July 2015

Line in the Sand: Caitlyn (Bruce) Jenner

Author: Barry Kaufman & Courtney Hampson | Photographer: Photography by Anne

Barry Kaufman

I want to make it very clear that it was Courtney who proposed this month’s topic, namely the recent emergence of Bruce Jenner as Caitlyn Jenner. I don’t seek this clarification because of any transphobia on my part. In fact, I like to consider myself an ally to the LGBT community. To paraphrase Dr. Percival Cox, I love their music and I especially like what they’ve done with Halloween. In introducing herself to the world, Caitlyn Jenner has hopefully chipped away at some of the stigma involved with the transgender community.

Somewhere, some poor kid is probably out there confused about who they are and why they were born different from how they feel. They’re probably searching for acceptance and instead finding intolerance and hatred everywhere they go. It’s called High School, and in one form or another, it never ends.

That kid hopefully sees Caitlyn Jenner, something clicks, and they realize they don’t have to be ashamed about how they feel. They don’t have to hide who they are. They can pursue their own bliss, unashamed, because of the stance taken by the recently dubbed Ms. Jenner.

It’s not my scene, but who says my scene is the only valid one? I leave the house every day in Crocs, for crying out loud. I’m in no position to judge.

So that’s not why I want to make it clear that this was all Courtney’s idea.

Instead, I want to make it clear that I enter this debate with reservations because, by putting forth a point of view in this space, I violate a self-imposed rule I made up long ago: Never, under any circumstances, do anything that might give the Kardashians any more attention.

This puts me in an odd position. On the one hand, good for Caitlyn Jenner for having the courage to come out in as public a fashion as you can imagine, knowing full well the mockery and vitriol that comes with it. On the other hand, I can’t in good faith get entirely on board knowing that she used to be Bruce Jenner.

Long ago, Bruce Jenner was an Olympic athlete. He was on a Wheaties box and everything. Then one day, he married a lady who had a bunch of daughters, one of whom had sex with a guy on camera, the footage from which sold for millions of dollars. To be clear, this tape wasn’t “leaked,” because you probably can’t legally sell a tape of someone having sex without having them fill out some kind of form first. This was a calculated move to become famous by getting horizontal on film.

Because we’re all kind of horrible, she became famous (because of her celebrity sex tape, which is only a celebrity sex tape because it featured a celebrity, who was only a celebrity because of her sex tape. Good lucking cutting through that Mobius strip of logic). And because we’re all kind of bored and will literally watch any garbage they put on TV, they gave her whole family a reality show. It lasted for 350,000 seasons and counting.

And the whole time, there’s Bruce Jenner, Olympian, allowing this whole thing to happen to his family. His stepdaughter’s OBGYN exam is on every laptop in the country, his wife is cashing in by letting camera crews into every aspect of their lives, and he’s just… letting it happen. His own family.

To be clear, what I’m getting at is that I have no respect for who Bruce Jenner was or what he stood for. But let me also be clear when I say that I chose the words “was” and “stood” very carefully.

All I know of Caitlyn Jenner is that she looks remarkably attractive on a magazine cover. I have not heard her speak. I have not read the interview (what do you want, research? I get paid by the word, not the hour).

In short, I have no reason to believe that this isn’t just Bruce Jenner with a much more attractive paint job.
I’m hopeful that the Caitlyn Jenner that has emerged into the spotlight, the one who is giving some hope to a marginalized and victimized group who could use a hero, is a better person than she used to be. I’m hopeful, but I’m also fully aware that her new reality show is probably inevitable.

To those out there—those struggling with something inside that tells them something isn’t right about the way they were born, suffering every day from narrow-minded jerks—there is nothing wrong with you. There is everything wrong with the narrow-minded jerks. Be yourself.

Caitlyn, be a better person than Bruce. There are a lot of people counting on you. And they deserve a better role model than the person you used to be. 

Courtney Hampson

Up until a few years ago no one ever asked me how to spell my name. Now, all the time, I get, “Courtney? Is that with a K or a C?” To which I reply, “I never heard that BK: Before Kardashians.”

You could say I’ve been a little annoyed with that clan of Ks for a while now. So, when news of Bruce Jenner turned into news of Caitlyn Jenner—Caitlyn, with a C, Jenner—I couldn’t help but applaud. The use of the C was the ultimate F U to the K. And I loved it.

Anyway, I don’t think Caitlyn’s decision was to make me happy, but regardless I can’t stop watching, reading, scanning social media. I need to know everything. I am willing the postman to deliver my Vanity Fair early so I can read the interview and study every word.

I am ever-intrigued by anyone who says what they think, who marches to the beat of their own drum and doesn’t care what other people think. Probably because I do—care what other people think, that is. Most of us do. All too often we make our life decisions based on how people will perceive us. We worry about what others think. We try to please everyone but ourselves. If we don’t think about other people, we are considered selfish. But, shouldn’t we do what makes us happy? After all, we live with ourselves every day.

Of course news of Caitlyn would cause a stir. Estimates suggest that 700,000 people (merely .2 – .3 people of the population) in the United State are transgender. But this one is famous, and famous for her sportsman bravado and utter dominance in the 1976 Olympics. And that changes the game substantially. In 2013, U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning became Chelsea Manning and announced she was a woman. But a reality show doesn’t track Chelsea’s every move, so the story eventually fades, and hopefully Chelsea’s life is peaceful.
If social media is any indicator (which it probably shouldn’t be, but alas, it is), one million people in one day followed Caitlyn on Twitter. One million people care. That is powerful.

A lot of people have been throwing around the word hero. And a lot of other people have countered that with vengeance. I counter that with, it’s not a competition. I decided to look up the definition of hero, so I could “objectively” consider the term in relation to Caitlyn.

Hero: a person, typically a man, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.

Hero: a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.

And, lest we ignore cold cuts (apparently they are people too). Hero: another term for submarine sandwich.
Save for the sandwich meat, I see a glaring error here. “Typically a man”—um, what the heck? But, I digress.
Should we admire Caitlyn Jenner for her brave deed? Why the heck not? Yes, Caitlyn Jenner is a hero. Our soldiers and first responders are heroes. Children fighting cancer are heroes. Single moms are heroes. Single dads are heroes. It isn’t a competition. Everyone has battles, and often we fight them in the shadows. Imagine fighting your battle in the public eye—for 40 years.

In the Vanity Fair interview, Jenner tells the writer, “If I was lying on my deathbed and I had kept this secret and never ever did anything about it, I would be lying there saying, ‘You just blew your entire life. You never dealt with yourself,’ and I don’t want that to happen.”

“I’m not doing this to be interesting. I’m doing this to live,” Jenner said. Maybe she is more than a hero. Heroes are often lauded for saving other’s lives. According to a 2010 a survey conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, as many as 41 percent of transgender people in the United States have attempted suicide. So, Caitlyn, by saving her own life, may have saved countless others.

I say bravo and thank you, Caitlyn, for being a woman with the balls to even start the conversation. 

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