Last week, Caitlyn Jenner attended a charity function in Chicago, where she gave a speech to help raise money for HIV/AIDS treatment among transgender (“TG”) men and women, and on her way out of the hall she was accosted by demonstrators. Not fundamentalist Christians (who flew in for the occasion from Houston, fresh off their victory over HERO and seeking another TG woman to annoy), but actual TG-Chicagoans!
These were other TG women, who had a bone to pick with Caitlyn, and who could not be satisfied with just making a snarky Facebook “Comment” like any other civilized person would do. No, they felt it was essential to confront Caitlyn in person (thereby unavoidably hijacking Caitlyn’s ever-present TV cameras for their own benefit, although I would never accuse them of having that nefarious intent).
And what was the grievance they were so intent upon expressing to Caitlyn’s pretty face? Just this: That they did not feel that Caitlyn is “representative” of TG women in our country. What! Caitlyn Jenner not “representative?” How could they think such a thing! But then it hit me. Of course, anyone seeing Caitlyn and hearing her story would immediately conclude that the “average” (the “representative”) TG woman in America:
How blind I was! Here I thought Caitlyn Jenner was an example of the amazing diversity of TG men and women in America. That they are to be found in every state and city of the land, of all ages and races, and having been active in the widest possible variety of careers and professions. Do we not know of TG Navy Seals, and Hollywood directors, and college professors? Just like our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters who, when began coming out and declaring themselves, showed the whole country that they were to be found doing the widest possible variety of jobs – many of which are prestigious and highly visible (wait … let me check my Apple phone).
So to those silly gooses who confronted Caitlyn in Chicago, I say “I wish we had a dozen more like her!” And if they were all rich, White and Republican, so much the better! Let the bigots see that TG women are to be found in country clubs, boardrooms and executive suites across the land. Let them see that “TG” is not something to be found only in the homeless, the unemployed or the disadvantaged. Let the bigots see that their efforts to continue to marginalize TG men and women are doomed to failure. Because we are everywhere! And we have so much to offer the world.
Or look at it like this. Caitlyn has helped to smash that prevalent stereotype for TG women by which, until recently, many people hearing the word “transgender” would have thought, instead, of the word “tranny” and immediately pictured in their minds a young, homeless drug-addicted prostitute working the street corner. According to that stereotype, this was all a TG woman could achieve in life – to be nothing but an object of pity … or disgust.
Now, suddenly, Caitlyn is one of those TG men and women who – by bravely coming out – has helped to destroy that hurtful stereotype. And we needed to smash that stereotype – because it was wrong, and because it was a weapon used against us by the bigots.
Now, in all honesty, although we TG people may be found everywhere, we are not many in numbers. We are a small minority in this country, and I would hope that my TG sisters would take special care not to needlessly attack a sister.
Can you not see what “aid and comfort” this gives to the bigots, to see us assaulting a sister? And after all, she seems to have a good heart, and gives every appearance of wanting to help other TG men and women. And we know she only came out as Caitlyn very recently, so she obviously has not had much opportunity yet to get to know other TG people. Why don’t we all just give her a little time to make new friends and learn about the lives which other TG men and women have been living? Would that be so bad?
And save your anger and hostility for the bigots, who actually deserve it.
Holly Maholm is a transgender woman. She is a graduate of Yale University and The Ohio State University School of Law. She worked as a senior attorney for a major sports marketing agency until she retired in 2004 and went into private practice. She is the author of the new holiday book Brave in Ribbons. For more information please visit: www.hollymaholm.com.