Caitlyn Jenner sat down with Ellen for what turned out to be a very strange and kind of great (in an even stranger way) interview. Ellen, who paved the way for general Middle America to realize that people they liked could also be gay when she came out on her sitcom nearly two decades ago, took a strong stance of curious and open ignorance for the interview. She admitted that she wanted to be supportive and wanted to learn, but, like many of her viewers, didn’t fully understand trans issues. As such, she asked questions Jenner had previously stated she didn’t want to talk about (like her romantic life), and had one prominent moment of misgendering (which isn’t in the clip below, and which she immediately corrected and apologized for, but to which she also gave the weird self-pardoning response “See? It happens all the time).
The interview turned strange, though, when Ellen brought up Caitlyn’s politics. She’s a known conservative and Republican. Now, no one here is trying to vilify ALL Republicans. And obviously no one is expecting Caitlyn Jenner to throw off a lifetime of political beliefs in one fell coming-out swoop. And even more than that, she doesn’t HAVE to. She’s been made into an overnight mainstream spokesperson for trans issues, but of course, every trans person doesn’t have to have the same political leanings— just as not every gay person, every woman, every person of color, every anything doesn’t think alike. Still, as Ellen points out, many, MANY Republican politicians (and voters) strive to deny any number of rights to women and to trans people. Jenner was reluctant to talk about her sexual preferences, but if she does identify as a lesbian, that’s three groups to which she belongs which conservatives don’t seem to give one single fuck about. (And hey, if she doesn’t identify as gay, or if she never tells us because it’s none of our business— two groups is still an awful lot for your chosen representatives to not care about.)
Whether we like it or not, Caitlyn Jenner has a huge audience. Mega huge. She reached 1 million followers just four hours after creating her Twitter account. Which means that while you can carry on not giving a single crud about her political leanings, a lot of people do. A huge percentage of the country, and much of the world, is learning what transgender even means by way of this woman. So when Caitlyn Jenner makes it pretty clear that she’s still uber-conservative, and basically only tolerates gay marriage because it’s the law now, that’s not great for anyone. Because as Jenner strives to demystify the trans community for the general population, she of course doesn’t need to be a spokesperson for all marginalized groups. But, as Ellen talked about when she went on Howard Stern’s show to discuss this interview, these issues are interconnected. As Ellen put it,
And I said “You’re wanting people to understand and accept you— this is really confusing to people, and you still have a judgement about gay people and marriage. And she said “If the word marriage is that important” and I was like “It is, because that’s the word!” We want the same thing everybody wants.”
Caitlyn Jenner was an overnight poster child for a whole community, and that’s a completely unrealistic position for anyone to be given. But at the same time, she has welcomed it. She’s making a crap-ton of money off of a reality show based around the idea that she can teach the world what trans means. So if she’s going to profit off of that spotlight, the least she could do is not throw every other community under the bus of public opinion.