Gender holds a firm place in America’s collective consciousness right now. And the subject of transgender identity is hotly debated. The most vocal critics on both the right and wholly incapable of meeting in the middle, as was seen in this testy exchange between Larry Wilmore and Milo Yiannopoulos on a recent episode of Bill Maher’s show Real Time.
[Scroll Down for Video]
Wilmore, a former Daily Show correspondent and Nightly Show host, went toe-to-toe with Yiannopoulos.
who now serves as the executive producer of ABC’s Black-ish and co-creator of HBO’s Insecure, was one of the panelists on Friday night’s edition of Real Time, and during the Overtime segment—that aired exclusively online—he squared off against Yiannopoulos.
Maher had been dancing around the controversy, but decided to ask Yiannopoulos why he had singled out a transgender student at a speech at University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.
Yiannopoulos reportedly called the student “he” despite the student wishing to be called “she.”
“He had already left the university,” Yiannopoulos said. “And I make no apologies for protecting women and children from men who are confused about their sexual identity.”
“I did it on purpose. I misgendered this person… I think women and girls should be protected from having men who are confused about their sexual identities from their bathrooms.”
“That’s not unreasonable,” said Maher.
But Wilmore had had enough. “I just think it’s sad, because the same arguments that were used against gay people, treating them like aliens who wanted to fuck anything that moved and that’s why we should avoid them at all costs, are being used.”
Yiannpoulos attempted to retort, but was shot down.
“Well, let me finish my thought, please,” Wilmore said. “No, It’s terrible. There’s a difference without a distinction, because it’s using the type of arguments. It’s like when people try to compare gay and black. Yeah, they’re not the same thing. We shared invisibility. People didn’t see us in society, and gay people hid out from society, but there were a lot of the same issues that you have to deal with when you’re marginalized.”
“You can always find an extreme person that becomes the object of your attack to assign that to everybody,” he said. “So if you say, well that person is ‘weird’ or they want to commit sexual assault, then people think all transgender people want to do is commit sexual assault.”
Yiannopoulos’s argument deals with the fundamental argument inherent in this debate. Gender is a social construct. It is built by society, and you may chose to be more masculine or feminine, and you can even determine which gendered terms you might like assigned to your identity. Sex, though, is not flexible. At a chromosomal level, almost every human aligns into two distinct divisions, and no amount of gender theory will change that. Almost all languages suffer from a serious inadequacy of options for clarifying the difference between sex and gender.
“Well, they are disproportionately involved in those kinds of crimes. That’s not a controversial statistic,” Yiannopoulos replied, “and frankly, you’re suggesting these people are the victims of some kind of discrimination. Well I’m saying to you this is a psychiatric disorder—like identity disorder or like sociopathy.”
“This is what I said: [it’s] the same argument we used against gay people,” Wilmore said. “You should do your homework. Homosexuality was called a ‘disorder.’ It was a ‘psychological disorder.’”
“Maybe it is. I feel really disordered.”
“Maybe you are, but most homosexuals are not,” offered Wilmore.
“No, I think most gays have a long road, actually, to coming to terms with their sexuality,” Yiannopoulos quipped.
“Yeah, because of the way society treats them!” exclaimed Wilmore. “If society said ‘we’re fine with gay people’ and it’s 1890, do you think in 1990 people are going to have an issue with it?”
Yiannopoulos, never one to shy away from the dramatic moment, turned back to Maher. “You always invite such awful people on your show!” he said. “They’re so stupid!”
“First of all, hold on, Bill,” Wilmore snapped back. “You can go fuck yourself,” Wilmore said to Yiannopoulos. “If your argument is that these people are stupid, you didn’t hear a word this man [Nance] said earlier in the segment, because he can talk circles around your pathetic, douchey little ass from England, alright?”
“And one last thing: Leslie Jones is not ‘barely literate.’ Go fuck yourself again for that one, OK?”