People are tired of talking about Caitlyn Jenner.
Or so my newsfeed says. Best I can tell, there are two camps of people who want to be done talking about this:
2-Those who see the whole story as “a man who decided to become a woman,” misunderstanding the complexity of gender identity, and therefore thinking this is not news.
Of course, some are just genuinely creeped out by the whole thing and, I’d assume, are tired of seeing those evocative pics every time they check their phone or open a browser. But regardless of the ‘why,’ lots of folks think we should be done talking about Bruce-now-Caitlin Jenner. And to all of them, I’d say, fine. Because mostly, this isn’t about her anyway.
If you don’t want to talk about Caitlyn any more, let’s talk about something else. Let’s talk about the rate of suicide among transgender youth and adults in our country. The numbers are sobering. As are the staggering numbers of homeless youth who come out to their parents, and instead of being comforted and supported, find themselves on the streets.
Let’s talk about them. Because every time a celebrity—whether you think their fame is deserved or not—comes out, the road gets a little easier for those kids, and those adults. For the gay men of the past few decades it was, depending on your age—Rock Hudson or Elton John; Neil Patrick Harris or Michael Sam. The lesbians of the 90’s had Ellen Degeneres. She said some things (on daytime t.v., no less) and the world shifted a bit.
Every generation gets a few of those moments. And for the transgender millennials, it is forever going to be Caitlyn. Her fabulous, super-secret, super hero feature on the cover of Vanity Fair will speak for countless decades to those kids who struggle with being who they are. The ESPY award will open doors that LGBTQ people could never have dreamed of twenty, ten, or even two years ago.
That award will have Cailyn Jenner’s name on it. But it’s not just about her. And that magazine cover may bear her image, but it is news because it is history in the making. And the minute it hit the stands, everybody knew it.
So if you don’t want to talk about her any more, let’s talk about why so much of our identity is wrapped up in gender. Let’s talk about our rigid assumptions about what is “normal,” and how damaging they can be. Not just to LGBTQ people, but to ‘gender normative’ women who, say, want to work and not have babies. Or want to have babies but not wear makeup. Let’s talk about how harmful those cultural anxieties can be for the straight man who wants to stay home with babies instead of work. Or the one who doesn’t like sports (oh the horror) or guns, or going to Hooters on his lunch break.
Let’s talk about how our short-sightedness in these regards contributes to rape culture, and every kind of violence against women, all over the world. Let’s talk about how hard school can be for the little boy who walks funny, or the girl who runs faster and spits farther than the boys. If you’re tired of talking about Caitlyn, let’s talk about all those things. Because that’s what all this is about.
And then, if there’s time, let’s talk about patriarchy. Let’s talk about how we live in a world where the worst, most unforgiveable thing a man can do is say he’d rather be a woman. Let’s talk about why that might be so horrifying to people. Let’s talk about what that reaction teaches girls about their worth. Because THAT is what this is about.
Tired of talking about Caitlyn? I’m tired of talking about how much of a person’s worth and well-being is wrapped up in what they wear, how they carry themselves, and which bathroom they use. Gender identity is so very, very much more than that, I know; and yet, it is these surface things that create such extreme discomfort. It is the outward appearance of gender that makes life hard for kids who don’t fit in the box. It is the outward appearance that caught our eye on a magazine cover; but let that outward appearance lead us into the deeper, more difficult questions about who we are, and why we have such unyielding expectations around who others are allowed to be.
Let’s talk about that. Let’s also talk about the inherent arrogance in saying “God doesn’t make mistakes…” As though any of us stay exactly as we are, forever. As though we aren’t all evolving towards who God created us to be, our whole lives long.
None of this is about Caitlyn, but she is blazing this trail. She is making us talk about the things nobody wants to talk about, acknowledge the uncomfortable edges that we don’t like to tread. For that, we should thank her. For the kids whose lives will be made fuller, richer, truer, and– dare we hope it– a little safer, we thank her.
But if you’re tired of hearing about her, there is plenty of other stuff to be talking about. Pick one. Start somewhere.
And if you do want to keep talking–I mean, really need to keep talking–if you are one of those people feeling like you don’t fit in or belong anywhere, and you need somebody to talk to, then please, know that you are a beloved child of God, as you are. And call some of these folks. They will listen. They can help.
You keep talking. Shout if you have to. It may save your life.
Other Patheos writers who are talking/not talking about Caitlyn Jenner: