Student Thoughts: Stop gawking over Caitlyn Jenner (full)

Sam Smith / Opinion Director

sam.smith@fiusm.com


Recently, Caitlyn Jenner revealed her true identity. Although she may not be wearing a cape and tights, she is something of a hero. As a trans woman who has had the bravery, not only to come out, but to transition amidst so much controversy, and relatively late in life, she has given much hope to the LGBTQ+ community. However, there are a few problems with the uproar over her transition.

First, is the fact that her transition was so fast. Changing one’s appearance in order to match their gender identity, for most, is a long and grueling process. Although we don’t know just how long Caitlyn has been transitioning, there is no denying that it feels as though she made it through the process very quickly. Most people, especially those who are transgender, don’t have the financial ability to go so quickly through a transition, and have to save for years in order to have enough money to pay for surgeries they might need, while simultaneously taking synthetic hormones for the rest of their lives.

What the glamour shots of Caitlyn don’t show you are the struggles of trans people as they try to create for themselves a “passing” appearance. Imagine a transition as going through puberty – again. It was awkward enough the first time, and most people are glad to be done with it, but when someone finds that their bodies don’t match their identities, many are willing to go through it all again in a different way so that they can be happy with themselves.

The biggest problem with the media’s treatment of Caitlyn’s transition, however, is not negativity as one might think. It has been pleasantly surprising just how well the issue has been treated, and I think that it would not have been so positive had she come out ten years ago. The problem is the gawking attitude most outlets have had over her.

While I encourage people to appreciate beauty when they see it, and although Caitlyn is a beautiful woman, too much of a spectacle has been made of her. It is estimated that over 700,000 people in the U.S. are transgender, and although that seems low when compared to a population of over 300 million, it’s no small number. Why are we treating this issue as if it’s some kind of circus side-show when it’s so common? We don’t need people fawning over trans people, we need people understanding them as human – and, of course, not murdering them.

According to TGEU.org, the probability that a trans woman will be murdered, especially one of color, is much higher than that of the rest of the LGBTQ+ community, and statistics behind the subject are hard to pin down due to under-reporting and under-investigation. Usually, these are hate-crimes, and a testament to the anti-trans attitude our society has. No matter how well the media seems to be handling Caitlyn Jenner’s transition, there is no denying that we live in a transphobic world.

Hate comes from ignorance and fear. In order to reduce that hatred, people need to be educated and exposed to the normality of being trans, as well as the fluidity of sexuality and gender. I would like to believe that things are turning around for people who do not fit society’s mold, but we may be taking this in the wrong direction. The celebration of differences is what creates harmony, not the choice to ignore them.

One difference, however, doesn’t seem to be sticking with the media.

The phrase “when Caitlyn was a man” is one that nearly everyone keeping up with the issue has heard. Unfortunately, this is a fallacy – Caitlyn, like any trans person, was never a man. She has always been a woman, but she made choices based on her situation to identify as male and use he/him pronouns in the past. “When she was a man” implies that gender and sex are the same thing, and that one can only identify as their gender if they look the part.

The point I’m trying to make here is not that Caitlyn Jenner’s coming out should not be celebrated, it’s quite the opposite. Her transition as well as any other trans person’s should be a matter deserving of support and encouragement. The problem is that we’re giving more than anyone would ever ask for by profiting from the perceived drama of the situation. When being transgender is perceived as something that just happens, when it stops being framed as a spectacle, when it stops being a reason for positive or negative attention, that’s when we’ll see equality.

About the Author

Sam Smith
The Beacon - Editor-in-Chief

3 Comments on "Student Thoughts: Stop gawking over Caitlyn Jenner (full)"

  1. Our society does not have an "anti-trans attitude". If it did, Bruce Jenner would not be as celebrated as he is, and he would not be receiving millions of dollars in endorsement and reality television deals. When major corporations are posting rainbow flags on their Facebook pages and prisons are covering HRT and reassignment surgery, it is hard to make the case that institutional biases exist against transgender people. They would not be doing so if they faced considerable opposition, and the fact that they do so is proof that in modern society, the reward of supporting LGBTQ+ causes outweighs the risk. Similarly, when newspapers switch pronouns and names even for pre-op transgender people, it is hard to claim that media bias against these individuals exists. Take FIU, for example… How is it that the Beacon has multiple socialists writing opinion columns, but not even ONE conservative columnist on staff?

