Caitlyn Jenner, known primarily for being a reality TV star and perhaps less famously recognized as a former Olympic athlete, has recently retracted her support for transgender women athletes competing on sports teams that align with their gender identity. Instead, she pandered to Republican voters during her political campaign for governor of California that began in April 2021. Jenner claims that, in order to protect girls’ sports, transgender girls who were assigned male at birth should not be able to compete alongside cisgender girls.
Before turning to politics, Jenner was an Olympian, having earned a gold medal in the decathlon event in the 1976 Summer Olympics. As a former athlete as well as a transgender woman, Jenner originally fought for the rights of transgender women athletes. However, during her campaign for governor, she retracted her stance, seemingly to gain the Republican vote. She claimed that having transgender girls compete on sports teams that align with their gender identity presents “an issue of fairness” and that girls’ sports must be “protected” in schools.
Jenner’s prioritization of acquiring fame over the protection of trans women has sparked an important debate about the wide array of ideas and opinions within the LGBTQ+ community. The LGBTQ+ community is diverse, as demonstrated by the five letters and the plus sign that comprise the acronym. Like any community, the LGBTQ+ community is not a monolith, but rather a group of unique individuals with their own unique sets of ideas.
Diverse backgrounds and opinions are of course necessary to promote growth within the community. However, while some ideas are progressive and lead to constructive development, others — like Jenner’s stance on transgender women athletes — lead to division.
Despite claiming to reject the notion of labels, Jenner is a self-proclaimed conservative when it comes to economic philosophy, which aligns with the Republican party, and progressive when it comes to social issues, in accordance with the Democratic party. In other words, like many Republicans, she wants to be perceived as non-aggressive: socially liberal and fiscally conservative.
In April 2021, Jenner announced her bid to run for governor of California. Following a history of supporting Republican presidential candidates, including both Ted Cruz and Donald Trump in 2016 — although she later denounced the latter’s campaign in 2018 due to his attacks on transgender people — Jenner declared that she would also be running as a Republican candidate.
Despite the fact that there has not been a Republican governor in the state of California since January 2011 — and the fact that Jenner had no prior political campaigning experience — Jenner saw through her campaign until the end.
She ultimately, but not surprisingly, lost, in part due to a multitude of errors and in part because of her obvious disinterest in getting the job — she left for Australia during the middle of her campaign to participate in the reality TV show Big Brother. It appears that Jenner’s candidacy was nothing more than a ploy to remain relevant among her fame-hungry children in a world where the number of times your name frequents headlines correlates with your social importance.
Jenner took her loss with grace and has since announced that she intends to run for governor in the next election. While she may have grossly exaggerated while labelling herself the “poster child for change,” she did add a condition before she would run again: more inclusivity within the Republican party to produce better candidates and attract young voters.
Should Jenner run again, now that she has, hopefully, realized the actual work that goes into a campaign and that she cannot simply announce her candidacy and expect to have the job handed to her, she would need to re-evaluate her political stances so that they become more inclusive of transgender women. Not only is Jenner not supporting transgender women as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, she is also denying them support as a trans woman herself. Although a diverse set of opinions is necessary within a community, Jenner needs to protect other transgender women rather than exploiting them for her political gain.
The LGBTQ+ community is a collective of unique individuals with their own distinct identities and life experiences that have shaped their beliefs. Discussion is healthy and often leads to progress; however, powerful and influential LGBTQ+ individuals like Jenner must be mindful of the way they express their opinions. While a lack of diversity within a community can hinder progress, ideas that perpetuate harmful ideologies can just as easily move us backward.
Paden Neundorf is a third-year English and equity studies student at Woodsworth College.