Friday, June 5, 2015

Caitlyn Jenner

Caitlyn Jenner
an essay/rant after taking in a week of social media
by Jake Kilroy

I absolutely wasn't going to comment on Caitlyn Jenner, but, goddamnit, after taking in social media this week, I feel like I gotta.

You see, there's been a problematic attitude of "that isn't bravery, but this is." The trouble here is that it's limiting. In my opinion, there are many, many, many types of heroes. I don't believe we should see bravery or heroes as exact. It's an essay, not an equation.

Take that whole meme that Snoop Dogg posted where he hyped Akon for bringing electricity to 600 million Africans. That is a HUGE deal. But the cheap shot at Caitlyn Jenner was unnecessary at best. If you're upset about media coverage, take a shot at the media. Both are heroes for two entirely different reasons in two entirely different causes. It's not a scale. Akon isn't going to lose funding because Bruce Jenner is now Caitlyn. Media coverage is totally a scale, however. But Caitlyn Jenner didn't run the meetings on this week's broadcast programming or newspaper layouts. Take it up with the media, ya big jerk. Plus, you kind of smear Akon's damn respectable efforts with a mean-spirited meme.

Heroes work toward the greater good of the world or a community. My father is a hero to me and my family because the dude works six days a week without slacking, so he can do right by us. Bravery comes down to courage and/or noble qualities. My mother's in the brave category, to my family, for the way she barreled into cancer treatments with an attitude I couldn't muster on a good night. The lady was fearless.

Caitlyn Jenner is a hero because she showed people who feel a whole lot differently than you and me that it's acceptable to consider those dark feelings and move toward joy. And she did so without any idea how things might go when she did. She's an inspiration because, hey, that's not the standard magazine cover. Hell, it'll be the first time ever someone like me is pleased to see anyone associated with the Kardashians on the cover of a periodical while I stand in line at the grocery store.

Ellen DeGeneres caught backlash for coming out as a lesbian in 1997. That was less than 20 years ago and Ellen's obviously one of the most charming people to ever exist. Again, that's just my opinion. But while we've watched gay rights evolve significantly (Matthew Shepard was as recent as 1998), this country only crossed the 50% approval line for same-sex marriage in 2013. It took us a while to get there (a subjective term, really), and it will likely take us a while to get there with transgenderism acceptance. Jenner knew that when she agreed to the Vanity Fair cover. That's why it was brave. That's why she's a hero.

But it doesn't lessen the bravery of other heroes. There was coverage this week about people downplaying Jenner in trade for soldiers on Facebook. I get it, but I think the comparison is unfair to both. They're not close to similar and shouldn't be evaluated on the same terms. They take two supremely different spirits and resolves. It's more understandable to make points about one instance requiring more of a person, but I still find it to be a strange attitude. One doesn't negate the other. They're two wildly, vividly different worlds.

I, for one, cannot even fathom the terrifying depths of war. Not even a little. The fact that I can hold normal conversations with someone who has endured one of the most unimaginable things in existence will never cease to floor me. There are men and women who are willing to throw everything on the line to protect this country's citizens and way of life. It's absolutely commendable. It's total bravery. Soldiers whole-heartedly risk body and mind at a constant for months or years at a time. How in the holy hell could I even do that for a day?

However, social heroes exist as well. I don't see heroism as a selection of either/or and I don't see why it has to be.

And then there's this whole shit about "God made him a man" and "God doesn't make mistakes." You're seriously telling me you believe in a supernatural entity that has the power to create EVERYTHING, but you find it impossible to even consider the notion that the same being gave this man the idea and capability to become a woman? Heaven and Hell are more possible than this individual's thought process and identity crisis? Also, if you want to make the case that God is infallible, there are centuries of world history that can be thrown at the immediate mouthing off of "God always has a plan." And that's just assuming His/Her plan didn't include total free will for all humanity anyway. We're talking about an impossibly gigantic spirit you've never so much as even met and you're speaking for the lord like a coked-up PR agent with such impulse, fury, and arrogance, all because one person you don't know took the steps to be happy and comfortable with who they are.

What pissed you off, that Jenner landed a magazine cover? That insane family's built a media empire out of being bozos, airheads, and losers. This is the first thing I've found interesting about the lot of them and you're suddenly leaping off your high horse with a megaphone.

Also, the media was pretty good about this one, but they can be cruel. They can be senseless. They can be ruthless. They can be feverishly starved for conflict. Jenner went into the photoshoot unsure what the other side would look like. Yes, there's been some real hateful shit dropped, but what I've seen between social and media has seemed close to 50/50, maybe beyond that in favor of positive. That could've turned out totally different. That's what made it brave, the fact that maybe this country as a collective whole was going to shame the shit out of her, viciously, publicly, and without remorse.

So, again, I don't think it at all takes away from the many other, very different kinds of bravery. Soldiers, parents, activists, any variety of hero - bravery is a widespread and noble feat, regardless of where it takes place. It's a concept, not an exact portrait. It always takes a lot, whether physical, emotional, or both.

We don't need people that say, "This and only this is bravery." That will cost this impressive nation a lot of progress.

Personally, I have a real hard time being me sometimes. Everyone does. And that's without the wild, heavy weight of gender dysphoria. I can't imagine what it must be like to feel a million miles away from my own body or assigned to skin that ain't mine. Laura Jane Grace summed it up with this: "The cliché is that you're a woman trapped in a man's body, but it's not that simple. It's a feeling of detachment from your body and from yourself. And it's shitty, man. It's really fucking shitty."

I don't know how I'd keep things in order with that and neither do you. Just let Caitlyn Jenner be or contribute something meaningful to the dialogue. You're obviously welcome to say whatever you want or feel, but my final thought is this: Don't boil a complicated issue down to some cocky sneer of a poorly worded negative status update. It almost never helps. It's usually just you being shitty.

And finally, if you're hyping the first amendment to stand by those bogusly misspelled opinions on social media, just read the fucking first amendment already. It only prevents the government from passing censorship laws. It doesn't in any way, shape or form stop your peers from slamming you for your bullshit. It's so, so crazy that you don't know this by now.


Anonymous said...

Well written, babe.

Jake Kilroy said...

Aw, thanks, babe. You're my rock, Rex.