by David Watkins
126 days ago
at 04:00 PM | Permalink
Local LGBTQ news and views
Disclaimer: Although Jenner gave
ABC, some news outlets and Jenner’s family permission to use "he," "him" and "his"
pronouns until people become comfortable with the change, I am using gender neutral
pronouns "they," "them" and "their "and dropping Jenner’s first name out of respect to
an individual that has dealt being misgendered for a large portion of their
life. Jenner also has not released their preferred name.
and white photo
showed what appeared to be a twentysomething with a shaggy bowl-cut. The person
was smiling, mouth open, revealing his probably perfect pearly whites as he
looked off camera. Who is he looking at?
Is he in mid-laugh or mid-sentence? What made the old photo interesting,
despite it being posted on Instagram by Kylie Jenner in the first place, was
how the person’s chiseled muscles and hairy abs contrasted with the tight
clothes that concealed body parts our society likes to label “vulgar” and
“inappropriate”. The last place I looked was in the eyes. I had noticed they
were looking away, but I never really looked in their eyes and tried to read
them. The eyes in the photograph read as distant, unfocused, not fully engaged.
Was I just looking at it in a different light because my prior knowledge and
context changed? The Instagram post read, “daddy throwback. #Tonight
#DianeSawyer #ABC #love”.
I had a lot
of positive and negative anxiety about the Bruce
Jenner Interview with Diane Sawyer. My two biggest passions — the queer
rights movement and popular culture — were center stage, about to sing a
dynamic duet under a hot spotlight. The iconic event would change my view on
the direction of the trans* movement, how I view the Kardashian family — a
guilty pleasure turned complete obsession, especially with Kim K. — and how the
public views a community they have little knowledge about. Waiting for the
interview to start, I was clueless as to what was in store. I only knew the
duration of the interview and sneak peeks I viewed online. While I was
confident I knew Jenner’s announcement after viewing the illegal paparazzi
shots published by the New York Daily News
of Jenner in a dress, I refused to give into the stereotypes I made based on
photographs. Jenner was the only reliable source. I did not think it was a
public relations scheme to promote a new reality show, but I wondered how it
could last two hours. What are we in
store for — two hours of ignorance and the same pictures on rotation from the
1976 Summer Olympics?
interview began and progressed, I was pleasantly surprised with Jenner’s
well-informed, genuine responses and the educational presence of the interview.
I appreciated the inclusion of newsworthy events from the past couple of years,
interviews from other transgender figures and the visual approach the interview
took in terms of explaining and comparing terminology. Here are the good and
bad moments before, during and after the interview that I found the most
interesting:Morning talk show host and
personality Wendy Williams has made controversial comments about Jenner for
years and received flack again the morning of the interview. Then on Monday,
she repeated that Jenner was “deceptive and really fame hungry like the rest of
the family.” Here is my take on this: Even if the interview was a publicity
stunt (which I do not believe it was), it almost does not matter. It educated a
record 17 million people Friday about gender and sexuality. For many viewers,
it was their first time hearing specifics about the subject. Jenner’s
documentary series — premiering on E! this summer — was not mentioned until the
last half-hour of the interview, and according to E! Online, writers will consult with GLAAD, The Kinsey Institute
and other Ph.Ds. This makes me think the docu-series will have the same
educationally driven tone the interview attained.
Diane Sawyer played the part of
uninformed mainstream America perfectly as she struggled to grasp the
difference between gender identity and sexuality, changing her wording but
essentially bringing up the same theme multiple times and asking the same
questions about gender identity versus sexuality throughout the interview. I
thought it was quite comical in the moment, but in retrospect — if Sawyer was
playing the part of “at-home-viewer” — it showed society’s inability to grasp
nonbinary ideals and accept an individual’s state of unknowing.
Jenner shades the Kardashians. Being
the Kardashian fanatic I am, I was shocked to realize 30 minutes went by without even mentioning Kim K!
Jenner proved critics wrong in a tasteful, informative program without typical
Kardashian sensationalism and not many people on social media noticed the
family’s absence — proving Jenner really did have the only real story all
along. Gasp! *cries in corner* Kim K is
still American royalty to me!
Kim K is the most accepting? Khloe
is having the hardest time?! Jenner explained that Khloe has experienced a lot
of heartache with the loss of her father, Robert Kardashian Sr., at an early
age and then alluded to her ex-husband Lamar Odom’s downward spiral toward the
end of their marriage. Jenner says Kim, on the other hand, is the easiest to
talk to about the transition. One of the lighter moments was when Jenner quoted
Kim saying, “Girl, you got to rock it, baby. You got to look good! If you’re
doing this, I’m helping you. You’re representing the family. You got to look
Jenner’s four children from his
first two marriages — Brandon and Brody, who we occasionally see on Keeping Up with the Kardashians, and
Burt and Casey (Jenner has another
daughter?! Literally, how did I not know this?) displayed unconditional love.
It’s always special when former The Hills
star Brody Jenner reappears on television, but his brother Brandon had me
swooning as he and his man bun sat by Jenner’s side in full support. But where
were Kendall and Kylie?
