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Why Are We Giving Awards to Caitlyn Jenner?

Caitlyn Jenner

Transgender activist Ashlee Marie Preston says it's not only wrong to give an award to the Trump supporter -- as St. John's Well Child & Family Center plans to do -- it is downright insulting.


Caitlyn Jenner said this to Diane Sawyer during her 2015 coming-out interview: "What I'm doing is going to do some good ... and we are going to change the world."

(RELATED: After Controversy, Caitlyn Jenner 'Declines' Award From Trans Film Fest)

After two years, a TV show, several awards, cosmetic endorsements, magazine covers, speaking engagements, guest appearances, and a book deal where she threw her family under the bus for $4 million and number 361 on the Amazon list, our confidence in Jenner has plummeted.

Caitlyn Jenner's transition wasn't a PR stunt. The stunt was in her financially forged relationship to the LGBTQ community and her self-assigned role as gatekeeper and spokeswoman for the transgender community. Caitlyn has become the Christopher Columbus of trans identity in that she sailed over into the community and attempted to take complete credit and ownership of our movement. She can't lead our movement when she's never taken one step in our shoes or experienced the discrimination we have mounted on our backs thanks to her political pen pals in the White House.

Any and every opportunity Caitlyn had to truly understand the struggles LGBTQ people are up against has been met with obstinate disregard. As she stated on Ellen DeGeneres's talk show two years ago -- the episode where she did the limbo and revealed she "doesn't get" marriage equality -- she's a "traditionalist." She's also a proud Republican and Donald Trump supporter, even wearing a "MAGA" hat after the tyrant in chief banned our people from the armed forces.

Her beliefs and views of the world are projected through the lens of a wealthy, white, privileged, cis-hetero man with the world as their oyster. But we are not props or puppets for her propaganda, nor do LGBTQ -- specifically trans -- people want her representing our interests. We don't need a representative who plays Stepin Fetchit to an administration that has launched an aggressive attack against trans children and trans members of the armed forces, and reversed civil rights protections implemented by President Obama.

The LGBTQ community deserves leaders who don't cringe at the idea of same-sex marriage. We deserve leaders who see us as more than a tax shelter and a press opportunity. Our trans women deserve role models who don't shame them with passibility politics and refer to them as men in dresses. Most importantly, the LGBTQ community deserves leaders who center our voices and not themselves.

The greatest tool Caitlyn uses to center herself is the Caitlyn Jenner Foundation. Made up of white trans people and nonrepresentative of the target demographic she claims to serve, the foundation is humanitarian fraud in the highest form.

Aside from tax benefits and press notices, Caitlyn has now used her foundation to honor the seemingly most important person in our community -- herself.

St. John's Well Child & Family Center, a clinic that serves the needs of the trans community, is presenting its annual TransNation Film Festival in Los Angeles this weekend. The event spans a couple of weekends and consists of several independent film screenings, a pageant, and a fundraising gala on Saturday, where Jenner is set to be honored for her role as a "trailblazer" and, possibly, the small amount of money she's donated to LGBTQ causes. Coincidentally or not, Zackary Drucker is the director of CJF and an organizer of TransNation.

Let's be real: Caitlyn doesn't give money for charity's sake. She's never written a check without being accompanied by a makeup artist and camera crew. Having this reality star share the stage with someone like Jazzmun Nichcala Crayton, a co-honoree at the gala, is insulting, to say the least.

Jazzmun has been advocating for the LGBTQ community through TV, film, and nonprofit work for over 20 years. She has appeared in numerous television and movie roles, with her most recent role portraying Bobbie Jean Baker, a prominent transgender activist and religious leader, in the television series When We Rise. As co-producer of the play Lovely Bouquet of Flowers and the accompanying documentary In Full Bloom, she gives voice to members of the community from all walks of life and challenges viewers to move past their preconceived stereotypes and see our commonalities. In the documentary, Jazzmun explores situations that are easily relatable to the transgender community, like family struggles, inner conflicts, coming out, surgery, hormones, and the complexities of sexual identity and orientation. She works with the HIV organization APAIT as a testing counselor. Her work, art, and creativity continue to inspire many.

We don't need a self-serving retired Olympic champion to represent us when we have genuine champions such as Jazzmun and many others who've been doing the work well before it could score you a reality show and book deal. I've launched a petition urging St. John's to stop dishonoring our community and rescind Caitlyn's award.

This isn't about organizations taking money from Caitlyn Jenner (although I personally don't recommend it). Our petition is about rescinding her self-congratulatory award and not rubbing our faces in the fact that she can force her way into power while holding us and our narrative hostage. If St. John's would rescind the award, this could all go away. But instead, we're likely going to move forward with our intent to disrupt the event from the inside while leading our demonstration from the outside.

ASHLEE MARIE PRESTON is a transgender activist. Follow her on Twitter @AshleeMPreston.

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