Thursday, March 3, 2016

A Walk Down Walnut Street With Caitlyn Jenner On The Brain

It was just as I was putting on my sweatshirt and jacket preparing to go out when Dawn Ennis' interview with Caitlyn Jenner came across my Facebook feed. Of course, I had to read it before I left. I'm glad I did because it gave me something to think about during my sojourn.

A chilly blast assaulted me as I left the apartment and headed toward the intersection at the far end of the block, 41 degrees according to Accuweather. As I turned onto Walnut St., I couldn't get out of my mind how seemingly willfully detached from reality Jenner is.

She wants to be Ted Cruz's trans ambassador. Seriously. Ambassador to what? To whom? This is a guy who calls trans rights "ridiculous" and "absurd". He describes those who support our equality as "zealots". Cruz describes trans people, even children, not only in ways that completely negate their self-identities, he even uses language that casts us as a moral and social disease, referring to a trans girl who wanted to use the girls room at school as being "inflicted" upon others. He considers allowing LGBT soldiers to heroically put their lives on the line for our country to be a social experiment. This is the agenda and the man she wants to be an ambassador for?

I stopped at 7-11 and picked up some cigarettes before continuing east on Walnut Street, taking in the middle class college town atmosphere. I peeked into McDonald's but the line was long and I really just wasn't in the mood for that slop anyway. I continued my eastward journey. She can't possibly really be this stupid, I mused as more shops and eateries came into view. She just can't.

With my legs aching for respite after carrying my not insubstantial weight through University City for several blocks, I found myself at the counter of Bobby's Burger Palace ordering a bacon cheeseburger and fries, no doubt fully replacing whatever calories my walk might have burned off. While waiting for my food to arrive, another article hits my Facebook feed, this one from Think Progress' Zack Ford titled "No, Caitlyn Jenner, Ted Cruz Will Not Help Trans People Get Jobs".

Over the course of my afternoon repast, I read Zack's piece on my little Android cellphone. I love reading Zack Ford's stuff because not only is it so well-sourced with relevant links that make research on that topic a breeze should I decide to write a column or a blog post on it later, but also because Zack's work has just the right balance of opinion and hard information for my taste. I always look forward to reading his take on topics I care about.

By the time I finished my meal and began walking the eight blocks back to the apartment, I'd already begun writing this post in my head. 


Dawn Ennis is a friend of mine and someone who I have a hell of a lot of respect for, both personally and professionally. She's someone who's accomplished a lot as a trans print journalist in a relatively short amount of time not because she was in the right place at the right time, but because she's that good.

Having said all that, I'll admit to a twinge or two of disappointment with this interview. While Jenner herself seems to have volunteered plenty of good material, I wish Dawn had dug deeper. I wanted her to ask Caitlyn about the level of priority her community takes as compared to her own personal interests.

How does Jenner rationalize supporting a political candidate like Ted Cruz who she has to know clearly doesn't support her or her community?

I would have read her a few choice anti-trans Cruz quotes and asked her if she agreed with Cruz's sentiments.

And then I would have asked her if she felt any responsibility at all to her fellow trans people, and if so, how much?

That's the answer I'm still waiting for. The one question no one ever asks Caitlyn Jenner: What do you feel is your responsibility to the trans community as a trans person of note? How far will you go to support your trans sisters and brothers?

It's a fair question. Jenner has profited handsomely from all of the media surrounding her transition. It's a given that she's already made a pile of money on being trans and continues to make more. It's fair to ask how she reconciles supporting an open anti-trans bigot like Ted Cruz when she already knows what he thinks of her and others like her.

What does Jenner believe her own level of responsibility is here, if any?

And maybe most importantly, does she really consider herself one of us or are we just a favorite charity to her?

Well ok, maybe not in quite those words, but that's the gist.

I think that's what trans people really want to know most about Caitlyn Jenner. A very literal answer to that most basic of questions:

Just who do you think you are?