    Furthermore, people can disagree with someone’s choice without it being "hateful" or "transphobic", and this nuance seems to be lost on many people today. While pro-LGBTQ+ people and corporations are met with public applause, people who may disagree based on their religious or moral beliefs are being mocked, shunned, censored, pursued, and shamed so harshly it would make the Puritans blush.

    Google, for example, Phil Robertson, Brendan Eich, the Benham brothers, Hobby Lobby, and Barronelle Stutzman for just a few examples. You can see CEOs, television personalities, and employees getting fired. Countless small-time bakeries and elderly florists being targeted and sued. Pizza shops receiving death threats. Google "doxxing" and you can see how SJW ideas of "social justice" are enforced. Just a quick Google search lets you read about several prominent transgender activists who harassed the parents of Josh/Leelah Alcorn after their child had just killed themselves. Bigotry is defined as "intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself", and one can see true bigotry and intolerance at work in the bullying of traditionalist viewpoints.

    • Our society most certainly does have an anti trans attitude, one first made clear when you say Bruce Jenner and use the pronoun ‘He’. You don’t respect the person enough to address them properly.

      Secondarily, if we lived in a trans accepting society, there wouldn’t be television and product endorsements. Caitlyn Jenner would not be famous (for this). In a trans accepting society people would not be shocked by this announcement, they would accept it and move on. The endorsements, offers, and coverage is just capitalist exploitation and sensationalism.

      Thirdly, a sticker, or a flag does not mean there is automatic acceptance of a person’s position, as even within the LGBT+ community there is debate as to who is counted.

      Fourthly, FIU is a liberal university in the 44th largest US city which is currently undergoing a colossal shift from conservative to liberal ideology as the first post-cold war generation matures. While, yes, I do wish there was more debate in and amongst writers, you can see why there might be some lean.

      Fifthly, ‘disagreeing’ with someone’s identity is downright insulting. As I said, the fact that you don’t say Caitlyn is evidence that you believe a person to be wrong about who they are. You are transphobic and hateful when you are too proud of yourself and your ideas to accept that your statements are based in outdated, outmoded, and incorrect information.

      Of course, I do not condone the actions taken by some parties. They justify it as returning the favor for centuries of being hunted down.

      • As harsh as it sounds, just because someone chooses to identify a certain way does not mean they are necessarily right. People make flawed judgments, especially self-judgments, and can be wrong about these things. It happens all the time. People with eating disorders will always "identify" as overweight. There’s a whole subculture of people on the internet called "otherkin" who literally identify as cats and wolves. Just today, I read about a white woman who decided to become "trans-racial". There are cult leaders who "identify" as God, kids who "identify" as superheroes, Cotard Syndrome sufferers who "identify" as dead, and still others who "identify" as being made of glass. You are not accepting of THEIR identity, I presume, because the compassionate thing to do is to help them rather than blindly accept self-identifications. People are free to do as they please, and I certainly don’t hate or fear any of them. But that doesn’t make them correct.

        Neither does it make skeptics hateful. Pope Francis, for example, recently said "Let’s think also of genetic manipulation, of the manipulation of life, or of the gender theory, that does not recognize the order of creation". Do you really think he is a hateful man? It’s 2015, and it’s time for our society to finally give trans* people the compassionate treatment they deserve and to seriously help them try to feel comfortable in their own skin before subjecting them to a lifetime of drugs, surgical alterations, and sterilization.

        PS: As for living in an anti-trans society: I guarantee that these opinions would result in instant ostracization from at least 75% of the people I know if posted on social media. That’s not an "anti-trans" society. Bruce Jenner got attention because he wanted it. He would not have come out in a televised interview, posed in Vanity Fair, or accepted a reality TV show offer if he wanted to remain low-key.

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