Bruce Jenner in 1976
I am not a follower of trashy reality TV. I was horrified when I first tripped over the Kardashians while on a treadmill at my gym. I quickly shifted my attention to another monitor, featuring a news channel. I felt like I had inadvertently become a heavy-breathing peeping tom for a matter of seconds. Not a feeling I wished to prolong or repeat.
I have no quarrel with any peaceful transgendered or gender-dysphoric person. Unlike many who live in the mainstream, I have known and do know transgendered people. I first met a transgendered person 38 years ago. She was a schizophrenic patient under my care.
I do have an opinion about Bruce Jenner's publicity seeking in the form of a so-called 'coming out' as a transgendered person.
This is a time when generalized attention-deficit-disorder plagues human societies. Forty years ago, when I was caring for that first transgendered patient in a hospital, she had been beaten and psychologically abused by men who would have looked to Bruce Jenner as their hero. Bruce Jenner willingly became an icon for conventional masculinity and nationalist conformity as an Olympic champion. He made a career of that iconic persona. He grew wealthy from it. He lived a privileged life from it.
Forty years ago, my gay male community was fighting against the oppression of Jenner icons. I was an openly gay registered nurse in a state-wide mental health system. I had been the only openly gay student in my nursing school. I had previously been turned down twice for jobs in health care because I had come out in my interviews. Jenner, and the men he chose to represent at that time, made my fight against oppression more difficult. And, subsequently, I have watched Mr. Jenner contribute to a cheapening of American values as an icon of shameless materialism, wrapped in heterosexual family dysfunction.
Bruce Jenner now wishes to market transgenderism. He seems to desire a place as an icon in this new venture. While I do not deny that he may offer some consolation to those suffering with gender issues, I hardly think he represents anything beyond narcissistic exploitation of anything that will get him attention and money. And this is a shame. Those who are already strongly prejudiced against people with gender confusion now have yet another reason to shrug and consider the whole business a form of sideshow attention-seeking.
Those who seriously wish to help the transgendered to gain higher self-esteem would do well to think twice before jumping on Mr. Jenner's bandwagon.