OPINION: Let’s Have a Frank Chat About Caitlyn Jenner

Our editor has read your comments and responds to conversations about coverage.

Caitlyn Jenner on the ESPY Awards.

Caitlyn Jenner on the ESPY Awards.

Earlier this week, it was announced that transgender activist Caitlyn Jenner will be speaking at Penn on February 17th.

The now-sold-out event will feature Jenner and writer Buzz Bissinger in a conversation about her life post-transition and the causes she continues to advocate for. This news was met with harsh criticism and some offensive remarks in the comments section of our Facebook and Instagram pages.

Even if you personally dislike Caitlyn Jenner, she is now a part of our community. Your transphobic slurs aren’t.

I understand the frustration of seeing someone you don’t like get massive coverage (Donald Trump, anyone?), but we must recognize the difference in covering negativity and showcasing impact. Given Jenner’s level of fame, it might be hard to easily find the balance.

But we can’t ignore the facts. Caitlyn Jenner is one of the most famous transpeople the world has ever met. Her presence alone has sparked more mainstream conversations about trans issues and gender-identity causes than many of our favorite scholars on the topic.

It may be disheartening to see a celebrity’s presence overshadow the efforts of everyday people, but that’s been the case for decades. Pop culture has a unique role in pushing the progress and evolution of society. Let’s not bully Caitlyn because she’s a reality star who comes from a controversial family.

At the end of the day, she is a human being just like the rest of us. And to be even more frank, she didn’t owe us as much candidness as she’s chosen to give us. She didn’t have to tell her story, which has made a positive influence on countless transgender lives and experiences. Caitlyn didn’t need to produce a new reality show geared towards increasing the visibility and equity of other transgender individuals on television.

She owes us nothing, and yet continues to commit herself to informing the general public about being trans. This deserves a level of respect.

But that doesn’t mean that I’m ignoring some of the more legitimate concerns of her activism. Yes, Caitlyn could improve upon the brevity of her statements made on trans issues outside of herself. It would also be irresponsible if I didn’t note that her privilege as a famous wealthy white transwoman also plays a role in her visibility as well.

But that doesn’t give us the right to misgender her, make personal attacks on her transition, and/or dismiss her decision to be trans at all. I encourage many of the LGBTQ readers on here who are cis-gender to check their privilege when trying to quickly insult others on the spectrum. We are a community that has historically experienced various levels of marginalization, which suggests that we shouldn’t be too quick to exclude one another.

Moving forward, we will continue to cover only the newsworthy aspects of Ms. Jenner’s advocacy. We at G Philly don’t personally care what she’s wearing or who she’s dating – we will leave that for the tabloids. But we also don’t plan to make Caitlyn the only sole face of trans issues in the nation and in the city. We will go to great lengths to spotlight more leaders in the community who are doing great work.

And as always, if you have any tips, events, and info related to transpeople or other LGBTQ individuals, please email us at gphilly@phillymag.com.