How do you solve a media problem like Bruce Jenner? I say media problem for a reason, because I have no interest in dissecting Jenner the person. Jenner has, thus far, had exactly zero public comment when it comes to sexual identity or gender identity. That is up to Jenner and Jenner alone. But I am very interested in how the media is going to cover what increasingly appears to be a very public person taking on a very private process in an environment of very public judgment.
Buzzfeed has already reported that the titular Kardashian clan head is in final negotiations for a sit-down interview with Diane Sawyer and possible subsequent reality series. The tabloids have done what tabloid do. Which is to be, you know, gross. And The New York Times wrote a rather thoughtful piece on the current dilemma of covering Bruce Jenner. Like which pronoun do we use if Jenner has not identified one way or another as yet?
In the absence of real facts and any kind of conclusion I say we err on the side of compassion. But then, I’d always rather we – the collective internet and humanity as a whole – err on the side of compassion. And, as I’ve demonstrated so far, it’s not that hard to avoid using a pronoun altogether. No “he” or “she” until we know, it’s actually pretty simple.
I will freely admit to having my own learning curve when it comes to transgender issues. While I stopped years ago, I probably used “tranny” casually in slang for longer than I should have. I had a close friend in college who, after we graduated, identified as trans and it was somewhat confusing at the time. This was way back in the day before Laverne Cox gracing the cover of Time and Janet Mock landing her own TV show even seemed like remote possibilities. And a show centered entirely around the journey of a trans parent reaping critical praise and picking up a Golden Globe? Fuggedaboutit. But it’s not outlandish anymore. It’s not confusing anymore. Goodness, look how far we’ve come already. Yet also so far we still have to go.
So what I hope for with whatever happens with Jenner and any possible transition, public or private, that comes to pass is we all accept that our identities are our own. Our stories are our own. And they are not a reason to snicker, scold or sneer. Transgender people’s lives are not salacious, they are just their lives.
It’s also important to separate whatever you may think of the surrounding Kardashian Industrial Complex from this personal process. Yeah, I’m not a fan of Kim Incorporated, et al, either. At all. But any dislike I have for this family’s public persona has nothing to do with anyone’s gender identity, nor is anyone’s gender identity a reason to dislike any family personally. Does that make sense? I hope I’m making sense.
I do know that, if this happens, it will be talked about endlessly. I just hope we talk about it in a way that helps others understand the endless complexities of humanity. More compassion, not less. More understanding, not less. We’re all still just folks.