Caitlyn Jenner demonstrates hypocrisy not advocacy
Opinion Column: Open Season
The rise of Caitlyn Jenner has unquestionably prompted a dialogue about gender identity that too often falls by the wayside.
But what is questionable is her devotion to so-called “advocacy” amidst ties to a party that would sooner see her disenfranchised than facilitating any sort of real civic engagement or collective action. What’s also questionable is her tepid support of gay marriage, as well as a clear ignorance of the reality of what her marginalized community actually faces. It’s why I’m not alone in saying Jenner is unfit to call herself an advocate.
To live a life of such extreme privilege, insulated from the social and legal ramifications of the anti-LGBT policies that are perpetually put in place by the Republican Party, leaves Jenner a gross exception to the rule by which so many transgender people live. So when Jenner goes so far as to promise to make contact with key Republican lawmakers, like John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, to advocate on behalf of a community she couldn’t know less about, it raises plenty of concerns. Ben Carson said it best last week at a town hall meeting, in reference to transgender U.S. soldiers: “You know, give me a break. Deal with the transgender thing somewhere else.” You know, he’s right, but only in this context. Shockingly enough, that somewhere else is not John Boehner’s office.
The conservative transgender person is a lot like the conservative gay person: both of them just boggle my mind. I suppose we should be overjoyed, in a sense, that in the course of thirty-some years, we have made it so far. This is an age when being gay, or even being transgender, can have so little an implication on the lives of a small, but growing population of our most privileged that a considerable political divide can even exist in this country.
Let’s get one thing straight. It wasn’t the prim or proper who got us the rights we as LGBT people currently depend on, and perhaps take advantage of. These rights rest on the backs of the social pariahs of our community of pariahs. That is, the trans women of color, the hustlers, the drag queens and the cross-dressers too. Those of us who couldn’t hide behind a “straight-acting” exterior even if we wanted to. Those who wrote and lobbied and fought out in the streets on behalf of those whose voices were not being heard, whose voices were taken away from them in life and in death.
And that’s not to say that privilege exempts those who have it from being wonderful advocates. In practice, it’s these advocates who are able to pull people over the thresholds of said privilege in remarkable, and even invaluable ways. Jenner has done well for this community — that’s not to be ignored. Although there had been some, albeit, minimal conversations regarding gender identity on network television in years past, nothing compares to the Vanity Fair or E! Network exposure, and that's just the beginning. That exposure does translate to the community at large.
But too many have hailed Jenner as a game changer, with the capability to usher in a new era of progressivism that doesn’t distinguish gender anymore, as if that's something to strive toward. Jenner is no bastion of our community, and to say so is to trivialize the tireless contributions of others. The problem here is, the Republican Party that a wide-eyed Caitlyn talks about, the one that doesn’t care if she’s transgender or not, is not a party we as a whole should be aiming to align our advocacy with. It’s an utter waste of time and resources. As Mary McNamara of The LA Times duly writes on the theory of colorblindness, “it’s an extremely odd goal when you think about it. Colorblindness is, after all, a limitation — given the choice, who doesn’t want to be able to distinguish green from brown, purple from blue?” When it comes to gender, much like race, an equality where dignity and proper treatment is based upon “tolerance” rather than acceptance, is not truly equal at all.
On a rudimentary level, yes, the fundamentals are correct. We deserve equal rights in the eyes of the law as fellow citizens, and hopefully as fellow people. But those rights should not be founded upon whatever likeness we have to the majority, they should be founded upon our universal rights as human beings. The same applies to equal treatment of people of color, people of every gender identity and people at large. Let’s face gender inequality, eyes open. I, for one, can't stand with Jenner or her hypocrisy any longer. Call me fed up.
Chris Roney is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in journalism and media studies and American studies. His column, “Open Season,” runs on alternate Mondays. He is a former Copy Editor of The Daily Targum.