When a big televised event is on,
social media goes wild with Vines, Tumblr gifs and tweets making fun of
highlights from the show. When I scanned social media during commercial breaks,
I saw inconsiderate and transphobic content, of course, but positive responses
outweighed the negative drastically according to my newsfeeds.
Jenner clarified they are not a
spokesperson for the transgender community, but mentioned daily struggles the
community goes through. “The suicide rates, the murder rates, the difficulty
for especially black female women” were issues Jenner shed light on.
One of my only complaints is Jenner
answering Sawyer’s questions about their political views. We learned from the
interview that everyone deserves to live an honest, authentic life. Individuals
are entitled to support the political party of their choice. It just bothered
me that someone in a newfound position of power to be a role model, which they
are and will continue to be, would publically associate with a traditionally
anti-queer political party. Jenner lost some clout and credibility I gave them —
after an emotional, informative interview — when they said they thought
Republicans Mitch McConnell and John Boehner would be receptive to a
conversation about trans* rights… Newsweek
reached out to both individuals. No comment. Shocker.
Jenner’s mom got me choked up again
at the end. Eighty-eight-year-old Esther Jenner, who was described as “rather
conservative,” sent in a video message from her home to tell Jenner how proud
she was. “I was very proud of you when you stood on that podium in Montreal,”
she said. “I never thought that I could be more proud of you, but I’m learning
I can be.” *chills*
After an iconic, progressive and
informative two hours spent challenging gender roles and learning about gender
identity, Diane Sawyer feels the need to close on a sexist joke made by the
Soviet athlete Jenner defeated at the Olympics. He asks, “How could I have lost
to a woman?” Really?
“I’m saying goodbye to people’s
perception of me,” said Jenner. “I’m not saying goodbye to me because this has
always been me.” Enough said. Respect.
was not the only one making national headlines that day. Cincinnati received
coverage, but not for anything noteworthy. Senate, a gastropub in OTR that occasionally
picks a celebrity or current event as inspiration to name and create the Dog of
the Day, featured the “Bruce Jenner 2.0” Friday. The dish, described as “part
hot dog part taco,” had a beef frank sliced in half and filled with taco
toppings. After experiencing outrage on social media, Senate issued an apology
and donated the proceeds to The Heartland Trans Wellness Fund. This whole
situation is wrong for multiple reasons.
transgender folks received an unprecedented amount of media attention. Actress
Laverne Cox, model Carmen Carrera and author Janet Mock reestablished how
reporters and talk show hosts speak to trans* individuals by speaking out when
they felt uncomfortable or triggered in interviews and making it an on-air
educational opportunity. One of the main themes in these interviews was America’s
fascination with transgender genitalia instead creating conversation about the
trans* suicide rate or homeless queer youth. The bottom line was that trans* public
figures wanted to be valued for more than what is in their pants. Sexual
reassignment surgery is typically the final stage of the transformation, but
not required or done by everyone. It is a monumental and hyper-personal moment
for individuals that continue on in that journey. The “Bruce Jenner 2.0” was a
symbol of how privileged individuals and businesses appropriate minority groups,
even for just one day of media buzz, and increased revenue. Senate’s actions
were regressive to the strides Cox and others made in regards to how we speak
to trans* people.
interview was unprecedented and a major success for trans* visibility, but it
does not change the suicide rate or the fact that seven trans* women of color
were murdered the first eight weeks of 2015. Visibility in the media and
educating the masses is crucial to the movement, but it must translate to
policies and how mainstream society treats transgender people. Jenner is not
the first to show public displays of bravery. As the trans* rights movement
continues on and we meet new faces, let us not forget the historical events
like the Stonewall riots and the unspoken queer heroes that paved the way for
Jenner to come out and educate the nation on primetime television.
you always hear that eyes are windows to the soul. If that is true, why is it
the last place we truly look? Why is it so romantic and out of the ordinary
when you are on a date and the other person describes your eyes in great detail,
as opposed to generalizations like, “You’re beautiful,” and “You look so hot in
that”? During Jenner interview, I saw it all in their eyes — the pain, the
relief, “her”. I saw it again as they replayed scenes from Keeping Up with the Kardashians. When now-ex-wife Kris made fun of
Jenner’s clothing and style, what I perceived as annoyance when I watched the
episode years ago I now perceived as hurt and pain in Jenner’s eyes. In the flashback
scene of Khloe referring to Jenner as a strong male presence in her life,
Jenner looks deep in thought and distant.
changes a viewer’s perception, and we need to start paying attention.
Reflecting back on Kylie’s Instagram photo of a young Jenner, I realized that I
had to get past the short jean shorts and cut-off tee to truly see the
photograph. You never really know someone’s life or the journeys they are on. Here
was the model “masculine figure,” but inside Jenner was filled with emotions
and feelings most people cannot begin to understand. Like society’s fascination
with what transgender folks have below the waist, we could not see that Jenner
had a lot more depth to him that we presumed. Jenner’s closing advice for
people was to “have an open mind and have an open heart.” This ideology can be
translated to different aspects of our life and the relationships with others,
especially those we do not know. Together we are all connected, making up
collective humanity. We are one.
full interview with Jenner and Diane Sawyer here.
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