The other day when I went grocery shopping I was (not so) surprised to find that almost every magazine in the checkout aisle had something to do with Bruce Jenner and his alleged transition. The story is all over social media and with Kim’s recently vague comment of support for Bruce, it doesn’t seem that it’ll go away until Bruce pops out of a cake and tells us one way or the other.
I wouldn’t consider myself a radical when I say that this story doesn’t warrant media attention, or at least this kind of attention. For starters, Bruce has not said anything regarding a transition nor has Bruce disclosed anything about his/her/they’s gender identity. So to begin with, this really isn’t even a story. For all we know the Kardashian-Jenner family could just be spinning the press to stir excitement for Bruce’s new reality seris coming out. It would be a smart move on their part and considering the fact that the KJ family are hell spawn creatures it wouldn’t be too out of a character for them either.
It’s also important to note that I think trans* and gender nonconforming people are incredibly underrepresented in media and culture. In fact, if you asked your average person on the street what they knew about trans* people they’d probably say something like “Laverne Cox”, which is the teeniest step in the right direction. Sure Laverne is not the only trans* person nor is her story identical to most trans* people, but at least people are being exposed to more conversations because of people as fabulous as her. Trans* people are slowly becoming more visible in media, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the public’s understanding of them is catching up at the same rate. Violence and discrimination against trans* and gender nonconforming people is still horrifically high and people continue to deliberately misgender others because they’re too lazy or stubborn to expand their viewpoints.
The issue with the Bruce Jenner situation is that we’re turning the transgender identity into a spectacle, a topic worthy of gossip. If Bruce Jenner is trans, great for Bruce Jenner for being comfortable enough to embark on this new chapter. If this story is true then it would be great if people rallied behind Bruce and supported the Kardashian-Jenner family during this time of change. But if you’re only interested in this topic because of genitalia or superficial aesthetic reasons, then you’re kind of a dickwad. Just because someone isn’t cisgender or operates outside of your limited views of gender doesn’t mean they’re abnormal or worthy of ridicule. It means that they know themselves well and are confident enough to be themselves in spite of your ignorance.
My hope is that regardless of how this story turns out that people start to really think about the validity of all gender identities and expressions. I know firsthand how embarrassing it can be when you’re called out for being ignorant or incorrect in your assumptions. I’ve misgendered people before or said some things that were pretty awful unintentionally and felt horrible about it afterwards. But the way I see it- feeling uncomfortable for 5 minutes is worth the lifetime of education that comes with it. And more importantly- I’m in a very privileged situation if the only thing I’m worried about is how dumb or ignorant I feel. So let’s move away from this story and start empowering the out and proud trans* people we know and support those who are struggling with their identities. And the next time any of us get flack for our gender identities or gender expression let’s keep the wise words of Kim Kardashian in mind- “I was feeling my look. Can I live?”