Criticizing Caitlyn Jenner doesn’t (necessarily) mean you’re transphobic.
Caitlyn Jenner. Oh, Caitlyn Jenner. It seems like every few weeks now, she’s saying something that leaves me feeling ashamed and embarrassed of myself being transgender.
Let’s start with the most recent brouhaha. In an interview with BuzzFeed, she said what? “The hardest part about being a woman is figuring out what to wear” ? Of all the answers she could have given to that question, she goes with the one that paints her — and to those whose only exposure to trans people comes from seeing her on TV, every single trans woman—as extraordinarily shallow, purely image-obsessed.
It’s probably nice being a millionaire celebrity whose biggest struggle is, as she said, figuring out what to wear, but holy crap. This is not exactly something that makes her sound in touch with trans people… or women, generally… or, well, anyone except millionaire reality TV stars.
Now, she did qualify this later in the answer, but come. on.
Another example was when she appeared on the Today show, and pretty much gave people the all-clear to misgender/misname trans people.
Now, I’m most amused by this clip for Jenner’s attempt to do air quotes around “The community” while holding two golf clubs.
But once that novelty wore off, what she said had a chance to sink in. Oh, that overbearing community with their ridiculous demands… like being recognized as who they are… I guess?
Seriously, though, if she doesn’t care whether someone calls her the wrong name or pronoun, that’s cool. But don’t act like that somehow makes you more “tolerant” or whatever.
But anyway, what Caitlyn Jenner acts are this huge asks of people are actually just standard courtesies we extend to people every single day.
Think about it. If you meet someone new and they say, “Hi, my name’s Bob,” you don’t demand to see “proof” that’s their name or respond, “You look more like a ‘Jim’ to me. Hi, Jim.” (I mean, I don’t know, maybe you do, but you get what I’m saying, right?) If Bob goes to use the bathroom, you don’t go, “Hey Jim, before you do that, I need you to answer some very specific questions about your genitals. Hope that’s cool. Again, nice meeting you for the first time ever today.” Right?
I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me, but this stuff kind of just falls under basic kindness and an effort to not be a dick to other people. (Please don’t be a dick. Please be nice to other people. Please just be cool about trans people, it’s no big deal)
But anyway, why does it matter what Caitlyn Jenner says or thinks or does or whatever?
Because for better or for worse, to many people, she’s the only trans person they “know.”
And here’s the thing. If, to her, the hardest thing about being a woman is “figuring out what to wear,” then that’s valid… for her. For only her. And that speaks to the privilege (don’t run away, I know it’s a scary word) she’s had her throughout her life (I mean, again, being white, read as male for 65 years, millionaire, celebrity… there’s a lot there that’s worked in her favor).
If Shania Twain is allowed to think “The best thing about being a woman is the prerogative to have a little fun,” then who am I to tell Caitlyn Jenner what she thinks is the hardest thing about being a woman?
But it’s tricky. Like I said above, for better or for worse, she might be the only representation of a trans person a whole lot of people know.
I tried explaining what this is like…
Imagine if you traveled to earth from different planet like Mars or Gallifrey or wherever — just imagine that you’ve never met, seen, or heard of humans. Now imagine if, upon landing on our spherical homeworld, you meet just one person. Just one.
Kim Kardashian (let’s just stick with the family).
Now imagine you hop back into your spaceship, and set sail for your planet of origin. Once there, the other Martians or Timelords or whatever ask what you learned about humanity, and you reply…
So much like how in that last little thought experiment you might not have a very thorough understanding of humanity if your entire knowledge of what it is to be human came from Kim Kardashian, that’s kind of how it is in the real world for trans people with regards to Caitlyn Jenner. And while she has every right to look, act, dress, whatever however she wants, for those people whose opinions on trans people come entirely from her, she’s influencing what they think about all trans people.
Get it? Maybe? I don’t know. The point is, again, Caitlyn Jenner is just one of millions, and certainly has different experiences than most trans folks. Please don’t take her saying something about not being on board with marriage equality or about the importance of dresses or whatever as being somehow representative of all trans people. That’s just… not.
Want to criticize her? There are so many legit reasons to take her to task that have nothing to do with her being trans.
I don’t have much to add on that, other than a strong recommendation that you check out this article. I agree with the vaaaaast majority of it.
I detest Caitlyn Jenner. The list of reasons starts with her association with the Kardashians whom I find deplorable. I…thekinfolkkollective.wordpress.com
Basically, the point here (and this is probably the most important point in this blog post, oh my god why am I burying it all the way down here) is that Caitlyn Jenner can be criticized in a way that doesn’t demonize other trans people. Like here, check it out. From the above article:
“So I will call her an elitist, but I will not call her Bruce. I will call her narcissistic, but I will not call her a tranny. I will call her selfish, but I won’t call her a man. I will call her self-absorbed, but I won’t call her ‘shim.’ I will call her callous, but I won’t call her ‘him.’ I will call her phony, but I won’t make reference to her genitals. I will call her an oppressor, but I won’t call her a freak. I will call her delusional, but I won’t call her a dude. I criticize how she uses her voice, but I won’t criticize the tone and texture of her voice. I will call her a poor role model, but I won’t call her sick.”
