I want to tell you about last week… well, actually I don’t. But I will. I debated whether to relate this story at all out of fear of exacerbating an already touchy subject. Besides, the person with whom I spoke didn’t want to be quoted. So I won’t mention the name of this person or this person’s position in Hollywood. But I’ve learned that when one comes face to face with a critic, however sharp, it’s good to listen. That’s true even if much of what’s said may be nonsense.
This person was supposed to discuss an unrelated matter but spent most of her time unloading about how “wrong” was my article was about Caitlyn Jenner in TransMusePlanet Magazine. She claimed to be close to Caitlyn and told a number of things that were completely untrue about what I wrote. It caused me to believe that she really didn’t read that article, but only glanced at portions that were critical, then felt outrage that I should write any criticism at all. But there were a couple of points that, despite the nonsense, were valid and worthy to be addressed for everyone.
HATERS HERE, HATERS THERE
It caused me to wonder how many others read what I had really wrote or simply read what happened to interest them. That can be dangerous, especially in an age in which increasing numbers of people of various persuasions read in order to stroke confirmation bias. When it comes to someone as controversial as Caitlyn Jenner, a lot of people are inclined to look at the tide of opinion on social media instead of facts. After all, plenty of transpeople have decided to hate Caitlyn and waste no opportunity to slam her. In consideration of this volatile practice on one hand and my critic on the other, I want to address not only her because the article was posted. Some seem to think I agree with the haters and that’s a serious problem.
I am not opposed to Caitlyn Jenner and my criticism in that article by no means represents malice. In fact I did friend her on Facebook when she still had an account there and never removed her from my list when she deactivated it. I made no attempt to slam Caitlyn as an evil person. She isn’t. She’s a person who has natural limitations and challenges she must work proactively to overcome. This is my actual statement:
“Clearly, Caitlyn Jenner needs to take a serious time out for some real self-assessment before she manages to alienate everyone she holds dear. She needs to re-address her own limitations. Caitlyn has often had to live up to heroic expectations due to her reputation as a sports hero. She knows those limitations are there. What she fails to do is take these limitations to their logical conclusion and act proactively so they don’t detract from her message.”1
When it comes to politics I have little at stake in either of the major parties, and consequently, Caitlyn’s politics. She’s a lifelong Republican. I’m a lifelong Independent, never having registered with any political party throughout my voting history of over 40 years. I’m not very interested in Democrat politics either because that party primarily represents the big labor bosses. I’ve had longstanding issues with trade unions who have done their utmost to keep me ignorant and to eliminate me from every union shop in which I’ve been employed. They’ve earned my eternal distrust. At the same time, I have issues with the GOP as the party of the big corporations and the Evangelical Alliance that has asserted its theocratic Dominionism like an iron-fisted metacult. My interests pertain to human rights and ethics. I support the rights of transpeople and oppose those forces that seek the destruction thereof. When it comes to Caitlyn’s desire to reform the GOP, I regard it as an honorable thing to attempt, even if that task may be Herculean and above the efforts of any individual.
I don’t believe Caitlyn put this individual up to calling me, though I know communications in Hollywood often pass between third parties before attempting anything direct. The person who called me claimed to be close to Caitlyn and that’s well and good. But Caitlyn knows where and how to reach me. If she had issues, I think she’d probably go through her agent or publicist. I know this person isn’t Caitlyn’s agent and I know this person isn’t a publicist.
I personally believe, and indicated so in my article, that Caitlyn really is interested in the well being and liberties of the trans community. The claim that that she only gives as it benefits her personal image is preposterous. I didn’t deny that Caitlyn gives to trans causes. She gives a lot. What I also acknowledged was popular perceptions pertaining to her giving:
“…a growing belief that Caitlyn doesn’t really back the Trans community like she claims, despite her raising money for Trans causes including Trans Chorus L.A.”2
This statement should alone tell any reader where I really stand:
“I, for one, believe Caitlyn really does want to benefit the trans community and Trump’s civil rights policies have been forcing her into a reassessment that she still hasn’t taken to its conclusion.”3
Concerning my sources, only 2 came from social media at all: a tweet from Parker Molloy as an example of the voice of Caitlyn’s opponents and the other by Caitlyn herself. Other sources came from the Advocate, People, Time, and TMZ. I list all sources I use for everyone’s benefit in my articles. Eight of my factual sources were from Caitlyn through her book The Secrets of My Life. I highly recommend that anyone who has something to say about Caitlyn Jenner should read this book first. I posted a review of it on Transpire you can access here.4
To date, reactions of my book reviews have been well received even when I’ve criticized errors in fact or pointed out limitations of usage, being called “fair” by those closely involved in their production.
So what was valid in this person’s complaint?
