Jamie Foxx Tells Transphobic Bruce Jenner Jokes During iHeart Radio, But The Internet Is Quick To Call Him Out
There's something about this story that warms my heart and makes me deeply saddened at the same time. At the iHeart Radio Music Awards on Sunday night, Jamie Foxx joked about Bruce Jenner in a way that was both inappropriate and transphobic. Yes, that's right: he made the rumors that Jenner is transgender the butt of some of his jokes in his opening monologue, and the Internet was just not having it. The sad thing is that we still live in a world where everyone feels entitled to deciding Jenner's gender for him without him having ever actually volunteered any new information on that front, let alone a world that would make that a basis for comedy. The heartwarming thing is that the Internet was so quick to let a comedian and artist know that, no, this is not acceptable behavior.
"We've got some groundbreaking performances here, too, tonight," Foxx began during his monologue. "Bruce Jenner will be here doing some musical performances — he's doing a his-and-her duet all by himself." He then finished with, "Look, I'm just busting your balls while I still can." Yikes. Not only making assumptions and playing into rumors, but objectifying the transgender experience in a very personal and brash way. As far as insensitivity, this pretty much covers all the horrible bases. Now, I am very well aware that Foxx is far from the only comedian who has used such taboo subjects — from Jenner's rumored transition to Bill Cosby's sexual abuse allegations — to try to make an audience laugh. It's definitely not cool, but that's not even the whole issue here.
Let's start with the issue of with how jokes about Bruce Jenner have no place at a ceremony like the iHeart Radio Music Awards (not that transgender jokes have a place anywhere, really). He's not even a musician! As a celebration of musical artistry, there should have been no reason for Jenner to be pulled into the material for the comedy portion of the evening at all. Asking Foxx's monologue to stick solely to that which we would be watching mere minutes after he left the stage may be asking too much, but it just seems like there were so many other broad topics he could have made such a cringe-worthy joke about without resorting to turning an already marginalized community, and an already much intruded-upon person, into the punchline of a joke.
But the main issue is the fact that Jenner himself has not come out as transgender, which adds a new layer of offense to Foxx's "comedy." Essentially, he's making fun of transgender people in general, AND projecting a gender identity onto someone who hasn't openly claimed it for himself. Whether Bruce is or isn't transgender longer matters; the joke is not a joke either way. It's just ignorant, and it's damaging, and it's completely uncalled for. He is making fun of people for being themselves in the worst kind of way, and he was promptly called out on it by the viewing audience.
So, yes, while Jenner was the subject of the jokes, it is the underlying fact that Foxx considered those "jokes" to begin with that was truly offensive. If there was any good to come out of the situation, it is the fact that transphobia like that did not go without being challenged; there was a time, after all, when Foxx's joke might have brought belly laughs without anyone stopping to consider why it might be wrong. While there are still some who don't think that Foxx went too far, or that the joke was inappropriate, there is a discussion about it — and discussions open up the opportunity for people to educate themselves further about the transgender community. It's not a huge step forward, but it's a step forward.
Editors Note: Until/unless Jenner has personally confirmed the transgender rumors and the intention to begin presenting as a woman, Bustle will continue to refer to the track star as a man and father, using male pronouns. Jenner deserves the courtesy of being able to “tell his story his way” when ready, as step-daughter Kim said, and Bustle will only make those changes if/when Jenner confirms.