Last week Caitlyn Jenner was introduced to the world. Formerly known as Bruce Jenner, Caitlyn Jenner made her first public appearance on the cover of Vanity Fair. While many people supported Jenner’s decision to publicly discuss her transition from life as a man to a woman, others have criticized her for the attention she garnered from the media.
Articles, memes, posts and tweets argue that Caitlyn Jenner has stolen the spotlight from people and topics that should have taken precedence during the first week of June. Most of the so-called “overlooked” stories are related to government policies, humanitarian efforts and politics.
While I will never pretend to be the most learned person when it comes to world news, I do realize that issues concerning ISIS and illegal police activity deserve America’s attention.
However, I question the intentions of the disgruntled people complaining about Jenner’s sudden rise in popularity.
Maybe some of you will sum up the backlash Caitlyn has received as due to her affiliation with the Kardashians. Despite her status as an Olympic champion, Caitlyn Jenner is synonymous with the Kardashian Klan, a group of people known to go to extreme measures for stardom and a hefty pay-day. However, I’d argue that the general “hate” over Jenner’s much publicized transition stems from something far worse than her family’s reputation as fame whores.
The people most upset about the recent publicity Jenner has received feign false concern for world issues to cloak their undeniable transphobia.
Think about it. It’s a more sophisticated way of condemning transgender people without outright saying something negative about Jenner or the countless other people around the world who struggle with gender identity. It's a tactic often used by people who are racist or homophobic. By stating that other issues deserved the attention that Jenner received, they are trying to discredit not only her journey but her identity as a woman.
Sure, Caitlyn is one person; a wealthy, white, Republican at that. I won’t call her the face of the transgender movement because there have been other trans-pioneers (Janet Mock, Laverne Cox and Alexis Arquette to name a few) before her. For every Caitlyn Jenner there are thousands of other trans men and women of color with far fewer resources who remain unheard and disenfranchised. Still, it is inevitable that Jenner’s story will influence the mainstream media’s view of trans folk.
But why downplay Jenner’s story? Transphobia, just like any other phobia, is rooted in fear. Fear often stems from the unknown. If people remain uneducated, transphobia will continue. The first step to understanding trans people and the issues they face is trying to.
Before you click "share" on another negative article or Caitlyn Jenner meme, remember this: downplaying the struggles of any marginalized group does not make your plight any easier but instead encourages a culture of hate.
To hear an intriguing discussion about transgender people in pop culture, check out Stuff Mom Never Told You.