When June approaches, I always like to reflect on the pantheon in our LGBT community.
However, when it comes to Caitlyn Jenner, it is difficult to fathom how she went from icon to outcast. Is it transphobia? Is it because she was once part of the over exposed Kardashian clan on their forever-running TV reality series Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
Or, is it her conservative politics on issues that’s antithetical of LGBT advocacy? In 2015, Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce Jenner captured the world’s attention, but this time not as America’s beloved 1976 Olympic gold medal decathlete. Jenner captured the world’s eye, applauses and admiration for her bravery to come out as a trans woman debuting on the July cover of Vanity Fair magazine.
And she looked AMAZING! People from around the world applauded her courage. President Obama gave his thumbs up saying, “It takes courage to share your story.”
Laverne Cox, transgender activist, and actress first known on the Netflix series Orange is the New Black,but now on CBS’s Doubt wrote on her Tumblr then, “Yes, Caitlyn looks amazing and is beautiful but what I think is most beautiful about her is her heart and soul, the ways she has allowed the world into her vulnerabilities.”
MSNBC commentator and trans author Janet Mock gleefully chimed in with her tweet: “Introducing Ms. Caitlyn Jenner on the cover of @Vanity Fair: #CallMeCaitlyn #girls like us.”
What many social scientists and LGBT activists are trying to sort out, is it as Cox stated, “#girls like us” that has contributed to the name Caitlyn falling in popularity? According to a recent Boston Globe article “Don’t call me Caitlyn: Baby names plunge in popularity.” the name Caitlyn plummeted the most and more rapidly than any other baby name — both male and female. And, all four variations of the spelling have nose-dived: Caitlin, Caitlyn, Katelynn and Kaitlynn.
Laura Wattenberg, founder of BabynameWizard.com explained the recent disinterest in the name saying, “Caitlyn was already falling in popularity. Now it is suddenly controversial.” However, I find the decline in the name rooted in transphobia and the sexist notion that nags, stymies, and stigmatizes all women, even today, that our biology is destiny.”
When Jenner launched her documentary series I Am Cait on the E! Network — the same year she came out, viewers got to see for the first time transgender visibility. My hope for the show was that Jenner would weave her personal narrative into the larger and more varied canon of stories, and struggling realities of trans people. However, the show’s target was a cisgendered audience where Jenner showcased, perhaps unwittingly, that her real community was wealthy white Republicans, while worrying how the trans community received her.
Jenner’s recent tell-all memoir The Secrets of My Life has pissed off several folks. Her former wife Kris Kardashians was at the front of the line. Jenner’s tome never made it onto the New York Times bestsellers list and today you can purchase the print hardcover version half price, and the Kindle version for $4.99. I know — I downloaded it.
To the surprise of many, in the memoir Jenner blames Ellen DeGeneres for “alienating her from the LGBT community” by deliberately distorting her comments on same-sex marriage when she appeared on Ellen in 2015.
“I got burnt by Ellen on marriage equality,” Jenner told Andy Cohen during her SiriusXM Town Hall. “I explained my progression. I probably didn’t do it as well as I could have if I’d really thought about it more. All of a sudden, Ellen comes back and says it sounds like you’re really not for it. I said, no, I just said I was for it, but it was a progression. She went on Howard Stern and upped the ante and Howard goes, “‘I can’t believe Caitlyn’s not for marriage equality.'”
Also, Jenner blames her former spouse for persuading Ellen stating they both colluded against her because they’re good friends. However, Jenner has done a good job alone distancing herself from the LGBT community due to her stance on several LGBT issues, and her conservative politics.
For example, her praise and overzealous support for then Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz, a notoriously anti-LGBT politician was baffling. “I like Ted Cruz. But I also think, he’s an evangelical Christian, and probably one of the worst ones when it comes to trans issues,” Jenner told The Advocate in 2016. The Democrats are better when it comes to these types of social issues. So why support Republicans? “Number 1, if we don’t have a country, we don’t have trans issues. We need jobs. I want every trans person to have a job.”
When asked by The Advocate if she would be Cruz’s trans ambassador, Jenner emphatically stated, “Yes, trans ambassador to the president of the United States, so we can say, ‘Ted, love what you’re doing but here’s what’s going on.'”
To date, Jenner, is the most recognizable transwoman with a global platform who can give visibility and advocacy to transgender civil rights. In 2017 Jenner sees herself as stepping closer to being a transgender civil rights advocate.
This past February Jenner spoke out against the President’s trans bathroom bill that prohibits trans students from using public school restrooms that coincides with their gender identity. And, in a recent April episode of 20/20 Jenner did a follow-up interview with Diane Sawyer reflecting on her coming out since her talk with Sawyer in April 2015.
When Sawyer asked Jenner how did she feel about her political party now with Trump in office, she empathically replied, “You mess with my community, you don’t give us equality and a fair shot, I’m comin’ after you.”
In just two years Jenner has come a long way in understanding more fully the road ahead for her, and the transgender community.
Rev. Irene Monroe can be reached at irenemonroe.com