So, unless you’ve been living under a rock since last June, you’ve probably heard of a lady named Caitlyn Jenner.
Jenner came under fire on Friday after giving a large speech at the 7th Annual Speaker Series Luncheon in Chicago, which provides social services for members of the LGBT community disenfranchised by issues such as poverty and homelessness by providing housing and employment services. After the event, protesters confronted the 66-year-old reality star; born William Bruce Jenner, arguing that Jenner’s financial/celebrity status, lack of financial support given to the LGBT community so far, as well as her controversial view on people who rely on social services to live, means that she couldn’t and shouldn’t speak on the issues faced by many within it, with one protestor branding her an ‘insult to trans people’. That being said, is Jenner really a poor representative of the LGBT community, and does her inexperience with these issues mean that she is unable do anything to prevent them in the future? Absolutely not.
Whilst it is true that Jenner’s financial status makes her own experience unique in relation to some of the issues of faced by many within the LGBT community, particularly young people (20-40% of homeless youth population in the US are LGBT), Jenner’s cultural impact highlights the positive social, political and economic consequences of LGBT acceptance and helping to prevent such tragic statistics in years to come by starting conversations over gender identity in 2015 more than any year previously, and on a mass cultural scale. At least in Western culture, anyway. As somebody who publicly transitioned after years of self-repression, Jenner’s influence, I feel, is an important component to eliminating the fear and discrimination that is often at the core of these issues.
Yes, the prospect of zero-discrimination against the LGBT community is ambitious. Yes, countries such as the US and the UK have the financial power to reduce and eliminate these issues. However, the key to eliminate the need for any financial help for discriminated members of the LGBT community in the first place is awareness, which can be given in the form of public figures that have significant power and influence within a given culture. Mainstream presence can lead to conversation-starting and efforts to understand current issues. At the core of the issues faced by the LGBT community, as with anybody who is discriminated against, is simply because these efforts are unprovoked or lax. I myself have no experience with these issues. However, I think Jenner, along with other high-profile public figures such as Laverne Cox – people who are publicly unapologetic about who they are by just being – is something that can and will prevent these issues over time, and is one that I feel Jenner in particular is not always given enough credit for.
Were Jenner’s comments on people who rely on social services to get by in bad taste? Yes, and I can see why many people were disappointed, given that this is the reality for many LGBT people in countries like the US and the UK, whilst millions more face homelessness globally. However, in my opinion, her stance within Western culture in recent times is hugely important for the LGBT community and transgender people in particular, as her choice to be exactly who she is and wants to be has positive ramifications down the line in eradicating the fear and ignorance that is often at the core of these issues.
By Luke Garbutt, Junior Writer for Daily Political View.
“Here at Daily Political View we support and endorse full equal rights for all and stand firm with the LGBT community in the fight against discrimination”