Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, you’ve heard about Caitlyn Jenner and her decision to share the news of her transgender identity with the world. If you know me, you know I am thrilled by this. I am one hundred percent supportive of and amazed by anyone with the courage to be completely and unapologetically who they are. In the past few days, I have been at times completely in awe of the compassion of the human spirit. I have been overwhelmed with the amount of love and support I have seen directed at Caitlyn Jenner and her family. However, I have also been completely disgusted at the ease with which some people are able to completely dehumanize a person.
Please understand, my problem is not with those who disagree with respect and kindness. My problem is with those who claim to value life so much but refuse to acknowledge the importance of Caitlyn’s. I have seen, heard, and de-friended many people who portray an adamant rejection of Caitlyn’s announcement. I don’t understand this at all. I don’t know why anyone would proudly declare that they will continue to call a person by a name that is no longer the name they prefer. I don’t know why anyone would continue to use incorrect pronouns for a person who has explicitly stated that they are no longer the ones that describe them. I don’t know how anyone can decide that her identity is not valid simply because they personally do not agree with it. I am completely blown away and utterly baffled by this ability to act and speak with such hatred towards someone who has done absolutely nothing wrong. I can only pray that those of you who feel personally victimized by Caitlyn Jenner never have a child who feels anything but one hundred percent comfortable in the body they are born into.
The thing I am most perplexed by, however, is this concept that Caitlyn Jenner is not allowed to be called a “hero.”
Please let me define the word: hero – a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.
People seem to be convinced that “hero” is an entirely objective term. Somehow, those opposed to Caitlyn Jenner have subscribed to this collective notion that in order to be deemed a “hero,” one must possess a specific set of characteristics. A mother can be a hero. A third grade teacher can be a hero. A child battling a terminal illness can be a hero. An NFL quarterback can be a hero. And I don’t think anyone is arguing the fact that a soldier can be a hero as well. Any man or woman who has served in the military has my utmost respect, and I understand that I am forever indebted to them for the sacrifices they have made. But to claim that this is the only kind of hero the world has room for simply is not true. Why is it so difficult to accept that Caitlyn Jenner, a woman who is becoming the face for the 700,000 people in the U.S. who identify as transgender, is a hero as well? Calling Caitlyn a hero does not make someone else any less of one. I don’t know when it was decided that building a person up diminishes someone else. Those celebrating Caitlyn are not undermining others. This is not a competition.
By publicly transitioning, Caitlyn has started a new conversation. She is using her role as a celebrity to draw attention to the very real hardships faced by every day people who also happen to be transgender Americans. Caitlyn is providing a face for the nameless by staying true to the person she has always known she is. She is restoring hope for many people who may have lost it. Caitlyn Jenner is reminding the world that transgender lives are worthy. Is that not noble? Is that not courageous?
Caitlyn Jenner doesn’t have to be your hero… but for the nearly 50 percent of transgender men and women who will attempt suicide at some point in their lives, I’m sure she is a pretty good start.
“I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” – Christopher Reeve