Earlier this week I saw an article announcing Caitlyn Jenner's transformation and to be honest, I didn't think that much of it. There was kind of a "hunh" moment where I said to myself, "So that's what Bruce Jenner looks like as a woman."
It took a couple days before I noticed any openly negative talk about the subject on social media. It started with a posting of a picture that someone had made with a disfigured American Soldier on one side and the title "Hero" plastered across the top... and on the other side was Caitlyn Jenner's Vanity Fair cover with the title "Not a Hero." Something twisted in my gut and I wanted to respond to the post immediately, but I bit my tongue.
I have PTSD and I have to choose my battles carefully. Taking a walk around my neighborhood can trigger an adrenaline soaked roller coaster that keeps me awake for days on end, starting fights on Facebook seemed like a losing battle with nothing to be gained. I filed it under, "Not worth the risk."
As the day went on, others posted similar and identical pictures, each one made me cringe, but I buried the feelings inside my gut and kept it there. After dinner I realized that I was entering a heightened state regardless, instigated at least in part by the friction of trying to dispose of feelings that needed expression.
I found a posting of the "Hero/Not a Hero" picture and began to work through the knots in my gut, untying them and putting them down into an explanation that I hoped would not be construed as incendiary.
I remembered reading an article that Amanda Palmer wrote a couple days ago about how any disagreement that continues on a long enough trajectory increases the odds of someone being compared to Hitler/Nazi's to almost 100%. It was a very interesting read, but there was an opposite effect being trotted out with these soldier pictures. The basic premise being that these soldiers are heroic and that nothing short of putting your life on the line for your country suffices the title. #'Merica. *mic drop* The old adage "Blowing out someone else's candle doesn't make yours burn brighter" kept repeating in my head.
In my response, I said something to the following effect:
"I find it strange that people are having such a problem applying the word hero to this person's situation. I don't think it makes soldiers any less heroic to admire something in someone else. When I was growing up, I had many heroes: Leonardo (the Ninja Turtle, not the artist), Hulk Hogan, a billion different musicians, etc. Nobody ever questioned my right to admire these people (or turtles, as the case may be).
I did't care for Bruce Jenner, so I doubt that altering her sex is going to change that, but if someone else finds courage in what she's done, why would anyone try to make them feel bad by qualifying their source of inspiration against another? I'd encourage people to celebrate their heroes for whatever the reason and leverage that which we admire in others into making ourselves better people, more worthy of being called a hero by others. Take your inspiration from any source kind enough to give it."
I was pretty surprised when the person whose post I had replied to responded with an equally level head: "That's fair. I do find the use of the term hero kind of ridiculous here, largely because of who I deem to be heroes."
After being met with such an open mind (I don't think I moved mountains or anything, but it ended in someone considering another point of view at least) I responded to several other such posts. Most people just liked my statement and didn't respond, which is fine. The only response that got a little heated was when someone posted a question with no picture... it read, "If becoming a woman makes you courageous, does going to the garage make you a car?" Given the terrible fucking and offensive analogy, I know I shouldn't have expected for it to go any other way- but I was energized by the release of that which previously weighed me down.
I responded, "I think it has more to do with walking into a media arena where you know people are going to be demeaning you and tearing you down non-stop." You know, being compared to a garage? Or more broadly suggesting that simply "being a woman" is what qualified Caitlyn as courageous?
A friend of his responded, "It's impossible to change your sex. You can only change your clothes. Even if you get surgery and take drugs, you will always be the person that you were born as."
I wondered at some potentially deep meaning there... "You will always be the person that you were born as."
Then the original poster says, "My cat used to be a dog until I cut its dick off."
I may never know if this guy was just having a laugh, I got the fuck out of there after that. I'm still getting notifications about the post being updated by other people (even as I write this), but I just can't engage. It's really screwed up and I can't even write about how fucking deplorable this guy is, but I guess the point I wanted to make in regards to the whole situation is this:
Yesterday, I started my morning not thinking about what makes heroes worthy of our adoration and today it was at the forefront of my mind... kind of important for a would be fiction writer. Yesterday I didn't feel strongly for Caitlyn Jenner, today I empathize with her enough to have found something worth admiring... finding compassion for another human being makes me feel good, finding traits worth appreciating in someone else makes me feel great. Yesterday I wanted to write something, anything, but I couldn't find my voice. In fact, I spent most of the day trying to bury the one thing I did want to say and going a little fucking nuts over it in the process. Today I was inspired to do something, say something and voice an opinion- it felt a lot better than the reciprocal approach and I have Caitlyn to thank for that. I see why many people would name her as a hero of theirs. Surely it is courageous to expose oneself to the litany of hatred and passive aggressive attacks that she's faced from media and the public since coming out with her transformative intentions.
Whatever the reason, whoever the source of your inspiration and no matter what it is that you find to admire in them, don't let someone else drag you further away from being a better version of yourself by diminishing that which you choose to honor. However we go about it individually, the world needs more people that are trying to be better at being people.