Caitlyn Jenner, leaving a speaking engagement in Chicago today, encountered some angry protesters who called her “an insult to trans people” and “an insult to women.”
Jenner gave a luncheon address at a Hilton hotel as part of a fundraising event for Chicago House, a nonprofit that was established in the 1980s to provide housing and case management to people with HIV or AIDS and expanded in 2013 with the TransLife Center, a program offering supportive housing and social services to transgender people, regardless of HIV status.
But protesters said Jenner was not an appropriate representative for transgender people, given that she is a wealthy white woman and has made some disparaging comments about people who receive public assistance. They also accused Chicago House of marginalizing trans people of color.
“Make the services and make this movement and this plea for trans tolerance intentional and direct for the people who are facing the violence every day on the streets, the people who are being discriminated against on the basis of their gender and their race at the same time,” protester Monica James told the Chicago Tribune. “She can’t speak to those struggles. It defaces the real truth behind transitioning.” James held a sign reading, “Liberation not miss-representation.”
James briefly spoke with Jenner, talking about her struggles to find employment. Jenner responded, “I would love to see you have a job. I love you,” then was escorted to a van by her security team, the Tribune reports.
“I understand her saying that and having her perspective, but that's just one perspective,” James told the paper. “Now we're asking them to come and get the rest of our perspectives and then make a comprehensive package of how we're going to try to merge these people into mainstream society with equal rights and equal benefits.”
Organizers of the protest, dubbed “I Ain’t Cait,” set up a Facebook page to draw participants to the demonstration and included a quote from Jenner on her reality TV series I Am Cait, regarding users of social services: “You don’t want people to get totally dependent on it. That’s when they get into trouble. ‘Why should I work? You know, I’ve got a few bucks, I’ve got my room paid for.’”
The page described Jenner as “a clueless rich white woman who thinks disenfranchised trans women of color should just pluck themselves up off the street and stop being so lazy.” A protester at the event could be heard calling her “an insult to trans people” and “an insult to women,” according to Entertainment Tonight.
Those who attended the speech defended Jenner. “The chaos outside was a great contrast to the uplifting atmosphere inside, where Caitlyn had just given her speech,” Chicago radio personality Showbiz Shelly told ET. “I thought she handled the situation with poise. By confronting the protesters in the way she did, she emphasized the themes she talked about in her speech. To be respectful, be brave, and stand up for what you believe in.”
Inside the Hilton, Jenner had “a rapt audience that cheered, laughed and was quiet as if on cue,” the Tribune reports. “Jenner talked about throwing herself into sports so she did not have to face her gender identity struggle, raising her family despite that struggle and living life after she finally decided to transition.”
Candis Cayne, Jenny Boylan, Kate Bornstein, who have appeared on I Am Cait, were in attendance, as was trans MMA fighter Fallon Fox, who met Jenner for the first time and sat next to her, ET reports. A source also told ET that the event was being filmed for the show.
Chicago House CEO Stan Sloan told the Tribune that Jenner’s appearance would help bring attention to transgender issues, but he granted that she is a controversial figure with some learning to do. “She's a lightning rod,” Sloan said. “You can’t have that level of fame without having some kind of controversial notoriety that goes with it. The important part is to help her to grow and to help her evolve so that she can be the best representative possible for the communities we serve.”