A Republican “traditionalist” is the most visible transgender person in the world.
Bruce Jenner was a conservative Republican Christian, with all the baggage that came with it.
He became Caitlyn Jenner, but the gender transformation didn’t turn the former Olympian into an enlightened small “l” liberal.
So while Jenner, 65, was at first embraced by the LGBTQI community for drawing attention to the treatment of trans people, some are now having second thoughts about just how beneficial Jenner really is for the cause.
In the 24 hours after her now-iconic Vanity Fair cover, Caitlyn Jenner became the most high profile trans woman in the world.
Following the debut of her reality show I Am Cait, people asked if Jenner could be becoming “the Oprah of the trans community”.
In her new status as a transgender woman, Jenner was praised and welcomed by other trans people, including actress Laverne Cox, performer Candis Cayne, and academic Jenny Boylan.
Since then, though, there’s been a definite cooling-off.
During a recent interview with Ellen DeGeneres, Jenner said, with regard to gay marriage, that she’s “a traditionalist” and didn’t “quite get it”.
She concluded, “I don’t ever want to stand in front of anybody’s happiness. You know? That’s not my job. If that word ‘marriage’ is really that important to you, I can go with it.”
DeGeneres, married to Portia De Rossi, wasn’t impressed with this response.
“It’s funny, because you’re still kind of not on board with it,” she told Jenner.
Later, on the Howard Stern show, DeGeneres joked that perhaps Jenner hadn’t joined her for a dance on the show because she’s a lesbian.
DeGeneres wasn’t really serious, but Jenner is a woman who was lionised at the New York Gay Pride parade when she turned up earlier this year. That her views on gay marriage are so lukewarm is likely to offend many.
As she’s demonstrated in interviews like the one with DeGeneres, and on her reality show I Am Cait, Jenner also doesn’t quite relate to the challenges other trans people face.
“What’s the big issue?” Jenner asked a group of new trans friends as they drove across the country on a road-trip together, referring to the problems young transgender people face.
“They’re homeless and unemployed, so it’s just going to take a lot more,” one tells her.
Another says that entry-level jobs are important for young trans people “so that these girls have some alternative if they wanted.”
Jenner’s response is fairly indicative of where she’s coming from politically.
“Don’t a lot of times they can make more not working with social programs than they actually can with an entry-level job? You don’t want people to get totally dependent on it. That’s when they get in trouble – ‘Why should I work? I got a few bucks, I got my room paid for.'”
Well, gosh, why don’t they just all become supermodels or start a hair-extension company like the youngest of Jenner’s kids, Kendall and Kylie?
“Caitlyn has every right to be just as conservative as she chooses, but many transgender men and women need social programs to survive. That’s nothing to be ashamed of,” a trans friend of Jenner’s says in the episode.
It seems as though Jenner lives in a bubble of privilege where being a trans woman means you get to wear pretty make-up and pose for photo shoots and get praised for being brave.
The wider issues that the trans minority deal with don’t affect her.
She seems most interested in embodying gender stereotypes — like her ex-wife Kris Jenner and stepdaughters the Kardashian three — with the long curling hair, the big false breasts, the perfect gowns and the flawlessly applied make-up.
She’s sort of styled herself as the ultimate soccer mom with her neat outfits and conservative views.
Jenner told Jenny Boylan, a professor of English at Columbia University and national co-chair of GLAAD that she’d like nothing more than to be treated like a real lady by a man on a recent episode of I Am Cait.
“It would be very attractive to me to have a guy treat me like a woman,” Jenner told her, to Boylan’s confusion.
“You don’t need a man to make you a woman. A woman can make you a woman. It’s a thing that women do. We look to men to give us self-worth,” Boylan told her.
In another demonstration of a complete disconnect with the community, Jenner has expressed surprise at the backlash over a Halloween costume based on her new identity.
The “Call Me Caitlyn” unisex Halloween costume, modelled after Jenner’s famous Vanity Fair cover, angered transgender activists, who say it mocks transgender identities.
“I’m in on the joke. I don’t think it’s offensive at all,” Jenner said of the costume on the US Today show.
“I know the community does and they’ve gotten a lot of criticism for doing it. I think it’s great.”