But can we all please give the concern trolling a rest? For example…
Can we all stop pretending we care about awards we really don’t actually care about?
The way people debated over whether she “deserved” the Arthur Ashe courage award at this year’s ESPYs, you’d think they just gave her the Nobel Peace Prize. You guys all know the ESPYs are barely a real awards show, anyway, right?
Here, from the ESPYs wikipedia page:
Since 2002, the ceremony has been conducted on the Wednesday in July following the Major League Baseball (MLB) All-Star Game; as it marks the only day of the year that none of the major North American professional leagues have games scheduled for that day .
So, it’s a sports awards show, started by a sports network, held on a day where there’s no sports. That’s a fun way to fill a programming gap.
But anyway, here’s proof that the backlash to her receiving the Arthur Ashe Courage Award was actually about the integrity of the award or what it stood for or whatever was really just about “EW TRANS PERSON EW EW EW”
Take a look at this chart. If this was such a prestigious award, then why on earth did no one seem to even know about it until it went to someone that icked them out because “Ewwwwww transssssssssss”? The same people who were so adamant that the award should go to someone truly deserving like a man who had his arm and leg amputated or a girl who died of cancer wouldn’t have even known about that award otherwise (or if they did, wouldn’t go into full meltdown mode over who it was awarded to).
And again to the most recent award kerfuffle:
People didn’t care who was named to Glamour’s Women of the Year list until Caitlyn Jenner was among the several women being awarded it (a lot of transphobic, conservative people like to frame it as though Glamour selected 1 woman and 1 woman alone for this award: Caitlyn Jenner; that’s… not at all the case, but hey, acknowledging the truth doesn’t fit the freak out narrative).
Like, take a look at this post from Nicole Russell at right wing blog The Federalist about why “Caitlyn Jenner Can’t Be Woman of the Year.”
“To celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of this award, Reese Witherspoon will accompany him on the December cover.”
Reese Witherspoon is on the cover. She is not accompanying Caitlyn Jenner on the cover. Just. Reese. Witherspoon. (She’s also one of the Women of the Year, BTW).
“Glamour goes too far. Jenner cannot be woman of the year because — kids, close your eyes — he has a penis. Jenner might feel like he is a woman, he might want to be a woman, he might be living as a woman, but thoughts do not generate biology or reality.”
I mean, maybe Jenner still has a penis? I don’t know. Maybe not? I didn’t know a genital-check was part of a fashion magazine’s judging criteria. Also, Laverne Cox — another person who at one point in time presumably had a penis—was named one of the 2014 Women of the Year. You’d think that as Russell considers herself expert enough to write about the awards that she’d be familiar with this fact.
“It’s not like we expected them to pick Laura Bush as woman of the year. So one could consider the source and just as easily shrug it off. But as a college professor once said, ‘A movie is never just a movie,’ and likewise a magazine cover is never just a magazine cover.”
Good thing she’s not actually on that magazine cover, then? Again, a little fact check never hurt anyone (except people just totally making crap up like Russell does on the regular).
My favorite part, however, is so good that I had to highlight it:
Elizabeth Holmes is one of Glamour’s 2015 Women of the Year. They even made a mini documentary about her:
The youngest self-made female billionaire in the world wants to give people control over their health information.video.glamour.com
But because we live in a fact-free land of garbage, not only did this narrative and misinformed nonsense spread, but CNN actually invited the author of this unbelievably misinformed piece to come on and give her thoughts on why Caitlyn Jenner shouldn’t be given an award that doesn’t exist (again, it’s important to note that it’s not a 1 person per year award, there were like 40 recipients this year, including the entire US women’s soccer team; in the past, Britney Spears has been named to this list).
But again, don’t be a dick.
Anyway, to take this all back home again, Caitlyn Jenner may very well be an awful person (I don’t know her, personally) or whatever. She’s your classic “voting-against-her-own-self-interests” Republican, she’s shallow, whatever. There are all these great reasons you can criticize her, but why does it have to be “LOL U R TRANS?” When you do that, you’re not just being a dick to her, but to all trans people.
Am I saying you can’t call her names because she’s trans or that you can’t loudly argue that she’s not ‘really’ a woman or whatever? Of course not. You can do whatever you want. I’m not your mom. I just think it makes you kind of a jerk if you do it. Don’t be a jerk. Don’t be a dick. But it’s all your call.