My second column about Caitlyn Jenner in as many weeks. And hopefully my last.
After the first column about her prospective run for California governor, as I usually do, I checked the comments section under the links to the article (not for vanity's sake but to gauge reaction). I was a bit surprised to see all of the vitriol. Frankly, not since I wrote repeatedly about the damage Donald Trump was inflicting on our community had I read such detestation for another person from our readers.
And maybe there is a reason for that.
The first thing I read in the Sunday New York Times is my favorite columnist, Frank Bruni. Maureen Dowd runs a close second and gets the first read when Bruni is off. This past weekend, Bruni was on, literally and figuratively, when he wrote about Tucker Carlson being the new Donald Trump.
Bruni began his latest column this way: “The lead item in Politico’s signature morning newsletter asked if a certain public figure was 'losing his mind.' His rants made him seem ever 'more unhinged.' Then again, they might be theatrical, a way to 'keep you guessing as to whether he’s just putting you on.'”
Bruni surmised that those words describe Donald Trump; however, Politico was writing about Carlson, and to him they settled the matter that Carlson, not Ron DeSantis, Josh Hawley, or Ted Cruz, was the new Trump.
His column coincidentally followed another public figure who was “losing [her] mind” over the same weekend Bruni summed up Carlson. We reported about Caitlyn Jenner, shopping in Malibu, Calif., on Saturday, who was questioned by a TMZ reporter about the number of state bans on transgender girls and women playing on sports' teams.
“This is a question of fairness, that's why I oppose biological boys who are trans competing in girls' sports in school. It just isn't fair and we have to protect girls' sports,” Jenner astonishingly said. Is she becoming more unhinged? Theatrical? Or is this just her way of keeping us all guessing as to what in the hell is going through her mind?
Our editor Neal Broverman wrote in the Jenner piece, “Harnessing fear and ignorance of trans people — and the false assumption trans females have an inherent physical advantage over cisgender females — Republicans have tried to make this nonissue a rallying cry for their base.”
Compare Jenner’s sentiment and comments to those of Trump, who during a speech in February to the loathsome Conservative Political Action Conference took aim at transgender athletes.
“Young girls and women are incensed that they are now being forced to compete against those who are biological males. It's not good for women. It's not good for women's sports, which worked for so long and so hard to get to where they are.”
He added, “If this does not change, women's sports as we know it will die.”
Donald Trump may be gone, but have no fear, Caitlyn Jenner has assumed his place as the most reviled; therefore, she is also our Tucker, who agrees with Jenner and has flatly said, “Girls play girls' sports. Boys play boys' sports.” They are all unhinged, theatrical, and putting us on.
The tone-deaf position the three of them take comes after months of anti-transgender legislation proposed in more than 30 states across the country, with seven states already enacting laws banning trans female student-athletes. Last week, Florida Gov. DeSantis vowed to sign what would be the eighth ban.
All of this despite the fact that the NCAA has voiced opposition to these bills at the college level, and it has threatened to pull championships from states with these kinds of laws banning athletes from competition.
There is a thread between DeSantis, Carlson, Trump, and Jenner, and that foursome is fearsome, unnecessarily instilling fear and outrage, and in the process being very hurtful to young transgender individuals. It is also a deceitful way to drive a big wedge among the electorate and light a fire under evangelical Christians. It is also inflammatory. It is also wrong. It is hurtful. And it also proves why Jenner is our Carlson.
I reached out to a friend and former costar of Jenner's reality show, I Am Cait (and one of my other favorite Times columnists), Jennifer Finney Boylan, for some context around the vivid animosity from our community toward Jenner as well as what Jenner was trying to do with her incendiary comments. Not surprisingly, she had little to say.
“I think I’ve said all I have to say about Caitlyn for now,” she emphatically said. “As I know you saw, I tweeted out that I thought her conservative politics would be a particularly bad mix for California right now, although as someone with whom I have always been friendly, I wished her well, even though I hope she loses if she gets the opportunity to run.”
When I asked Boylan about Jenner’s stunning comments over the weekend, Boylan was succinct. “I read that she has come out against trans kids participating in sports; so far as I know this is her only actual campaign position made public to date. My comment on Twitter was ‘This is such bullshit.’”
I told Boylan that I had previously written that when Jenner came out for Trump on that reality show, I stopped watching. Jenner seems for all intents and purposes not to have changed since that endorsement on the show. She recanted her support for Trump but then went on to hire his tribe to help with her campaign. I asked Boylan if she thinks that Jenner really understands what she’s doing. Is Jenner just oblivious as to how her comments, parroting Trump and Carlson, affect the trans community?
“She’s been such a disappointment,” Boylan explained. “It makes me wonder why on earth I, and the other members of her show’s cast spent all that time trying to ensure her safe landing in transition. I am angry and hurt, and I think that’s why I just really have nothing left to say about her.”
And neither will I. This will be my last column about Jenner. Unless she runs for president and chooses Carlson as her running mate. What would we all have to say about something like that?
John Casey is editor at large for The Advocate.