S/he who must not be named
I don’t suppose I have to tell you the latest hot-topic in the world of trans-related news, do I?
Unless you’ve been stranded on a deserted island for the past month you are probably already cringing in anticipation as you realize I’m about to say “Bruce Jenner.” Indeed, the plot thickened even more in the last couple of days as news broke that Jenner was involved in a auto accident (while – some have claimed – fleeing at least five paparazzi) which took the life of another driver. The tabloid media has already made all but the most hardened observer sick of Jenner and any potential story surrounding a supposedly ensuing transition.
Given that Jenner has been publicly associated with the infamous Kardasians on their “reality” TV show, the jokes certainly come easy as Jenner’s presentation has become more and more feminine over the last couple of years. And while humor at the expense of another human being’s appearance is always lowbrow, and even more so as it also relies on degradation of a whole class of people, it’s also true that when you sign on for “reality” TV you pretty much accept as a condition of employment that you will be the target of jokes and nasty commentary.
Rather than address the obvious cesspool of tabloid media, for which no solution likely exists, or the sad commentary on our culture that is “reality” TV, which has yet to run it’s course, I’m troubled by another aspect of the whole mess. To wit: it’s the best example yet of the ever growing appetite within the trans community for eating our own
Now admittedly the folks I’m thinking of are a distinct minority, but their toxic rhetoric easily spreads to and affects the thinking of other more good-natured folks. It’s one thing to see, for example, an Erik Erikson muse that Jenner’s (potential) transition is some sort of ratings-grab publicity stunt (as if any man would ever for any price) – he hasn’t to my knowledge but it would be typical of his views – but it’s much more jarring to hear those words delivered by a fellow trans woman. Jarring and heartbreaking.
This is not to say that – IF it turns out, as presumed, that Jenner is about to announce s/he is transitioning – that this has been anything resembling the best face someone in that situation could have put on the process. I would argue that, at a minimum, it ought not be done while continuing to be associated with the media pit that is the Kardasians’ program, but there is a considerable difference in a thoughtful disagreement about such decisions, and parroting the worst rhetoric of our harshest critics. I’ve actually heard another trans person suggest it’s nothing but a publicity stunt to increase the families considerable wealth. That’s a shameful thing for someone within our community to say.
Another has said that Jenner doesn’t need our support, since s/he doesn’t know or care if we exist. But my support is not for Jenner specifically but for the truth that ALL of us deserve the autonomy to transition when and how we see fit and not be disrespected for our actions. In our culture we see celebrities as fair game, but if we participate in the popular culture tearing Jenner down, you can be certain the thinking behind it will be used to further re-enforce the hostility our culture so freely dispenses on all trans people. We should, I would suggest, proceed with the utmost caution when we presume to tear down one of our own, and when we must we should carefully avoid the false tropes often employed against trans people as a whole.
(Which reminds me of the trans women I know who nevertheless support the concept that we should be barred from the restrooms of the sex with which we identify, but that’s for another day)
Photo by: Remolacha.net