Caitlyn Jenner, a hero for our times?

Caitlyn Jenner, a hero for our times?

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After a stint with the Kardashians, Bruce Jenner's transition to Caitlyn is neither risky nor brave; but it is a good career move.

Caitlyn Jenner image search results | Google
Caitlyn Jenner image search results | Google

WASHINGTON,  June 4, 2015 – What is all the fuss about Caitlyn Jenner? From the online chatter, she sounds like a contender for Miss America in the looks department, a hero of epic proportions and braver than all the NYFD combined.

There’s been remarkably little criticism of Jenner’s sex-change.

Some Christian writers have expressed their misgivings, but the mainstream press is predictably supportive. There’s the expected hatred and loathing in blogs and social media, but people have been abused and reviled on social media for wearing the wrong clothes in the wrong store. The abuse aimed at Jenner seems relatively tame.

But a lot of journalists have a rather bizarre take on Jenner, with regard to both looks and courage.

Transsexual politics and research confronted

As Jon Stewart has pointed out, there’s a lot more attention to Jenner’s looks that we might have expected. The gushing over her looks has been almost pathological, the way a burn survivor might be described as “beautiful through her scars,” with her grace and courage showing in her “twinkling, beguiling eyes.”

Yes, yes, we get the point, the writer doesn’t want to seem superficial and so opts for smarmy. Where is Joan Rivers when we need her?

Jenner is much better looking than that Kardashian woman she was married to, but so is your dog’s rear end. That’s a pretty low bar. Jenner really isn’t unattractive, but one wonders what the narrative would be were she monkfish ugly. Does it really matter how attractive (after heavy photoshopping) she looks?

So what is all this about Jenner’s “courage” and “heroism”? She’s been married to a Kardashian and living in public with the Kardashian brood on their show; anything she does after that looks like a class act. She could make puppies into fur coats and come out higher on the class and respectability scale than she does by slumming with the Kardashians.

Jenner has no public respect and admiration to lose at this point. She lost most of her post-Olympic shine in her brief and ghastly acting career, then shredded the remnants with the Kardashians. Coming out as a transsexual was not a risky move with her fans; she had none left. All she’s had are voyeurs.

Let’s consider how much courage it takes to come out as gay or transsexual. I’ve had students over the years who have had to face hostile family because of their gender identities. They’ve risk getting thrown out of their homes, being disowned and losing all support. They’ve risked the loss of jobs, church networks and friends. They’ve risked being broke and on their own.

That must be terrifying, and facing the possibility head on takes courage.

Jenner, on the other hand, is getting her own show on the E! network. The Kardashian woman just signed a contract for $100 million for her show; Jenner won’t starve. Any hostility she’ll face from her family will be for getting more publicity than they do. This isn’t a risky job move, a risky financial move or a risky family move; there’s no risk at all.

Courage? Heroism? Let’s not abuse those words.

“Hero” has been devalued by excessive use.

Search ‘The Tale of Caitlyn Jenner’ doesn’t happen every day: A poem

Today, people who just go about doing the regular things adults are expected to do are often called “heroes.” You’re a hero for playing football with a broken thumb. You’re a hero for teaching in a low-income school. You’re a hero for getting shot in a war zone. In fact, if you wear a uniform, you’re a hero just for getting dressed in the morning.

Not all veterans are heroes, nor all police officers or firefighters. Heroes in the ranks of the NFL and the NBA are probably as rare as heroes in Congress. Doing your job and your duty and staying true to your oaths is not heroic, but only admirable and expected. Some men and women in uniform are heroes, but true heroism is rare.

Going to work every day to support your family is admirable, not heroic. It takes grit and determination to do a hard and demanding job, but not huge reserves of courage. Perhaps we’re so used to people doing the least they can do that going beyond seems courageous and heroic. That’s sad.

Jenner has come out as transsexual. That might have taken some courage, but far, far less than it takes regular kids from poor and middle America to do the same. It was a good career move, which has to take away some of the fear.

Financially, at least, Jenner will make out like a bandit. Her Vanity Fair cover will be huge, she’ll get some good endorsements and her show will get millions of viewers. Some people will demand – are already demanding – that the IOC take away her Olympic gold medal, but they’re a fringe that no one cares about and that comes in for more mockery than transsexuals do these days.

No, she’ll be just fine.

The Kardashians, on the other hand, must be tasting bile.

One true face of transgender, this teen recently committed suicided (April 2015) after not receiving protection from school bullying. Call the Crisis Hotline if you, or you know of someone, that need(s) help 888-724-7240

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Jim Picht
James Picht is the Senior Editor for Communities Politics. He teaches economics and Russian at the Louisiana Scholars' College in Natchitoches, La. After earning his doctorate in economics, he spent several years doing economic development work in Moscow and the new independent states of the former Soviet Union for the U.S. government, the Asian Development Bank, and as a private contractor. He has also worked in Latin America, the former USSR and the Balkans as an educator, teaching courses in economics and law at universities in Ukraine and at finance ministries throughout the region. He has been writing at the Communities since 2009.