Guest Comment: Joan-E Spills The Tea on Caitlyn Jenner


Several months ago I wrote that if indeed Jenner was transitioning then that meant Jenner was now a member of our community. She has now transitioned. Whether you like her or don't like her, respect her or don't respect her, or whether you admire her or do not admire her has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the fact that she is now a member of the LGBT+ community. She's one of us. 

You may find it unfair that she has been lauded when you feel that others are more deserving. You may feel that being rich and famous behoves Ms Jenner to be an advocate and to do philanthropy. You may disagree with her images being retouched (a notion that was particularly rich coming from those whose Facebook profile pics are filtered) or that she chooses to resume her work as a reality star. But none of that changes the fact that she is now a part of a community that was built on the notion of acceptance. 

"Coming out" with the truth of your life is one of the hardest things anyone will ever do. It's true for all of us and also for people in the public eye. Ellen, Rosie, George Michael and Anderson Cooper came out well after establishing their careers. Liberace, Rock Hudson and Freddy Mercury never came out at all. Elton was married to a woman. But all of these people still play a role in our history book. The ones who stayed in the closet did their part simply by "being" and by adding to "the familiar". Those who did come out contributed most just by saying "Me too". 

So many people seem to be so sure that Caitlyn Jenner needs to do great and selfless work for the trans community. That she must be the right sort of community member. That she has so much and that she has it easy. That's a lofty charge. How many of us spend our extra money and free time tirelessly working for homeless LGBTQ youth, for displaced LGBTQ seniors, at the trans food bank or at HIV/AIDS non profits? I've done some volunteering, as have many of you, but I could be doing so much more. There are a great many people who reap all the benefits of queer citizenship without ever contributing anything to the cause. And some of them are very "wealthy" indeed. Further, "easy" is a rather relative term. A young gay teen living in Moscow right now might suggest that their counterpart in Vancouver or San Francisco will almost always have it easy compared to their life struggles in Russia. 

Some are horrified that Ms Jenner identifies as both a Republican and as a Christian. Do we revoke a "Queer Card" for everyone who's politics goes to the far right or for those who practice faith? I'm not certain that idea would really be in keeping with the spirit of a movement built on diversity of thought. I can vehemently disagree with LGBT+ people on many issues, but last time I checked no one elected me to decide who is gay enough, who's a good lesbian, a righteous bisexual or an acceptable trans person. And with all due respect, I'm not prepared to give any of you that task either. 

A great many have suggested that Ms Jenner will be a poor spokesperson. I'm not sure how we can know that. But what we do know is that she will bring awareness. And, that if she's not a great spokesperson that we have many great advocates, including Laverne Cox, who will be there to properly articulate the transgender message. People who have had time to become comfortable in their own skin. 

Lastly, Caitlyn Jenner will not have it "easy". She will be the subject of bigotry, hatred and may possibly be a target of violence or death threats. Just like so many in our community. All the money in the world won't wish those things away. 

Like every one of us Caitlyn Jenner is a perfectly imperfect member of our rainbow family. No more and no less. And if we've learned anything in the last 50 years it should be that "United we stand, divided they will pick us off one by one".