Friday, April 24, 2015

I am Bruce Jenner/I am not Bruce Jenner

Barring some stunning turn of events, Bruce Jenner is expected to come out as a trans woman on national TV tonight. I'll happily join the chorus of people exclaiming "Good for her!" I'll leap to Jenner's defense when the inevitable volley of transphobic and ignorant comments is loosed. I'm already girding myself for battle on social media. Any and all snide comments and jokes at Jenner's expense will hit me personally. Those who take such cheap shots will end up on the wrong side of a blindingly bright line: They'll be corralled onto the "transphobes" side of the gargantuan dodge ball court of my mind. Consider yourselves on notice: I am Bruce Jenner. Insult Jenner's gender identity and you're also insulting me and every other trans person. We'll all be paying close attention to how y'all cis folks react to this.

At the same time, I'll do my best to educate those with open minds and sincere questions. On balance, it's a good thing that Jenner is coming out. Given that less than 10% of the US population self-reports that they "know a trans person," greater visibility for us is an essential component of our efforts for trans equality.

Then why am I filled with much more dread than joy about tonight's big announcement? 

Jenner will instantly become the most famous trans person in the United States. Jenner is not only a revered former Olympic Champion/National Hero, but also a reality TV "star." Overnight, Jenner will be seen as representing trans women (if not all trans people) by a wide swath of the population. 

But Bruce Jenner does not represent me. I am not Bruce Jenner. Jenner has undoubtedly faced immense challenges and should be commended for having the courage to finally start living authentically, but there's a major factor that separates the decathlete from the rest of us trans gals... 

Bruce Jenner is worth $100 million

One hundred million dollars. 

Bruce Jenner doesn't need to worry about affording hormone replacement therapy. Legions of trans folks can't get the medications they need because of a terrible cocktail of widespread employment discrimination and a lack of health insurance than covers trans health care. Bruce Jenner won't have to engage in survival sex work to get money for hormones, therapy, rent or food. Bruce Jenner doesn't have to worry about what a trans friend of mine is going through right now- She moved to the US from Canada to teach at a university, and her new doctor in South Carolina refuses to renew the existing prescription for her hormones... which is, shockingly, perfectly legal. 

If Bruce Jenner wants facial feminization surgery or gender confirmation surgery, it'll happen. Because of the lack of health insurance coverage for such procedures, thousands of less affluent trans men and women aren't as lucky (while the Obama Administration has enacted significant reforms that have helped trans folks, they're falling short here. Obamacare doesn't require health insurers to provide full trans-inclusive coverage.).  

Bruce Jenner can afford a phalanx of bodyguards to provide ample protection from any sort of physical threat. Most trans people, particularly trans women of color, live in an environment of constant threat- We face some of the highest rates of violent crime, sexual assault, and murder in the country. 

Bruce Jenner won't have to worry about ending up homeless and on the street. In 31 states, it is entirely legal for landlords to evict you simply for being trans. Jenner isn't likely to be confronted/assaulted/possibly even arrested when trying to use the women's restroom (remember... bodyguards), but that's still a real possibility for trans folks in every corner of this country. 

While production is evidently on hold for now, rumors swirl that a reality show centered on Jenner's transition is in the works. If that happens. is Jenner going to use that as a platform to inform the public and further the cause of trans rights? Or will it be nothing but a voyeuristic sideshow feeding America's insatiable hunger for all the reality pablum that Kroll Show parodied? I'm not optimistic about it being the former. After the media hype around Jenner finally crests, these real problems will still exist for trans folks who aren't fortunate enough to be fabulously, obscenely wealthy. 

So I'm left to take shelter before Super Shitstorm Jenner makes landfall.. But our struggle will continue until all trans folks enjoy the opportunities and freedom that can be purchased with Jenner's affluence. 

What are your thoughts in the last moments before this whole thing goes supernova? 

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