What can explain Caitlyn Jenner’s descent into transphobic politics?
Caitlyn Jenner, trangender sports and reality TV star, has not said much about what she want to do if she gets elected as the Governor of California. The only political statements she has made so far is that she wants to keep trans girls out of girl’s sports.
You read that right. In a short interview with TMZ she even refers to trans girls as “biological boys”. This transgender woman wants to be elected on a transphobic policy.
This is sickening, I know, and her statements represents a true betrayal of all the transgender youth out there who want to use sports as a place for personal growth — like she did, a long time ago.
How can Jenner betray trans people in this way?
The question remains, though. How is this even possible?
I mean, we all know Jenner made some strange statements after she transitioned, but she has talked to a lot of trans women and trans men, so you would think she has learned a bit or two about the culture that creates transphobia.
She should be able to see through the tactics used by those who want to use trans kids as cultural scape goats in the struggle for traditionalist supremacy.
The power of the tribe
I cannot read her mind, but I have a few ideas as to what this is about.
I have lost a couple of trans friends who could not and would not abandon their right wing “tribe,” even as it became abundantly clear that the Republican Party in the US had weaponized transphobia in their so-called “culture war”.
It turned out that the strong traditionalist beliefs of my friends, and their fear of an open society, were stronger than their desire to protect transgender lives.
One of them went as far as telling me that she would rather sacrifice transgender rights than support anti-racist and pluralist policies. For her European “Christian” civilization was under attack, so she had to support those who defended this imaginary culture of hers, even if these persons where both homophobic and transphobic.
She had grown up with these values. Her friends most likely shared these values. Her family believed in them. To abandon them would mean to admit that she had been wrong all her life. She could not. She was stuck.
American Conservatism is no longer Conservative
I do not think Jenner shares my ex-friends beliefs about the end of Western Civilization, but it seems that she, like my ex-friends, is unable to understand how an oppressive system uses scapegoats (like radical women, Jews, black activists, immigrants, Muslims and trans people) to mobilize the fear of those who seek safety and comfort in “traditional values” and the status quo.
It might very well be that Jenner thinks that her opposition to trans girls in sports is a rational standpoint. It is not, but she may think so.
That is exactly how an oppressive system works: It even gets the oppressed to take part in the oppression, by appealing to a kind “common sense” that might be common, but very seldom sensible. Remember that the biggest opponents to voting rights for women were conservative women.
Jenner grew up in a world where free market liberalism (understood as Conservatism at the time) stood up against left wing Liberalism and Socialism. This dichotomy no longer describes the real cultural battles in America, as I see them. The Republican Party is no longer a Conservative party in the traditional sense. It is — at best — a radical populist party, and — at worst — a channel for totalitarian fascism.
But Jenner clearly thinks that there must even now be room for a “normal” Conservative in the party.
Playing the game
In order to get the MAGA-people to vote for her she needs to play the game of contemporary Republican politics, and that game requires her to sacrifice trans kids on the altar of electability. She is selling her soul for a prize she cannot possibly win.
Keep in mind that last year she supported trans participation in youth sports.
This game was over at the time she came out as trans. The Trumpists and the white, right wing Evangelicals will never vote for a trans woman, because for them transgender people have become signs of the world their fear: A world where everyone is allowed to explore their own identities, find their own way and contribute to the world on the basis of their real abilities, and not by living up to the stereotypes of the past.
Is it possible to be Conservative and pro-trans?
Jenner’s campaign for becoming governor will cost her most of her friends. Trans people will have nothing to do with her, and the right wing she tries to woo, will despise her regardless of much she tries to please them. What a sad, sad story!
Some of my friends have asked me if it is possible to be politically Conservative and pro-transgender.
Yes, it is. I live in a country (Norway) where the Conservative Party is pro-LGBTQA. It has introduced legislation that helps and protects trans people. This kind of Conservatism respects the freedom the individual should have to be able go their own ways, and it believes in a social welfare policy that protects vulnerable groups.
The same applies to religion. Most of my Christian friends support trans people, as they see that support as a natural consequence of a gospel of love for all.
But again: The Republican Party in the US is no longer a Conservative party of this sorts. And it is hard to recognize Jesus in the things the white, right wing, American Evangelicals say these days. The balance between compassion and bigotry has tilted over. The compromise Jenner is looking for is no longer possible in the US.
Sorry, Caitlyn: The best thing you can do now is to abandon the campaign and admit that you were wrong!