Who is the hero?

The Jenner children “tell Bissinger they feel both happiness for their father and inspiration at Jenner’s bravery, and they all still see their dad as their dad regardless of any gender label.” Caitlyn Jenner, formerly Bruce Jenner, will be appearing on the July, 2015, cover of Vanity Fair (figure 1).[1]

Vanity Fair cover, July, 2015, fair use.
Fig. 1. Vanity Fair cover, July, 2015, fair use.

Shortly after the news came out, a video emerged of Mike Huckabee, a social conservative candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, saying,

“Now I wish that someone told me that when I was in high school that I could have felt like a woman when it came time to take showers in PE,” said Huckabee. “I’m pretty sure that I would have found my feminine side and said, ‘Coach, I think I’d rather shower with the girls today.’ You’re laughing because it sounds so ridiculous, doesn’t it?”[2]

But remarks such as Huckabee’s are far from the greatest danger that transgender people face. I remember encountering one during my time at California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) who had been viciously attacked. She was poor, her reassignment was incomplete, and she walked with a cane. It might be people such as her, rather than Jenner, who should be admired for their bravery.

Jenner has come out of surgery looking quite fabulous, decades younger than she is (figure 1), in “a commercial spectacle on an enormous scale, revealing some disturbing truths about what we value and admire in women.” It seems that “Caitlyn will soon allow her life to be minutely chronicled in a reality television show, produced by the same team responsible for ‘Keeping Up With the Kardashians’ — that docudrama devoted to makeup, hookups, breakups and, of course, plastic surgery and clothes.” If that sets off some alarms, “[e]ven on the Kardashian show, Bruce often distinguished himself as the voice of reason amid a circus of vanity and consumerism.”[3]

It seems all this is a Kardashian production. And lavish consumption has historically been among the ways that the wealthy distinguish themselves from the rest of us.[4]

What of the millions of other 65-year-old women, whether born female or trans, who deserve attention? The millions of women who become invisible with age and could never successfully mimic a Kardashian (and would not wish to)? They remain offstage and out of mind, their own accomplishments unknown to us.[5]

And they remain subject to violence, like my colleague at CIIS.

It does not seem to me that Jenner faces any of those risks. Rather, she has renewed her celebrity and demonstrated once again that the rich truly are different from the rest of us.

  1. [1]Vanity Fair, “Caitlyn Jenner on the Cover of Vanity Fair,” June, 2015, http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2015/06/caitlyn-jenner-bruce-cover-annie-leibovitz
  2. [2]Mike Huckabee, quoted in Megan Apper and Andrew Kaczynski, “Huckabee On Transgender People: I Wish I Could’ve Said I Was Transgender In HS To Shower With The Girls,” Buzzfeed, June 2, 2015, http://www.buzzfeed.com/meganapper/huckabee-on-transgender-people-i-wish-i-couldve-said-i-was-t
  3. [3]Rhonda Garelick, “The Price of Caitlyn Jenner’s Heroism,” New York Times, June 3, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/03/opinion/the-price-of-jenners-heroism.html
  4. [4]Anup Shah, “Creating the Consumer,” Global Issues, May 14, 2003, http://www.globalissues.org/article/236/creating-the-consumer
  5. [5]Rhonda Garelick, “The Price of Caitlyn Jenner’s Heroism,” New York Times, June 3, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/03/opinion/the-price-of-jenners-heroism.html

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