On Monday, Vanity Fair went public with its July cover, and it was the exclusive unveiling of Caitlyn Jenner — former Olympian champion/reality-TV star Bruce Jenner. On the same day, Jenner’s new Twitter account blew up the Internet. @Caitlyn_Jenner broke a Twitter record (previously held by President Obama) when her account amassed 1 million followers in four hours. Now, two days later, she has 2.3 million followers.
Jenner will receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award during the ESPN ESPY Awards, which will be broadcast on ABC July 15. On June 2, Jenner jokingly tweeted, “What the hell am I going to wear?”
This has been a beautiful time of change. In addition to Jenner, we have seen Laverne Cox on “Orange Is the New Black” and Jeffrey Tambor on “Transparent.” The changing face of television will include the June 8 premiere of the series “Becoming Us,” about a teenage boy dealing with his father’s transition. “I Am Jazz” is a TV series premiering July 15 on TLC which stars transgender teen girl, Jazz, who was diagnosed with gender identity disorder at age 6.
There was a time when haters would’ve flooded cyberspace; instead, we’ve seen a tremendous outpouring of love and support … except for some moronic comments and feeble attempts at humor.
Let’s take former Republican Arkansas governor and former Baptist pastor Mike Huckabee as an example. The GOP presidential candidate made transphobic comments at the 2015 National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Nashville, Tenn. His feeble attempts at humor were posted to YouTube over the weekend by World Net Daily. Sadly, its channel has since been suspended. My, my. Those Republicans sure have a lot of power.
Here’s what Huckabee said:
“We’re in city after city watching ordinances that say that your 7-year-old daughter, if she goes into the restroom, cannot be offended and you can’t be offended if she’s greeted there by a 42-year-old man who feels more like a woman than he does a man …
“I wish that someone told me that when I was in high school that I could have felt like a woman when it came time to take showers in PE. I’m pretty sure I would have found my feminine side and said, ‘Coach, I think I’d rather shower with the girls today.’ You’re laughing because it sounds so ridiculous, doesn’t it?
“And yet today we’re the ones who are ridiculed and scorned because we point out the obvious, that there’s something inherently wrong with forcing little children to be part of this social experiment. I’m not against anybody, I’d just like for somebody to bring their brain to work someday and not leave it on the bed stand when they show up to govern.”
Hopefully one day we won’t hear such nonsense. Let’s stop using labels all together instead of saying things like “transgender TV star” or “lesbian photographer” or “black actor” or “female presidential candidate.” But until then, trailblazers like Jenner are vital in changing the conversations and questioning society’s “norms.”
Now, I bring you more public voices who support Jenner’s transition.
STEVEN POLITO AKA HEDDA LETTUCE
Steven Polito is a self-described drag queen whose alter ego Hedda Lettuce is the six-time “Drag Queen of the Year” from HX Magazine. Her tagline is “Big Queen, Small Throne.”
Dorri Olds: Is it in poor taste for Jimmy Fallon, Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Kimmel to mock Caitlyn Jenner?
Steven Polito: No. In comedy, everything is up for grabs. If it’s funny, it’s funny. You have to be a really great comic to be able to finesse this without coming across as an idiot. If it’s just mean, then forget about it.
What do you think Jenner should do with the bundle of money she will get for all of this publicity?
I feel that it is very important to use her fame to help gender-conflicted people who cannot afford the transition. I am not in a place to tell anybody what to do with their money. That being said, it would be great if she donated her time and her money to a worthy transgendered cause.
Do you view Jenner as brave?
Yes, she is brave. It’s also showbiz. This is a great human story as well as an incredible Hollywood story, which makes it very interesting. Going from one of the greatest athletes in the world to one of the most-celebrated female-trans figures in the world is wild.
What did you think of the Diane Sawyer interview?
I think it was very tasteful. And Caitlyn looked so demure on Sawyer, unlike her recent photo shoot for Vanity Fair, which I thought was going to be accompanied by a sex tape!
Are you a fan of the TV show “Transparent?”
Yes. I think it is very entertaining, yet poignant.
* * *
In the video below, you’ll hear from both Polito and Hedda Lettuce about “Titty the kitty from New York City.” And if you watch the video all the way through to the end, you’ll be treated to the words of a supportive dad.
JENNIFER FINNEY BOYLAN
Jenny Boylan is a political activist, board member at GLAAD and the author of 13 books including “She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders,” a memoir that became the first bestseller written by a transgender author. She came out as a transgender woman very publicly.
Dorri Olds: How would you describe Caitlyn Jenner’s very-public transition?
Jennifer Finney Boylan: I am impressed that she is absolutely determined to use her celebrity for good. I can’t imagine what it is like to live your life [that much] in the public eye. She has to come out in the way that seems right to her. And I’d encourage people to be patient and see what she does in the years ahead before they make judgments about her character.
What do you think of the late-night TV show hosts poking fun at Jenner?
I suppose humorists ought to poke fun at moments in the culture. But making fun of someone because they are trans is definitely not cool.
Do you have any favorite nonprofit organizations to recommend for donations?
GLAAD, of course. We have worked very hard to make sure this story is told properly.
* * *
In the video below, Jenny Boylan talks about her very-public transition and how going public can affect children. She also wants the world to know the transition “is not a choice.” This video was posted one day before Caitlyn Jenner (as the former Bruce Jenner) spoke openly with Diane Sawyer:
Eric Schaeffer is the writer, director and producer of “Boy Meets Girl,” a movie starring transgender actress Michelle Hendley that’s a love story with a twist.
Dorri Olds: How do you feel about comics mocking Caitlyn Jenner?
Eric Schaeffer: The mocking of a transgender person of any kind by anyone, especially those with a public forum that reaches millions, is inhumane and therefore has no place in a loving and civilized culture — which is what I would hope we all want to move towards having. I like strong and edgy humor, but tact, common sense and an underlying compassion must be present for me to think edgy humor [is] appropriate.
What do you think of Jenner’s public transition?
Any person who can model living a life of loving authenticity and truth, especially in the face of challenge and/or societal push-back, is the most courageous and important kind of person we have. She is the bravest of the brave. Many things are done for publicity/media frenzy, but I don’t suspect coming out as transgender is one of them.
Are you a fan of the show “Transparent”
A huge fan. The writing and the cast is impeccable. Jeffrey is shatteringly sublime.
I saw you thanked Jennifer Finney Boylan on Facebook. How do you know each other?
I have been lucky enough to forge a new friendship with Jenny after meeting her when she saw my new film, “Boy Meets Girl.” She’s one of my favorite people and has been a great supporter of the film.
* * *
Watch till the end to hear Eric Shaeffer tell GLAAD’s Claire Pires the most touching story about a teenage fan he met at a movie screening.
Dorri Olds is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.