January 8, 2010 - Washington DC
The International Foundation for Gender Education is calling on David Letterman to apologize for a defamatory skit that ran this week on the Late Show. On the program, Mr. Letterman announced President Barack Obama's appointment of Amanda Simpson to serve a national security role in the Commerce Department as Senior Technical Adviser. The show's announcer, Alan Kalter, ran offstage in a panic when Mr. Letterman stated that Ms. Simpson was transgender, implying that he had had a sexual relationship with her, and that she had deceived him.
This skit is in shockingly poor taste since it is the stated defense of numerous murderers accused of killing transgender women, the so-called "trans-panic defense". The use of this defense has resulted in sentences of less than two years in some cases. In the last 10 years almost 300 transgender women have been murdered in this country. Despite the recent passage of the federal Hate Crimes Law, very few of these cases are ever solved, and even fewer result in conviction.
Our society places little value on the lives of transgender people, but it is unconscionable to use the murders of our brothers and sisters as a throwaway joke. We encourage everyone to contact the show and express their outrage. The producers may be contacted at
The following letter was sent from IFGE to Mr. Letterman:
Late Show with David Letterman
New York, NY 10001
Dear Mr. Letterman,
On behalf of the International Foundation for Gender Education and thousands of transgender people, I am writing to ask for your apology.
On January 6, 2010 you aired a skit deriding Amanda Simpson for being a transgender woman. Your skit perpetuated a lethal stereotype that transgender people are deceitful and disposable sex objects. These stereotypes result in the violent death of a transgender person approximately every 14 days in our country alone. I am sure that you did not intend to encourage the murder of innocent individuals, and I hope that you will make that clear.
The sexual objectification of transgender women is insulting to everyone in the transgender community and degrading to all women. It is fair game to make fun of people for what they have done. It is neither fair, nor funny, to make fun of people for who they are. It is simply prejudice. Our lives are not a joke.
As a test pilot, Ms. Simpson repeatedly risked her life to protect our country, and now she has put her career and reputation on the line to serve her country once again, Unfortunately, instead of being praised for her bravery and service, she has been objectified and degraded. Amanda Simpson is an incredibly skilled and experienced individual, but given the prevalence of negative stereotypes, her appointment to serve as the Senior Technical Adviser to the Commerce Department is nothing short of amazing.
Ms Simpson deserves both your gratitude and your apology.
International Foundation for Gender Education
The International Foundation for Gender Education (IFGE) promotes acceptance for transgender people everywhere through education. Founded in 1978, IFGE is the largest transgender advocacy organization with members worldwide. Since it’s founding, it has provided educational outreach for the emancipation of all gender variant people from restrictive gender norms. IFGE is a non-profit educational corporation with offices in Washington, DC and Waltham, MA, and is recognized by the I.R.S. as a 501c(3) charitable organization.
“IFGE - Promoting Acceptance for Transgender People Everywhere Through Education”
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