In case you missed it, Caitlyn Jenner was on the Ellen Degeneres Show. Caitlyn is asked about her stance on gay marriage, and whether or not she, as a Republican, is supportive of gay rights and the legalization of gay marriage. Her response was as TMZ perfectly phrased, “lukewarm.”
Not only was it lukewarm, but I found it to be disheartening, and do I dare say – hypocritical. Before people chime in about bias and claim that this article was obviously written by someone that is transgender, let me start by saying that I am a heterosexual, white, female. On paper my identity or “status” places me in categories that are considered to be of the majority, or to those that do not believe in equality, “superior.” I have not faced the struggle that black people, and countless other races have endured and continue to endure on a daily basis. I did not have to sit my parents down nervously and say “Mom and Dad, I’m straight.” I have never had to live my life feeling as though the gender that I was assigned at birth did not coincide with the gender of my soul; I am and have always felt female. So why do I mention all of this? I mention this because I am self aware enough to bring attention to the fact that although I am not disadvantaged by my race or sexuality, this does not mean that others are not disadvantaged by their own. And although I do not belong to the LGBT community, nor am I technically directly affected by it – I support it. I advocate for it. I am compassionate towards it. I am understanding towards it. I do not simply tolerate it – I support it.
I realize that we have yet to reach equality amongst the LGBT community. I realize that there is a vast population of people who are not supportive of gay or transgender rights. I realize that not everyone feels the way that I do about gender and sexuality. Do I think this is right? Absolutely not. But I am not writing this in attempt to change anyone’s mind, I am writing this to draw attention to the elephant in the room, the woman I mentioned at the beginning of this article: Caitlyn Jenner. After watching a snippet from her interview with Ellen, I felt disappointed. I felt disheartened. I have always been supportive of Caitlyn Jenner. I admired her courage throughout her transformation, I watched her docu-series that casts light upon the transgender community, and I praised her message that seemed to advocate for equality for all. She has triumphed in so many areas, she has used her platform to inform and educate others, and has encouraged an understanding and compassion towards the LGBT community. She has taken so many steps forward in the fight for equality, but in my opinion she appeared to take a huge step back when she failed to adequately utilize her platform when speaking about gay marriage on the Ellen Degeneres show.
When asked about her stance on gay marriage, she stated that she was “okay with it.” In writing this sounds like an adequate response to the question, but if you’ve watched the video you may feel as though it was less than fine. After explaining that she hadn’t been supportive of gay marriage but is now okay with it, even Ellen draws attention to the fact that she still does not seem entirely supportive of the issue. Caitlyn’s response lacked the conviction that has always been present when she speaks of the trans community. It was wish-washy, unenthusiastic and unconvincing. Some people may not be bothered by this, and it can certainly be argued that she, like everyone else, is entitled to her own opinion. But there is a larger issue here. I’m a big believer in practising what you preach, and Caitlyn Jenner has certainly used her platform to preach equality for transgender people, but why not preach equality for gay people? I am not arguing that she outright opposed the legalization of gay marriage, not once did she say that it was wrong. But not once did she say that it was right – not once did she say that she was supportive of gay marriage. She did not express joy in the groundbreaking legalization of gay marriage across the United States, and in fact appeared to remain on the fence about the validity of marriage between two people of the same sex. She failed to advocate for the gay community.
Some of you still may not view this as problematic. You may be thinking, “Does this girl think that just because she believes in gay marriage that every celebrity needs to preach their support for gay marriage?” And the answer is no, of course I don’t. But Caitlyn Jenner is not just any celebrity. She is a celebrity who has asked for respect and understanding both in her transformation, and in the transformation of other trans people. She has argued that trans people are deserving of the same love and respect as anyone else, and has spoken about the importance of compassion and acceptance. She has praised people for being different, and during her Espy’s speech this July said, “We’re all different, that’s not a bad thing. It’s a good thing.” She has said and done many remarkable things regarding the transgender community, and as she should, but where was her acceptance, understanding, and support when questioned about the gay community? You cannot ask for support and acceptance, while failing to provide support and acceptance toward another group of people, who much like the trans community, have struggled tirelessly in the fight for equality. You cannot argue that trans people deserve love and respect (of course I agree that they do), while failing to recognize that the love between same sex couples is no less valid than that of heterosexual couples, and furthermore that gay marriage should not simply be tolerated, but respected. You cannot state that being different is a good thing, while describing gay marriage as being nontraditional.
As a member of the LGBT, an advocate for the transgender community, and a celebrity with a platform that allows her voice to be heard by millions, Caitlyn Jenner has, in this case, failed. In providing support to the trans community, but scarcely supporting the gay community, Caitlyn Jenner has taken steps back in her fight for equality, which calls into question what her definition of equality really is. In advocating for the trans community, but failing to advocate for the gay community, she has undermined the support, acceptance, and understanding that she has fought for. She was given an opportunity to advocate for a marginalized group, who much like the trans community, has faced injustice and inequality, and simply put, she did not take it.
Gay, straight, bisexual or transgender – you are worthy, and I will continue to use what small platform I have to advocate for you. Be kind to one another.