It centered upon the attack upon Caitlyn Jenner by Ashlee Marie Preston when she confronted Caitlyn after a concert by Trans Chorus L.A. with a profanity-laced rant:
She said, “It’s really (expletive) that you continue to support somebody… that does everything with the military, that’s erasing our (expletive) community. And you [Trans Chorus L.A.] support it.” When Caitlyn said, “You don’t know me” Ashlee retorted, “Yes I do! You’re a (expletive) fraud and a fake!”5
My critic decried my treatment of this incident on 2 counts, preferring a summary condemnation of Ashlee, something I did not do:
- This took place at an LGBT Center which is supposed to be safe space.
- Ashlee Marie Preston is a guerilla journalist.
I don’t deny either. But I do have issues with both claims that allowed me to say:
“Ashlee’s actions are forgivable and understandable. I hope Caitlyn can forgive her too.”6
THE MYTH OF THE OPEN AND ACCEPTING LGBT CENTER
Let’s talk about LGBT centers. Yes, they’re intended to be safe spaces. They should be safe spaces. But I’ve never found them to be safe. I don’t go to events at LGBT centers anymore because of attacks against me. They’ve happened at the hand of staff and from individuals event staff didn’t see coming. that occur to be beyond the control of staff. Once I received an apology. But I’ve learned not to count on apologies.
I can name several LGBT centers in which incidents against me have taken place: 2000, 2003, 2005, 2014, 2015, 2016, and this year. I’ve had conflicts galore with these centers in Hayward, Garden Grove, Santa Ana, Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo, Sacramento, and San Francisco, all without provocation on my part except for the simple fact that I was there or happened to say anything… or not. Incidents have ranged from rejection of any right to be present to making a loud scene against me, to open intimidation and gaslighting to actual threat of assault. Details would make an excessively long article which I doubt if you’d care to read.
I no longer accept that just because an organization claims to be an LGBT center that it’s really available to me as a transperson. For that matter, last summer after being threatened by an unknown transwoman who threatened to ram me with her vehicle while shaking her fist at me, I no longer approach LGBT centers. I simply don’t consider them safe.
Why so many conflicts? I think it’s largely the sub-societal clique attitude: those entities full of respecters of persons who fit some predetermined litmus test irrespective of character. I didn’t have the endorsements that recommended me as somebody “cool” or desirable to know and how many are inclined to snap judgments. They drive the societal pecking order, assertions of domination out of perceptions of who’s likable and who’s not. Some are based upon age, sex, and ethnocentric attitudes. Some even determine this upon fashion, a world for which I have little regard because of its contributes to prejudicial attitudes while enforcing whims that many cannot afford. Such attitudes naturally stand as an antithesis to the stated mission of these centers.
So after my own experience I’d say Caitlyn’s in good company.
Let’s get real about LGBT Centers being “safe spaces.” It’s clear to me that the idea of an open and affirming center where transpeople as well as gays, lesbians, and other alternate sexualities can go to get advice, begin new friendships, become more connected, and rebuild lives is a myth. They have partial success at this where professionals offer assistance out of their own expertise. But they’re not open to common transpeople except to facilitate programs. They tootle their horns a lot at events they do have. But in too many cases what they tootle is an illusion.
So when it comes to outrage over Ashlee’s treatment of Caitlyn because of it happening in an LGBT center I can’t help but feel little sympathy. That outrage expressed over Ashlee is less representative of the stated mission of any LGBT center than it is about attitudes concerning Caitlyn’s societal and financial status. The same outrage would not be shown if it happened to another peon like me. It would not have been considered so egregious if Ashlee was the victim. After all, Caitlyn has money and is known to give liberally. Ethics mean less than affluence and influence to people like that. Such respecters of persons are far more willing to give great leeway to the rich and well-connected than they are for most of us. Sooner or later, this disparity of interest and care reflects upon their entire work, and that can’t be sustained forever. I wish it were otherwise.
ASHLEE’S GUERILLA JOURNALISM
Guerilla journalism is admittedly an underhanded approach. It basically amounts to inciting an incident, catching the incident through the witness of a cohort, and then reporting on it directly or otherwise releasing that incident to the press. Is Ashlee guilty of this? Unquestionably so. It wasn’t fair to summarily denounce Caitlyn as a “fake” just like it’s unfair to denounce a teenager as a “fake” for attempting to do a job without fully understanding it. Denouncing her as a “fraud” is more problematic because that means false representation. Caitlyn still believes the GOP ultimately has the best recourse for transpeople. That isn’t fraud. That’s false belief.
However, the incident did underscore what many have felt about Caitlyn Jenner’s politics, especially those of ethnic minorities who share none of her privilege and who have been bearing the brunt of discrimination and hate crimes in the name of the same “values” so loudly touted by the GOP. Caitlyn has been evolving concerning Republican positions on civil rights and has denounced what Donald Trump has been doing with respect to trans rights, beginning with this tweet of Caitlyn’s:
“There are 15,000 patriotic transgender Americans in the US military fighting for all of us. What happened to your promise to fight for them?”7
Her tweet was met with broad ridicule from transpeople throughout social media. But it’s not really deserving of ridicule. A beautiful thing is happening. Caitlyn was beginning her first steps in recognizing the hatefulness of the GOP position on trans rights and the extreme guile that typifies political campaigns. With that tweet, Caitlyn was no longer in a position to give carte blanche acceptance of the claims of Donald Trump. Later she must understand how such guile is a political institution everywhere.
