I don’t care about Bruce or Caitlyn Jenner’s genitals. I don’t care if they’re male or female, intersex or no sex at all. It’s her biz, not mine.
I do care about the emotional torture people experience when they have questions about their gender identity or sexuality, especially if they are fragile adolescents, struggling to “fit in.”
I care deeply that their uniqueness is validated, not vilified; that they aren’t subjected to genital exams for competing on the sports team of their choice, or aren’t refused medical care for being trans.
All of those evil actions have been and are presently being practiced by Donald Trump and his supporters regarding Transgender troops in the US Military, and by gay/trans bashing bigots in a growing number of States and communities around the country. Caitlyn Jenner — either when she was Bruce, or now, when she is Caitlyn — has not been a profile in courage or a champion for members of the LGBTQ community either before or after her sex change. In fact, to cement her callousness toward other members of the LGBTQ community, and cravenness for getting attention, Caitlyn has hired former disgraced Trump Campaign Manager Brad Parscale — who advanced many of the Trump gay/trans bashing policies — to manage her cynical campaign for Governor of California against incumbent Gavin Newsom.
Maybe it’s time for Diane Sawyer and ABC to do another fawning freak-show interview of Caitlyn— like the original one they did in April, 2015, and the sequel in 2017, to follow Jenner’s jaundiced “journey” to her latest race for ratings, and relevance.
I remember being hopeful that the first Jenner interview with Sawyer on ABC-TV would be a true public service and soothe the insecurities of some kid struggling between suicide and self-acceptance.
I hoped Jenner’s tears were real, not the rehearsed ones of a reality-show retread. I wanted her words to be sincere when she said she wasn’t profiting from the soul-searching announcement. I was almost willing to defer to Diane Sawyer’s journalistic integrity to sniff out sincerity, and not serve as a shill for a new sur-reality show starring Jenner’s genitalia.
But alas, we were all scammed by the wonderkind whose glistening grin once graced a box of Wheaties, and by dear Diane — once a shill for Richard Nixon — and now, the carnival barker of a national emotional con game.
The Hollywood Reporter’s story which ran on the same day of the heavily promoted ABC-TV Jenner/Sawyer interview, detailed that Jenner had already inked an agreement with E! Entertainment TV to do an 8-part “docu-series” about her transgender journey. Somehow, “Loose with the Truth Bruce” — as she was previously known — forgot to mention that tiny detail in his two hour heart-to-heart with dear Diane.
Somehow, Sawyer forgot to bring it up as she exuded compassion while staring into soon-to-be Caitlyn’s crocodile-teary eyes. Maybe Sawyer didn’t know; maybe Jenner’s new reality-show deal — being produced by the same two producers who keep shoveling us “Keeping Up With the Kardashians, wasn’t signed until after the show was taped.
Or maybe, just maybe, the bigger deal for ABC was to air the interview — which was a ratings romp over all other programs in that timeslot — by agreeing not to mention that Bruce and E! had a contract in hand as a condition of Jenner not jumping with his interview to a competing network. Surely, Comcast, the owner of BOTH E! and NBC, had to know it’s Entertainment Network had been negotiating a new deal for yet another reality show featuring a Kardashian castoff. Network deals are not done overnight, and Comcast is the type of tightly run company where every deal is carefully scrutinized by its corporate lawyers. The media-freak show monster has to be fed!
For Jenner, it was like winning a Triathalon again. She had a handsome, new contract in hand with E!; her sex-change would be handled as a “docu-series” — a serious reality show, to distinguish it from the Kardashian freak show, or another freakish reality show, like The Apprentice; AND, Jenner escorted dear Diane into a glamorous clothes closet, wherethe formerly credible former ABC Nightly News Anchor Sawyer swooned over Jenner’s jumpers and proved to be such a sympathetic salesperson for the latest Reality-TV snakeoil. How could the slippery scheme be dismissed as just another extended series of Kardashian classlessness, if it were so subtly sewn into Diane Sawyer’s sophisticated hemline?
ABC got the botox injection of ratings it mainlines, Comcast/NBC/Universal got two hours of free Superbowl-style hype for an upcoming E! reality series starring Jenner’s genitals, and Jenner got….. an Olympic-sized Gold Cup overflowing with money, Diane Sawyer’s sugary sympathy, and a grateful nation of voyeurs turning our lonely eyes to her, once again — minus the box of Wheaties.
Over the past six years, did this new All-American heroine donate a sizeable portion of her TV proceeds to counseling & healthcare services for transgender youth around the world? To the Trevor Foundation? To GLSEN? To fight anti-gay/trans bigots in the GOP? Did she use her new fame and fortune to fund anti-violence campaigns against the LGBTQ community, or at least to educate fellow Republicans about sex, sexuality, gender and equality? Of course not. It was all about her struggle, not yours.
And don’t hold your breath for Jenner, jonesing to be Governor of 40 million of us based upon years of rich Reality-show experience of huckstering, to do any of that now, or become a transformed champion of millions battling discrimination, in 2021. Nothing in Jenner’s past or present says she will. After all, it’s not about you.
Didn’t we learn anything from four years of the Trump freak show which ushered in hundreds of thousands of unnecessary COVID deaths and normalized hate-speech and violence against the LGBTQ community as well as against Jews, Blacks, Mexicans, Asians and immigrants? Why didn’t Jenner use her media connections, money and voice to campaign against hate, during the years of Trump — whom she endorsed for President in 2016?
