What Caitlyn Jenner's Really After
After losing interest in I Am Cait midway through the first season, I believed I was done with the whole Caitlyn Jenner media circus. I think it was watching her hit golf balls off the side of that mountain that finally inspired me to wonder if I didn’t have better things to do with my time. I felt no regret, no sense of loss. In my opinion, life’s just too short to waste even one more hour of it on someone like her.
The truth is that Caitlyn Jenner bores me even as she annoys me. I’ve known people like her my whole life. In fact, I used to be a lot like her. When I was in my late teens and early 20s, about 10 years or so after Jenner had won gold at the Olympics and graced America’s Wheaties boxes, I was a punk. I wore black leather, listened to the Ramones and the Clash, and adopted the politics and social outlook of the punk movement — the good and the bad.
On the one hand, while my politics could probably be described as left-wing, it was only because it was the politics of the bands I listened to. I really had no set political worldview of my own. Few, if any, people of color were to be found in the clubs or at the shows I frequented, and the same was true of openly gay or trans people. There was no real hate, no true animosity there, at least for me anyway. It was simply the way things were.
I was into punk for the music and the emotional release valve it provided me. The actual politics of the punk movement were secondary for me, and I rarely thought about them at all. I didn’t really care that there might be more, something of value beneath the surface of the world of anger, drugs, and loud music I lived in then. I was getting what I wanted and needed from punk, and I wasn’t particularly inclined to dig any deeper.
It’s this kind of immature perspective I see in Caitlyn Jenner today. She’s getting what she feels she wants and needs out of life, and she isn’t especially inclined to seek anything more. She has all the money and all the attention she could possibly want or need, and her worldview doesn’t extend beyond that which affects her directly. It’s like she’s on permanent spring break.
For me, it wasn’t money; it was the drugs. Getting by on next to nothing was part of the punk aesthetic, and the drugs we did were cheap and strong. Like the music, the drugs enabled me to feel what I wanted to and put other concerns, especially those I didn’t want or wasn’t ready to deal with, out of my mind.
Toward the end of my time as a punk and a drug addict, I was making good money. I had pretty much everything I wanted, more than enough money to pay the rent, feed myself, and buy all the drugs I could possibly want. To say I was self-centered would be an understatement.
The drug I believe Caitlyn Jenner is addicted to isn’t smoked, snorted, injected, or drunk. It’s the notoriety, the attention. She has succeeded Kim to become the uber-Kardashian, and she obviously loves it, revels in it. That’s her drug, and just about everything she does is focused on getting her more of it.
If there’s anything I remember well from my own days as an addict, it’s that when you’re addicted to anything, no matter what it is, it becomes what your life is about. Nothing else and no one else matters.
Some have argued that Jenner is still new to being trans and new to this level of attention, and so she hasn’t found her balance yet. The problem for Jenner and for all of us is that unlike with most actual drug addicts, her addiction is playing out in public, in the media. Indeed, it’s that very media attention which is her addiction.
It’s because of the attention Jenner seeks and enjoys so much that she has the potential to seriously harm the cultural and political interests of an unjustly harshly persecuted minority.
Caitlyn Jenner wants attention, and she doesn’t especially care who’s harmed as a result. That much is clear just about every time she opens her mouth. For trans people, particularly in an election year when anti-trans sentiment is at an all-time high, this is a problem for the community, and a big one.
Some time ago, transitioned helicopter pilot and news reporter Zoey Tur was the trans media darling of the moment. She spewed a plethora of misinformation about trans people in the media and publicly attacked some of her fellow trans journalists, including myself. While the actual content was different, the problem was much the same: Tur obviously loved the attention as much as Jenner does and would say whatever she had to in order to gain more of it.
The massive blowback in the media to Jenner’s comments on I Am Cait about Republican support for trans rights can be attributed to the same cause that precipitated the fall from grace of Tur — she finally went too far, clearly exceeding the point where anyone could argue she was still credible.
That’s the precipice upon which Caitlyn Jenner stands right now. She can grow up and start presenting herself as a competent trans woman who lives in the real world, or she can continue to show the world that she is neither. It’ll be interesting to see what she does next.
REBECCA JURO is a journalist and radio host. Her work has been published by The Bilerico Project, The Huffington Post, Washington Blade, Gay City News, Windy City Times, The Advocate, and MSNBC.com. The Rebecca Juro Show streams live Thursdays from 7 to 9 p.m. Eastern. Follow Juro on Twitter @beckyjuro.