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About this Bruce Jenner interview

Update: I’ve written a followup here and turned off the comments on this post after an inbox full of attacks. If you still wish to comment, feel free to do so on the followup post.

Screenshot 2015-04-24 11.18.11Tonight, it’s expected that Bruce Jenner will reveal they’re transgender in a two-hour interview with Diane Sawyer. For most of us trans folk, especially the ladies, this is something we’ve been dreading for quite some time.

It may be tempting to see this as a great bit of visibility for the trans community and another chance for us to talk about trans issues. It may appear we are gaining an advocate and spokesperson in the mainstream media. None of this is true, however. There is nothing positive to come from this interview tomorrow. Most of us are actually quite afraid of the world we will be living in after this evening.

(Please note that I am using the singular “they” as Jenner’s pronoun. Jenner has not yet asked us to use a different pronoun and doing so before being told what to use would be inappropriate.)

What is important to consider is where Bruce Jenner is coming from. They are a privileged white person who exists in the heart of celebritydom. They are already a household name in mainstream media…and rich. Yes, this is going to make their personal experience difficult in a way most of us could not imagine, however, this is where the problem lies. Jenner’s experience does not and will never line up with the experience of 99.99% of trans people. Everything about Jenner will be about them and not about trans people.

Jenner will never understand the fear of being fired from their job simply because they are transgender. Jenner will not have to fear violence at every turn. They will not struggle to afford treatment (hormones, surgery, etc) while fighting with insurance companies to get anything at all covered. They will not experience housing discrimination.

Jenner will literally be able to buy their way out of any experience even remotely typical for those of us in the transgender community. Jenner will be able to snap their fingers for a new wardrobe, a body guard, medical treatment, and anything else they need.

This is not the person who should be the face of our community. The face of our community should not be our most privileged and least marginalized. It should be exactly the opposite. The face of our community should be our most marginalized. Our focus should not be trickle-down in nature. We need to be lifting up from the bottom. No one should be left behind. Our focus and the face of our community should be transgender women of color.

Jenner is not equipped for these conversations, nor should they even be expected to. Even for me, it took a couple years of listening to others in my community before I felt confident enough to be having important discussions around trans issues. I needed to learn the limits of my experience and to not speak over or for those less privileged than me. I needed to learn when to elevate the voices of others and speak in ways and about things with the nuance necessary to not over-step my boundaries. This does not come automatically.

This will not be how things go with Jenner. They will immediately be treated as an expert on transgender issues by the media. Their experience will be put front and center as The Transgender Experience™ instead of just one of many ways to be transgender and experiences to have. We saw this happen recently with Zoey Tur.

Jenner is not an expert on trans issues. I don’t even consider myself to be an expert and I am involved in the community and with activism. In reality, no one can truly be an expert on trans issues because trans experiences are varied and individualistic. Being a vocal part of the trans community and speaking for trans people means having a deep understanding of this fact. It is impossible for Jenner to possess this understanding.

Going even beyond Jenner’s ability to speak for trans people, we’ve already had a glimpse of the nastiness to come from the media. It’s not pretty. Simply look at TMZ and other tabloid publications. Jenner comes with too much baggage. People are too eager to use them being transgender as another way to attack him in pursuit of a quick buck.

Much of the bullying and attacks on Jenner feel like a flashback to the 90s for me. I still have mental scars from the imagery and treatment of trans people in the 90s. Media depictions like those on Jerry Springer set me back almost two decades in figuring out who I was and how to navigate being transgender. I fear a repeat of this for transgender youth of today.

Bruce Jenner’s stardom comes with immense visibility, but visibility isn’t always positive. Each insult hurled at Jenner isn’t just an insult of Jenner, it’s an attack on all trans people. These “jokes” are at the expense of all trans people. We are the punchline. Jenner will be a magnet for transphobia and transmisogyny and while they may be able to endure it and shelter themself from it thanks to decades of experience being in the spotlight, the vast majority of the trans community cannot.

Jenner’s “journey” and this interview won’t be about transgender people and the trans community, it will be about them and all of us will be the innocent victims handed over in exchange for media profits.

Regardless of all of this, Jenner still deserves our respect. They deserve to be properly gendered however they ask us to do. But I beg for the world to not look to Jenner to speak for us.

Update: Based on a lot comments I’ve received in various places, it seems as though I completely failed to make one of my main points clear enough. I 100% support Bruce Jenner and all trans people. My issue isn’t with Bruce Jenner themself at all. It is with a society and a media that will no doubt center around their experience and their story as THE transgender story and experience. We all have different stories and experiences and they are all worth being heard. I don’t want to, in any way, imply that I don’t believe that. Bruce’s experience is just one of an infinite number of them. What I fear is what will be thrust upon Bruce and the elevation of THEIR story over all others. This will only serve to bury the stories of our most marginalized.

6

What happened when I publicly called out long-time bigot Todd Kincannon for saying transgender people should be “put into a camp”

I really wanted to write about running today. I haven’t written about running in a little while and the promise of this blog was write about both running and trans stuff. Unfortunately, sometimes other things come up that need to be written about…

Former South Carolina GOP Executive Director Todd Kincannon is no stranger to causing controversy and spewing hate. He has a long history of this. However, this week, he has upped the ante with the suggestion that transgender people should be rounded up and put into a “camp.” This man would rather promote the same ideas has Adolf Hitler than to allow transgender people the right to live freely among the rest of society, let alone have any sort of equality. You can read a bit more about the initial exchange here and here and you can this below:

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There is no mistaking this man’s intent. This is especially vile and it comes from a former GOP official.

