Activist and editor Ashlee Marie Preston forcefully confronted Caitlyn Jenner at a trans-related fundraiser Saturday, one day after Donald Trump ― who the former athlete voted for and repeatedly endorsed ― confirmed he was codifying his ridiculously unnecessary and cruel trans military ban.
Preston received online support afterward but also rebukes, with some describing her dressing down of Jenner as "trashy" or "fame-seeking," and criticizing her for calling Jenner "a fucking fraud." I can't say it better than Preston, who responded to her Facebook critics with this:
"Desperate times call for desperate measures. A 'loud, angry black trans woman' is more effective than a dead one." #SilenceIsDeath
Evoking the mantra of effective disrupters ACT UP, Preston reminds us that being mannered doesn't work in the Trump years. Lives are at stake. Suicidal ideation among trans people is astronomical; 40 percent of trans adults reported having made a suicide attempt, while 92 percent of these people attempted suicide as youth. Do Preston's detractors doubt trans and gender-nonconforming millennials will internalize the White House decision, made possible by Jenner and other Trump voters?
What of the trans people who can no longer count on the military for a steady paycheck or trans vets no longer sure they have basic health care? What will a trans woman or trans man thrown out of the Navy or Air Force do for work, especially when 15 percent of trans people are already unemployed? How many will resort to sex work and expose themselves to abuse, rape, and murder?
Trump will undoubtedly have blood on his hands for his decision ― yet Jenner wears a "Make America Great Again" hat this month, days after he announced the ban (her ridiculous explanation for touting such an offensive slogan doesn't add up.) You'd think someone with a $20,000-a-month publicist (give or take a few thou) would see the bad optics involved with showing your face at a trans event ― even one she donated money to ― so soon after Friday's devastating news.
Again, I'll let Ashlee explain. From her Facebook:
"[Jenner] owes the community an apology; giving us the change from her bra is like putting a band-aid over a bullet wound. Her commentary and actions have carried real consequences for the transgender community; people who aren’t afforded the same protections and privilege as she has.”
So what did Ashlee's confrontation accomplish? It told LGBT public figures that your words matter. Endorsing a politician intent on destroying us has real ramifications, even if you believe yourself untouchable, whether through money or celebrity status. You want to go on the cover of Vanity Fair and be an icon for a community? Fine, great ― but think before you speak.That's part of the deal. Or it needs to be from now on.
Preston also told all of us who want to do the right thing that we have to step up our game. Call out hypocrisy among high-profile figures. Don't accept racism, sexism, classism, or anti-LGBT sentiment, even when it bubbles up in our own community. Get ready for battle in 2018.
For all those worried how Preston's actions are received by straight, cisgender society ― who cares? The people in power already hate or fear LGBT people, especially black women, and see zero benefit in ever helping us. Nothing Preston did will change that.
As for Jenner's likely hurt feelings? The millionaire ex-Kardashian ― who famously defended her Trump vote by saying she's not a one-issue voter ― can comfort herself with her tax cuts.
NEAL BROVERMAN is the executive editor of The Advocate. Follow him on Twitter @nbroverman.