Respect for the right reasons

Bruce Jenner’s bravery deserves to be celebrated


Maggie Curran, Opinion Editor

On April 24, over 20 million people around the world tuned in their televisions to watch Bruce Jenner, former Olympian and reality TV star, come out publicly as transgender, becoming one of the few people in the spotlight to do so. At the age of 65, Jenner finally decided that enough was enough and he could no longer live the lie he has kept for his entire life. Jenner described himself as having the soul of a woman and asked viewers to keep an open mind and heart about him as he transitioned into his new life.

This is huge. In short, being transgender in America is not easy. Transgender men and women, and especially those of color, experience higher suicide rates, are targets of hate crimes, and suffer various types of discrimination, including unfair treatment in health care and housing. This is all aside from the courage it takes to come out to their families and friends, which itself runs the risk of losing those relationships forever. Every day brings a new challenge from the transphobic people that try to tear them down.

Despite these hurdles, the transgender community has received more attention than ever throughout the past few years. For example, President Barack Obama recently became the first U.S. president to say the word “transgender” in his State of the Union address, stating that as Americans, “We defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.” Keeping in mind that the transgender community has been around for decades, it was about time a president spoke out about it.

In addition, films such as “Dallas Buyers Club” and television series including “Orange is the New Black” and “Transparent” touch on the difficulties a transgender person may face. Time magazine has even shown its support for the transgender community, naming transgender actress Laverne Cox one of “The 100 Most Influential People of 2015” and using her photo for their cover story, “The Transgender Tipping Point.”

And now, after being an American icon in the world of sports and television for 39 years, Bruce Jenner has joined the ranks of the few brave members of the transgender community in the media today, opening the door for countless others who will find inspiration in his journey.

There are, of course, some unique issues that Jenner faces because of who he is. Many people cannot get over the shock factor that the 1976 Olympic gold medal decathlon champion, the man who became a national hero overnight, has lived as a woman his entire life. Others do not support him because they dislike his association with the reality TV show, “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.”

The reaction from these people and other transphobics leaves me not only disappointed, but also frustrated. The simple fact of the matter is that how Jenner identifies his gender is completely up to him. He is not out to hurt those who supported him in the Olympics, and this has nothing to do with his association with the controversial Kardashian family. Jenner is simply trying to live his life the way he wants to. It is unbelievably petty and selfish to be anything but supportive of him. Regardless of how people feel about Jenner, his career, or his lifestyle choices, his decision to come out publicly as transgender was brave, heartwarming, and inspiring for so many. Most people cannot even fathom the fear he faced to do what he did, and for that, Jenner deserves respect. This issue isn’t about being a fan of Jenner, it’s about giving credit where credit is due, and he is most certainly worthy of the credit he’s earned. His actions are helping to change the world for the better, and we should show our full support for him along the way.