She has yet to take this issue of blind trust in political parties to its full conclusion, of course. But she is on her way whether the rest of us may be willing to acknowledge it or not. And we should acknowledge it.
Ashlee’s actions are regrettable. I didn’t excuse them. I made no claim in my article that I excuse it. But it is forgivable and it is understandable because Ashlee does represent that segment of trans society who has suffered more than any other. Forgiveness isn’t the same thing as excusing. Excusing overlooks. Forgiveness brings opponents back together.
My criticism of Caitlyn’s response didn’t follow the tide of social media. This is what I said:
“In which case, Caitlyn’s response to Ashlee at the Trans Chorus L.A. concert, ‘You don’t know me,’ was the wrong response. A better response would have been rhetorical in itself, saying, ‘You’re absolutely right, Ashley [sic]. And I have withdrawn my support of the Trump civil rights agenda. I want to make amends. Will you help me?’”
I want everyone to see what this means. I do not condemn Caitlyn for not offering a correct response. Her leaving with her security entourage prevented a bigger blowup. I can understand her doing so. I’ve done much the same when faced with confrontations in LGBT centers. But each time that happened I ask myself what I could have done better.
If Caitlyn had responded to Ashlee with the response I had written, what would have happened? She would have immediately disarmed Ashlee’s attack. Not only that but she would also have represented someone with the open arms that Caitlyn has shown already to many. It would have resulted in affecting healing within the trans community.
What this means is that Caitlyn had an opportunity to score a major coup de gras. But that didn’t happen. It would have required some imaginative quickness. Since she didn’t have that at the ready, her retreat was the best she was able to muster. That’s regrettable. I would have loved to have seen Caitlyn score that coup de gras.
That’s right. I said it. I would love to have seen her score because I want Caitlyn to achieve that excellence she seeks.
I hope others can see the matter in this light. Criticism doesn’t need to be uncivil. Some criticism elevates. That’s what I attempted to do. Unfortunately, my critic didn’t see it that way and preferred a course of condescension and intimidation in a phone call. Of course, what else can I expect from respecters of persons?
Most of all, I emphasized in that article the need for compassion. I know Caitlyn seeks this for others. She deserves it herself. The real crisis rests at the foot of the haters who instead of exercising a compassionate approach hop on a bandwagon of malice. But hatred is like a fire, ever desiring to consume. Eventually it consumes the hater and destroys him.
Anyone who has spent much time with me knows how little interest I have in Hollywood. Not only do I not have any ambitions within Hollywood, I’m suspicious about claims in Hollywood circles about how ambition’s a good thing. But ambition isn’t drive. Ambition will harm others to get ahead and this runs counter to innocence.
So to me, reconciliation isn’t about getting in line with the dictates of a Hollywood establishment. It’s about embracing one another as fellow human beings, knowing the foibles we all have. It’s about understanding the adverse impact that privilege and Dominionism have made upon minorities and to look for ways to lift them up to where we can all look one another in the eye and address the other as a friend. That doesn’t mean tearing down those who are really trying. It means reaching out to those who hurt: people like Ashlee. It means tearing down those societal institutions and cliques that prevent people from connecting and helping one another.
But I hope that people can be brought together, realizing we need to be ready to rise above our perceptions about others. In that respect I hope my critic can forgive me for not condemning Ashlee because I will not. I hope other critics can forgive me for not condemning Caitlyn because I will not. And I won’t condemn my critic, even if I don’t answer the phone next time. It isn’t that I refuse to talk to this person. I simply have to keep the line open for patient care and my account has limited minutes. I’ve lost a lot of minutes already and can’t afford to squander them with rants. I know I may be regarded as ignorant (or worse) because we don’t agree.
We don’t have to agree. But we can be civil.
- Stuart, Lynnea Urania. The Machine and the Circus: Why Caitlyn’s Not Going Away (September 2, 2017) Web: TransMusePlanet Magazine: https://thetmplanet.com/the-machine-and-the-circus-why-caitlyns-not-going-away/. Retrieved September 11, 2017.
- Stuart, Lynnea Urania. Peering Into Caitlyn’s Secrets (June 13, 2017) Web: Transpire: https://lynneauraniastuart.wordpress.com/2017/06/13/peering-into-caitlyns-secrets/ . Retrieved September 11, 2017.
- Daniel Reynolds. Activist Calls Caitlyn Jenner a ‘Fraud and a Fake’ at Trans Fundraiser (August 27, 2017) Web: The Advocate: https://www.advocate.com/transgender/2017/8/27/activist-calls-caitlyn-jenner-fraud-and-fake-trans-fundraiser-video (brackets inserted for clarity), retrieved August 31, 2017.
- The Machine and the Circus.
- Caitlyn Jenner. Tweet (July 26, 2017) https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/742771576039460864, retrieved August 31, 2017.
- Op cit.