I really don’t want to talk about Caitlyn Jenner. Rather, I find myself in the unenviable position of having to write about Caitlyn Jenner. As a transgender writer in 2021, it is largely unavoidable, and as such, I am resigned to this fate.
It’s not that there aren’t things about Jenner that aren’t worth writing about. She will always be the 1970s-era Olympic hero/reality television celebrity who transitioned in the public eye. She is part of the glitch and glamor of the Kardashian family, and all that entails.
Likewise, my own personal reasons for not wanting to write about her are not because I don’t see her as “legitimately transgender,” whatever that means. Jenner is a transgender woman. She has transitioned. I’m not going to disparage her on the basis of her transition, or her birth gender, or any of that, and I will urge you to not do so either.
I also am not envious of her. My feelings towards her have nothing to do with the gold she brought back from Montreal in 1976, nor her ability to make money off either that or her reality television lifestyle. I’m happy with my life, and don’t feel a need for the trappings of wealth and fame.
As it is, I wrote about Caitlyn Jenner before, as she came out with a cover story in Vanity Fair, then later during the run of her two season long “I Am Cait” reality show. Even then, however, I didn’t much want to write about her.
Back then, I saw her as an extremely naive trans woman making all the mistakes newly out trans women tend to make. Unfortunately, given her celebrity status, everything she said or did was projected that much larger. She continued to act as if her life was not going to change, and she could enjoy all the prestige and privilege she’d grown accustomed to in the decades following her decathlon victory.
In some ways, she is right on that. She is insulated enough from the experiences of the majority of her trans siblings that she will never likely have to pay the dues so much of us face in this life. This has allowed her to circumvent so many of the challenges transgender people face today, and has helped to form the Caitlyn Jenner we see today.
I had hoped, after the Vanity Fair coming out, and even more so as I saw those riding along with her on “I Am Cait” tried to drill sense and reality into her, that maybe she would learn. I had my own share of naivety, as I hoped that — like so many trans people before her — she would learn, and grow, and come to understand what the world is truly like. I even hoped. After she publicly admitted she was wrong about Donald Trump that, perhaps now, she was finally starting to mature.
At the very least, she seems to be dropping back off the popular culture meter.
That all changed, however, with an equally bizarre move to recall California Gavin Newsom. Caitlyn Jenner has cast herself as the Golden State’s own Donald Trump: a reality show businessperson with a big wallet, here to somehow “save” California with her supposed professional acumen and her sense of “winning.”
The race so far has been one gaffe after another, from lying that she golfed rather than vote in the 2020 Presidential campaign, a “hangar side” chat with Tucker Carlson where she talked about her poor neighbor at the airport who is tired of having to see homeless people, to her basic misunderstanding that California District Attorneys are not controlled by the Governor. She is painfully unqualified for the job.
Perhaps the largest gaffe, however, was Jenner siding with far-right ideology on transgender students participating in sports, stating, “That’s why I oppose biological boys who are trans competing in girls’ sports in school. It just isn’t fair. And we have to protect girls’ sports in our schools” in what appeared to be a largely staged “ambush interview” by TMZ in a Malibu parking lot.
The statement, who’s phrasing comes straight out of the right-wing playbook, is a 180 of comments she gave to Outsports.com managing editor Dawn Ennis in April of 2020. “I think every trans person, if they’re into athletics, should have an opportunity to compete and to improve themselves,” she told Ennis. “I’m all for it.”
Then again, she also told Ennis, “Politics is something I don’t talk about any longer.”
At last, we reach exactly why I don’t want to write about Caitlyn Jenner.
Much like her “Caitlyn for California” website, she is devoid of any policy position. She will take any position she seems as advantageous, telling a transgender reporter what they want to hear, while cozying up to what the right wants to hear in an attempt at the Governor’s seat.
At the same time, Caitlyn has that Trumpian narcissism that requires her to be talked about. She needs it like I need air. Writing about her, even to criticize her, simply feeds her. It gives her the visibility she craves, and gives her a sense of relevance in a world that would much rather leave her on the golf course.
I know I will need to write about Caitlyn Jenner again someday. I may even still hold onto a shred of naive hope that she will one day learn from her mistakes.
Yet, at heart, I know that that day is unlikely to come while her ego remains in charge.