Jenner and the Anger of Allies

There has been a spurious story going ’round social media which alleges that Caitlyn Jenner regrets her transition and will be “de-transitioning in the future.” (I’m not gonna link to it in any way, so you can take my word for it or Google.) If one makes the effort to read past the headline one discovers quite quickly that this information is based on alleged conversations between unnamed “longtime friends” and an author who–SURPRISE!–is publishing a biography on the Kardashian family. His book is done without the cooperation of the Kardashian or Jenner families. It is he who has been so kind as to share this story in advance of his book’s publication. The story is based on allegations of regret and Jenner’s alleged continued interest in women (perhaps Jenner’s conservative views would prevent her from understanding that trans women can be lesbians, but I’m surprised that any author capable of doing research can’t figure that out).   I have seen this link enough times on some of my social media accounts and in all instances there has been a gleefully sneering response to it by non-trans people. None have done the slightest bit of research; most seem not to have even read the article. Several times when I saw it on Facebook, it was followed by those links Facebook helpfully posts, suggesting that if you liked that link then you might wanna read these. One of those suggestions is the Snopes article that went up fairly quickly denoucing this story.

That’s the backstory to my anger which follows here:

I genuinely don’t give a fuck if you have respect for Jenner: she is not a product made for your consumption. Transitioning does not change someone into a new person; it enables them to live visibly as their gender, the gender others may not have been aware of because of that person’s sex assignment at birth. Transitioning does not bestow sainthood upon one and it shouldn’t: trans people are people. Period. The end.

Jenner did not transition so you would have someone to point to and show off your ally skills. She transitioned to live as she has wanted to live all these long decades…  As dramatically as the public support for trans people has grown in the last few years, it is not complete. And that (limited) support does not make the process of transitioning in public easy…just, perhaps, easier. And the public is not able to see what the private story is, how difficult it is for a trans person to deal with family and friends and ask and hope for their support. Further, a simple perusal of social media and news sites shows just how far the conservatives and anti-trans crowd will go to try to shut trans people away from the world. That anyone transitioning would have moments that they question their decision to live a life so fraught with criticism and judgement is not surprising.
And that criticism and judgement is there as strongly in those who call themselves allies as those who don’t. There is a hostility brought to bear on Jenner by the cis het crowd that has nothing to do with any trans allyship…it’s irritation that they wanted to show how great and wonderful they are by supporting Jenner’s transition, by supporting her as a trans person. Having her express views they disagree with (views she always had, btw), having her be anything but a word-perfect role model irks them. They’re afraid that it reflects back on them and now they won’t be able to validate their allyship to others.
That isn’t being an ally.
Don’t tell me that you’re negative because you’re such a trans supporter. Nope. When you intentionally and willfully misgender her, when you gloat over stories such as the one referenced here (one so obviously false if take but minutes of care in reading), you are not a trans supporter.
One of the perpetual problems for any minority identity group (including women, perceived as a minority even if not numerically so) is the idea that each person of that group is a representative of all. Any time a black man does something egregious, the public shakes it’s head and wags a finger because he is making ALL black men look bad (Chris Brown, anyone?). Anytime a black woman does something that the moralizers disapprove of, she is alleged to take away from the reputation of all black women (Rhianna, for example). And the list goes on and on…

It’s not difficult to understand:  when you have so few trans people visible and out in the culture, trying to work, trying to live public lives, it is hard not to resent those who may say things or do things that the majority will point to and say, “See, this is why those people should not have rights! This is why we don’t have to treat them with consideration and respect.” We live in a world where we understand that shooting unarmed black men is wrong…but when it happens people look to show that the victim was a saint above reproach. They deserved to live. The other side will try to paint the victim as someone who did wrong in life; as if somehow that validates killing him. But so it is:  rather than understanding that all people are owed decency and respect, we pick and choose who we will acknowledge. Only the majority identity group has the luxury to allow individuals their own identity without it affecting the reputation of the whole.

No one takes any white man to task as being representative of all white men. No white men are stopped for Man in the Street interviews and asked to validate any white male criminal’s existence, or the behaviour of any white male celebrity, to explain why he is allowed to be the way he is, and how he reflects badly on white men. Chris Brown reflects on all young black men but apparently Charlie Sheen only reflects on himself.
Take Jenner to task for her views and her words if you choose. But do not belittle and misgender her because you have decided she’s not the example you hoped to point at to show how good and wonderful you are as an ally. Allies are the support players; they are not the lead role.

Just stop.


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