I've heard my fair share of gay jokes. In fact, many of the most high profile come from members of the straight community: celebrities and supporters who use LGB issues to get a laugh, but also to get the issue out there and in the public eye. Sometimes I groan, often I laugh, rarely do I get offended.
But my generation may be the first to have that luxury. We are building on decades of struggle and awareness-raising around gay issues.
The trans community, however, is still in the beginning stages of gaining visibility, fighting for acceptance and defending against violence and discrimination. I'm not talking about discussing gender identity with your conservative southern parents. I mean, not being physically assaulted in large, liberal urban centers.
So, when David Letterman makes a joke about how disgusting it is to sleep with someone who is trans, it stings a little more than your average gay joke. Not because I think Letterman hates trans people. I have no idea how he feels about the issue, nor do I have any evidence that he's taken time to think about it at all.
But the average viewer of The Late Show has little or no understanding of trans issues. The appointment of Amanda Simpson as the Senior Technical Adviser to the Commerce Department - a brave move by the Obama administration and one we need to take time to appreciate - may be the first time any of these viewers have seen a trans person as anything other than the butt of a joke or a victim of violence in the newspaper.
This is revolutionary and we need to support this new kind of visibility for trans people.
The good news is that Letterman's writers can fix their mistake. Apologize publicly and without humor for the disservice you have done Ms. Simpson, the trans community and the American public. We are not being sticks in the mud, we are not ruining your fun, we're just letting you know that, given the context of the trans struggle, your joke was in pretty poor taste.