An 84-year-old singer on America’s Got Talent has been criticised for performing a transphobic song of his own composition at his audition.
Ray Jessel’s performance was screened on Tuesday, and closed the final audition episode. Mr Jessel wrote the song himself, and entitled it ‘What She’s Got’.
The song starts seemingly innocently: “I met this girl, and she’s just great, this girl I just adore. The problem is, she has much more than I had bargained for.”
It continues on to reveal: “There’s just one thing: she’s got a penis.”
Mr Jessel sang that “there’s always some failure, always some flaw” before concluding: “My life’s a mess, because under that dress she’s got a P-E-N-I-S.”
He was cheered by the audience before being voted through by all four judges. One, former Spice Girl Mel B, praised him for being “a naughty, funny, dirty old man”.
Viewers took to Twitter after the show to express their disgust at his performance, and its impact on the trans community.
— Marilyn Pierce (@YunkerDoo) July 3, 2014
Someone goes on America's Got Talent, and sings this song about how shameful it is to be/be with a trans woman and America cheers. Lovely.
— K.T. Haché (@papierhache) July 2, 2014
— Danielle Paris (@myfairdani) July 2, 2014
— Raƒe ℙosey (@ponyonabalcony) July 2, 2014
— Qariwarmi (@qariwarmi) July 3, 2014
A petition has also been created calling on the show to apologise for the performance and remove the act from future shows.
Currently approaching 500 signatures, it questions whether NBC’s support for the LGBT community is “just lip service” and asks the network to do “one of two things“:
“One option is to remove the video, provide an on-air apology to the transgender men, women, and children that they allowed to be told are less than human, and only good for the brunt of a joke; and not have Mr. Jessel on the show again. The other option would be to stop the lip service, and admit that human rights and dignity are nothing when enough money can be brought in.”