Why would 40 million Californians — who torched the daily terrorism of Trump, as well as his flagrant failure to make government work except for himself and his criminal cronies — choose another inexperienced, ego-maniacal, freak-show, demi-celebrity to lead us — especially when she’s being funded, advised and guided by the very same people who brought us Trump?
I have never been a big fan of Gavin Newsom’s, but the sick, cynical joke of Jenner’s candidacy has turned me into one.
There are people you encounter in life who are such good humans, you wish you could clone them many times over. That’s Jonathan Kwan.
I met Jonathan a decade ago, when he married my wife’s former colleague and close friend, Darya Larizadeh, a “ badass” public policy attorney in the South Bay, as Jonathan describes his spouse and mother of their two, mixed-race children. Carol and Darya worked together at Demos, one of the nation’s premier think tanks built by Miles Rapoport, past President of Common Cause, immediately after the election of 2000 to keep the flame of progressive policies alive. More recently, Demos gave the nation Heather McGee (Miles’ successor) whose new book on race and economics in America, The Sum of Us, is flying off bookstore shelves.
Jonathan, born in the South Bay to two college-educated parents who came to the US from Hong Kong in the 1970’s, is in his 13th year of teaching at Los Altos High School. A social activist who participated in a number of Black Lives Matter protests, Kwan is a leader in his school district’s Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District Alliance — a group which works to examine school policies and practices to advance racial equality. An English teacher by training, Jonathan is also an AVID teacher — a college prep program which serves first generation students. At Los Altos, he co-founded a group called “Teachers in Solidarity,” a network of educators working to fight racism, sexism and homophobia in the community.
His work in fighting racism and xenophobia, and teaching his students to respect each other regardless of their differences, made his writings about the recent slaughter of Asian American women in Atlanta all the more poignant. I am sharing Jonathan Kwan’s comments here on my Medium account, so his sense of violation and outrage can be seen to be as unique, and universal, as it is.)
Reflections on Anti-Asian Violence
By Jonathan Kwan
Like most of you over these past several weeks, my social media feed has been flooded with outrage, support, concern, solidarity and various hash-tagged responses to the violence targeting Asians seen in headlines. There is no justification for such cruelty. Full stop. However, it’s taken me a minute to formulate my sentiments on this growing conversation. Initially, I wasn’t sure what to say. But, I’ve done some thinking lately so here it is:
In my adolescence, despite my every effort (I spent an embarrassingly substantial portion of my time in middle school trying to gel my stubbornly thick and straight black hair in the style and manner of Beverly Hills, 90210 actor, Jason Priestly. All American. I never felt like I was part of america.
And while living in the Bay Area has provided some cover, a place with a healthy Asian population, Ranch 99 supermarkets, and visible corporate leaders that share my complexion, I am convinced that I am and always will be viewed through the primary prism of my Asian-ness replete with all the historical weight that this bears: Model minority. Math god. Long Duk Dong. Docile. Emasculation. Silent. Small dick. Speak English. Micro and macro aggressions. All of it. This isn’t new. I am, despite all of my proper English etiquette, still and always will be foreign to america. Sometimes, I wear my Asian-ness as a badge of honor, as a bridge to peoples made outsiders and othered. Lately, it’s been a source of inner shame.
White america manipulated us to feel like we have a seat at the table. Work hard and be quiet, they said. Meritocracy first, they said. Play by the rules, they said. Don’t get it twisted, we were always america’s punchline. From “me so horny” to William Hung to Kung Flu, the whole time that my parents and grandparents were convinced that we were the exception, we were the laughing stock (cue racist gong chime here). My parents and grandparents never really took notice. They just made sure to talk to me after I brought a Black friend home to kick it in high school.
That’s the genius and terror of white supremacy: to convince the marginalized into believing in the structures that perpetuate violence and division amongst one another. What these recent hate crimes remind us is that despite our academic and professional achievements, white america was never meant for us. This is an illusion. A tall tale. A myth. We will always be viewed as outsiders but what I find so troubling now, is how so many of my own people have bought in and internalized white dominance and at its worst, weaponize white power tropes to gain an advantage.
I see it in the anti-affirmative action sentiments fomented by Asian-led action groups clamoring for meritocracy and color blindness in times of convenience. I saw it four years ago during a student organized walkout on my campus in response to Trump’s 2016 election — when, after consoling my AVID class of aspirational first generation Latino students in shambles over this existential threat, walking by a predominantly Asian and white populated classroom and witnessing not one student join or even look up from their exams. I see it when observing how many of the Asian students I teach seem to lack the vocabulary in discussions of race. I see it in my own family, many of whom in my generation have married white partners.
How can we be benefactors and punching bags at the same time? Play by the rules, they said.
Now, everyone finds themselves at a place where some are shocked, some are outraged, I am too! You have to be some kinda fucked up to beat up an 85 year old elderly man or shoot up a room filled with innocent mothers, sisters and daughters. Still, my hope is that these events have awakened my Asian community in a real and meaningful way. We will never be white america. We are no exception. We have more in common with our Brown and Black brothers and sisters than you were taught and I pray that we may have the courage and wisdom to push past the dominant narrative. Stop Anti-Asian hate.