As events in North Carolina have shown, extremism is alive and well in the United States of America. Ignorance is not bliss but rampant. The wildly illogical belief that transgender women will attack other women while taking a wee, persists. South Dakota Governor, Dennis Daugaard, may have chosen to listen. North Carolina Governor, Pat McCrory, did not.
When Caitlyn Jenner controversially offered herself up as a trans ambassador to a future (it’ll never happen) President Ted Cruz, she chose the wrong target. But while illogical — given that Cruz shares platforms with hate groups whose members would happily beat her up in a dark alley — it was not surprising.
Jenner has long been a wealthy, white, privileged, ultra conservative and that didn’t change when her pronoun did. And just because she could once throw strange objects long distances does not automatically imbue her with sound political judgement.
But with the justifiable uproar surrounding the truly dreadful legislation passed in North Carolina, someone has to step up and speak out loudly on behalf of the trans community. So why not Cait?
“I think that the person serving as trans ambassador for any candidate should have lived the typical experience of the average trans person in the United States,” said Kylar Broadus, executive director of the Trans People of Color Coalition. These experiences — including racism, poverty, homelessness, and fear of abuse or being killed — are important, he said “just to begin to understand the depth of problems trans people have.”
Mara Keisling, founding executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, sees Jenner more as a catalyst than as a spokesperson for trans rights. “All of us, including Jenner, know we don’t speak for everybody,” Keisling said. “I think Jenner has been a huge net positive for trans people. Her coming out has been a hook for thousands of journalists to do stories about trans people.”
But those stories are yet to inform and influence the more conservative regions of the country. As Matt McTighe of Freedom for All Americans pointed out, “most people have never met a trans person.”
A new audience, however, has been introduced to trans people at least virtually, through Jenner’s television show, I am Cait, in turn allowing trans activists like Keisling to more easily leverage the media. This, says Keisling, has afforded her a valuable opportunity “to talk about the real issues that trans people face — the poverty, the violence, to talk about the racism and transphobia combining to make life for trans women of color really really challenging.”
Clearly, though, we still have a long way to go. Charlotte-based American Airlines may have condemned the North Carolina law, while other corporations are contemplating boycotts of the state. But McCrory took pains to single out transgender people when justifying his signing of the law. It was needed, he said, because existing local LGBT equality ordinances might allow “a man to use a woman’s bathroom, shower or locker room.”
As a former world class athlete, Jenner has an opening here, to silence, once and for all, the preposterousness of this claim. Hit the road, Cait, and tell ‘em!’