High school kids can be vicious.
I attended one of the many public high schools in Southern California and my experience was pretty normal. Football games on Fridays in the fall, school dances sprinkled here and there, and the occasional bout of drama.
During the first half of my freshman year I was enrolled in Geography, which is one of the electives that all freshmen take at public school. I found the classroom on the first day of the semester, waved to the people I recognized and then took a seat. My teacher, Ms. Lucero, went through the motions that the first day requires: going through the syllabus, talking about what she expected from us, even adding bits of experience from her own high school experience.
The bell rang and everyone got up and left.
On the walk to my next class I heard people whispering loudly, “That’s her!” That’s when I realized that my Geography teacher had previously decided to undergo a Gender Reassignment Surgery.
Before that day and for a while after, the rumors kept spinning. How she’d once been a male teacher at the same school and then came back as a woman. How they couldn’t fire her because she had tenure. I listened to parents talk to other parents about how “unwise” it was of the administration to keep her on staff. People really didn’t stop talking about it for the four years I spent there, and for all I know, they’re still talking.
This was 2008.
Nearly eight years later, Caitlyn Jenner announced her transition the night before the Nepal earthquake. That Saturday, my Twitter and Facebook feeds were filled with posts like, “Nepal is so much more important than Bruce Jenner.” While the earthquake in Nepal was an extreme tragedy, Jenner’s transition didn’t deserve to be discounted.
Yesterday, Caitlyn Jenner graced the cover of Vanity Fair exclaiming, “Call me Caitlyn.” The issue includes a beautiful multi-page spread of her in different ball gowns posing in different rooms. Only a year and three days after Laverne Cox dominated the cover of TIME Magazine, Jenner is continuing the legacy.
A number of celebrities praised Jenner and her cover. People began comparing her to Jessica Lange. When Lange learned about the comparisons, she said, “That’s so wonderful.”
I just want Caitlyn Jenner to take me out and teach me how to drive a stick shift in heels.
— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) June 1, 2015
if you have a new identity then the new identity is you, no?
— Ezra Koenig (@arzE) June 1, 2015
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) June 2, 2015
I’ve seen a short anecdote splashing around the Internet lately, and spent awhile debating whether or not I wanted to post it on Facebook yesterday. This is it:
Okay so imagine that a mother gives birth to a baby boy. And imagine that the mother really wanted a girl instead. So the mother decides to raise the child as a girl. She buys pink clothes, little dresses, hair pins, scolds the child when he “doesn’t act ladylike,” etc.
Most people would see this as child abuse. And they would be right.
But what if I told you that this happens every single day. Children who are not boys are forced to act like boys, and children who are not girls are forced to act like girls.
This is what it’s like growing up transgender in a society and household with a family that does not accept you.
I think that this is an important thing to think about.
Maybe you’ve heard it: gender is a social construct, and it is not a binary subject. People can argue on and on about those. But what happened to caring about other people’s personal happiness?
A great triumph cannot go without its fair share of negativity, and the world saw a lot of that yesterday in regards to Jenner’s cover.
“What a fallen Olympic hero…”
“I hope one day you realize who God made you to be…”
It’s the classic response. People terrorize another person’s personal happiness in order to defend their own comfort. They try to justify it by stating that she decided to be this way. That she decided that she needed this transition, the same way that they think gay people choose to be gay.
No one does this for fun or as a publicity stunt. No one enjoys being constantly harassed at every turn. It’s even more difficult for Jenner because of the harsh spotlight that was already focused on her family.
Jenner is not any sort of fallen Olympic hero; if anything, she is more of a hero for who she is now. She’s a hero for the transgender teen in rural Idaho. She’s a hero for that celebrity who knows he’s never been happy. She’s a hero for all of us, now.
People try to get rid of the ones who make them uncomfortable due to their own multifaceted phobias. People tried to get rid of my Geography teacher. Now people are trying to get rid of Caitlyn Jenner.
Let me tell you, she’s not going anywhere anytime soon.