I immediately decided to call this bigotry out:

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I am not naive, I knew what I was walking into here, however, I did not expect the level to which I would be personally attacked. Not only did Todd Kincannon himself take the time to attack me, but a dozen or so of his followers joined in the party. They went through my tweets to find photos of me and continuously showed obsession with my genitals. This has been going for 48 hours now and has not yet come to an end.

I am tough, I can take attacks and hatred. I can stand up to bullies and fight back. I can enter a situation like this and be on the end of constant hate without being mentally or emotionally affected. These people are bullies and trolls and mean nothing to me, they cannot affect me emotionally.

However, not everyone is able to stand up to abuse online. What I’ve received this week is negligible in comparison to what others deal with. This has been a relatively small and isolated incident and is not my norm. I know people for whom this is their norm. I know people who have been publicly doxxed with their personal information shared online. I know people who have had letters sent to their jobs in an attempt to have them fired. The list of horribleness goes on and on. And that’s to mention nothing of the offline bullying youth are often on the receiving end of.

I stood up in defense of these people. I am glad to fight back. If I do nothing else but draw the fire of bullies and bigots off of those who are down, it’s worth it.

I also believe bullies, bigots, trolling, and hate speech of any kind must be challenged. At some level, these people want to get a rise out of others, it’s entertainment to them, but the real issue is deeper than that. Bullies and bigots want to silence. They want to take control over others. By “not feeding the trolls,” we give in to being silenced. We may not always be able to stand up and fight back, sometimes we must resort to simply ignoring the hate and getting friendly with the block button and we may rarely every change a bullies mind, but, when we are able to, we must stand up and refuse to be silenced.

There have been literally hundreds upon hundreds of tweets exchanged and directed towards me and others who have stood up. I could not attempt to expose them all, many of the worst tweets have already been deleted by those too cowardly to stand by their bigotry. I have selected some of the most offensive and vile and included them below (or after the jump) from those which have not yet been deleted. The photos themselves are clickable links to the actual tweets.
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*That* hashtag

Note: This was originally posted on my Tumblr where I am a little less filtered. I debated whether or not I should post it here because of the language and the fact that topic discussed is easy to misunderstand and take offense to. However, this topic and the discussion about it was a very big deal for the trans community. I think that it’s good to share to this as an example of how transgender people are not a singular monolith and are instead individual people who don’t necessarily agree with each other.

want to say that I can’t believe we’re still talking about the #fuckcispeople hashtag, but that would be a lie. I can believe it. What I actually find hard to believe is how conflicted I can feel over something so simple as a Twitter hashtag.

I’ve had a hard time trying to peg down exactly why I don’t personally like it. I was hesitant to join the conversation at all because I didn’t want to derail, take it away from anyone, or do anything remotely like tone policing. I could see this was something that was truly cathartic for some people and provided some necessary venting. All trans* people could use a little of that from time to time, so I saw the hashtag as being very positive in that way, but it still didn’t feel right to me. I spoke up on Twitter and just threw that out there. It seemed like something I should do (you know, if you feel a certain way, speak up, kind of thing), but I tried to take a clear stance that I didn’t think other people shouldn’t use it, just that I wasn’t sure it was the best way to express things.

This morning, I started seeing a modified version of the hashtag being used by some people. #fuckcispeoplewho. I like this one. It was never the anger, the “fuck,” the tone, or any of that that bothered me. It also doesn’t advocate violence the way “die cis scum” does so I like it in that sense. This alternate tag hit the mark for me, it’s that the anger feels directionless with #fuckcispeople. While I never thought or got the impression that anyone was saying “fuck all cis people” with #fuckcispeople, the tag still feels like a “fuck everyone attitude” (which I won’t blame people for feeling, but it’s just not what I feel). I don’t really care if cis people’s feelings are hurt by people speaking the truth and I agree that if people can’t get that #fuckcispeople isn’t the same as “fuck all cis people,” that’s kind of their problem.

Sometime in the last 30 years, I learned that if you’re going to be angry about something (or even many things), it’s important to appropriately direct that anger. Anger that you aimlessly send out into the world tends to not go anywhere or resolve anything. More importantly, it rarely make you feel any better…or, at least, is my experience. On the other hand, anger that is focused on the source or cause of whatever it is that is pissing you off seems to be more productive and has a chance of leading to some sort of an end. For me, #fuckcispeople doesn’t have any direction to it. I’m not pissed at cis people, as a faceless mass, for anything. Many people are mad at cis people in general (and I can absolutely understand why, being treated like a normal human seems to be the exception and not the norm for many trans people) and, for them, #fuckcispeople is the appropriate hashtag. I’m mad at specific things that some people do and the people who do them. For me, #fuckcispeoplewho directs my anger appropriately.

All of that being said, I don’t necessarily think that a Twitter hashtag has to be productive. If people just want to vent, that’s cool. Do what you need to do. I don’t think #fuckcispeople works as a rallying cry for trans* rights, but I don’t think it’s intended to be a rallying cry either. I think it’s something internal to our community and, for that, I’m okay with it.