Breaking Binary Boundaries

The genderqueer comedians challenging nonbinary stereotypes

Pax Ahimsa Gethen

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Netflix banner for Hannah Gadsby’s Gender Agenda, featuring Polaroid-style headshots of Hannah and the seven other featured comedians: Jes Tom, Asha Ward, Chloe Petts, Krishna Ishtha, Alok, DeAnne Smith, and Mx. Dahlia Belle.

This Sunday, March 31 is the annual Transgender Day of Visibility, an occasion to celebrate and elevate the lives of trans and nonbinary people worldwide. Here in the U.S., loving support and recognition is especially needed for trans folks who are the targets of hateful, discriminatory legislation drafted by state lawmakers. Sharing accurate information about us can help change hearts and minds.

As my regular readers know, I am trans and nonbinary (agender/transmasculine) myself, and do volunteer work to improve representation of our community on Wikipedia. So when I saw that a genderqueer comedy special, Hannah Gadsby’s Gender Agenda, was coming to Netflix this month, I searched the encyclopedia for the names of the featured comedians. Only three of them — Hannah Gadsby, ALOK, and DeAnne Smith — had existing articles, which was not entirely surprising. I decided to write the remaining five biographies myself, for Jes Tom, Chloe Petts, Krishna Istha, Asha Ward, and Mx. Dahlia Belle.

Notably, more than half of Gadsby’s group are people of color, who are also underrepresented on Wikipedia. As nonbinary people in the U.S. are often stereotyped as young, white, slim, and androgynous, it was refreshing to see a more expansive range of humanity represented in this special.

The genesis of Gender Agenda was the backlash to the transphobic “comedy” of Dave Chappelle. In his 2021 Netflix special, The Closer, he mocked and misgendered Daphne Dorman, a San Francisco-based trans activist who died by suicide. Netflix employees staged a walkout in protest. I was working for the San Francisco Office of Transgender Initiatives at the time, and authored a statement of support for our community, in…

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Pax Ahimsa Gethen

Queer agender trans male. Black vegan atheist, pacifist. Pronouns: they/them/their. funcrunch.org, patreon.com/funcrunch