clearly are — as long as you are hot," Colbert says toward the end of the segment. "But now you want me to accept unattractive transgender people? Where does it end? Will I have to accept unattractive non-transgender people? What am I made of? Humanity?"

Watch the segment below:
 

The Colbert Report
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Contributor: 
Parker Marie Molloy