There was just so much wrong with the California gubernatorial recall effort. First, and most glaringly, the cost to the state’s taxpayers was estimated to be almost $300 million. Second, it was an obvious failed attempt by Republicans at a power grab.
The recall had a flicker of promise at first after Governor Gavin Newsom locked the state down, and was then spotted dissing his own COVID protocols at the Napa Valley hot spot restaurant French Laundry. However, as the recall campaign progressed, Newsom got his mojo back, and began adding to his percentage of support, which stands at 60 percent on this day of the vote.
The Republican candidate that was getting most of the hype was Larry Elder, a conservative radio host. He has a history of making misogynist and generally offensive comments, including mocking premenstrual syndrome by calling it "Punish My Spouse.” And that "Blacks exaggerate the significance of racism." (Elder himself is Black.)
When pressed hard by MSNBC reporter Jacob Soboroff, Elder refused to say whether he’d accept the results of the recall vote, and hinted strongly that he felt the election would be rigged. Many were calling him the new Trump.
And there was one more garish element to this unnecessary waste of time, money, and opportunity – the candidacy of Caitlyn Jenner. When she announced she was running on the Republican ticket, she garnered an inordinate amount of press, and then squandered that by running a lackluster campaign with a platform that seemed to totally ignore her history, her gender, and her status as one of the most visible transgender people in the nation. I wrote in April that it was just a redux of Trump, since she tapped most of his former staff to run her campaign.
In May, I began a column about her by writing, “My second column about Caitlyn Jenner in as many weeks. And hopefully my last.” Here we are! Clearly, I didn’t adhere to my own counsel. At the time, Jenner was mimicking statements about trans athletes made by Tucker Carlson.
She said, when cornered by a reporter, “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.”
Instead of using her candidacy to support her community, and giving interviews to reporters that weren't harmful to her brothers and sisters, Jenner could have been much more thoughtful and effective. She should have spent her time talking about the plight of trans women of color being murdered each day – this publication reports constantly on this epidemic – or promoting passage of the Equality Act, or promoting queer-owned businesses suffering under COVID.
She proved and solidified the notion that she is anything but an advocate for trans people, or queer people. There are so many of us regular folks who look to celebrities and noteworthy people as beacons of hope. How has she provided inspiration to anyone?
While it’s a bit pretentious and silly, let’s consider LGBTQ+ representation at the vaunted Met Gala last night, which is an annual event ostensibly held to celebrate fashion. Love it or hate it, last night the queer community was represented by true advocates who shone brightly on the red carpet. Dan Levy, Lil Nas X, Megan Rapinoe, and Elliott Page, just to name a few, used that platform to highlight their affinity and encouragement for our community, as well as chip away at outdated gender stereotypes.
Though you could say clothes as a whole are avaricious, last night they shined. Levy wore an outfit that featured two men kissing and said it "celebrated queer love and visibility" (it was an homage to legendary gay artist David Wojnarowicz). Rapinoe carried a purse which read, “In Gay We Trust.” Page wore a green carnation, which had historical significance since Oscar Wilde asked men to wear the flower to an opening night performance to one of his plays to demonstrate their queerness during a time when being gay was a crime. And Lil Nas X has been proudly pushing the gay agenda wherever he goes.
I tried to find an image of Jenner perhaps showing some LGBTQ+ Pride, perhaps by wearing a pin of the trans flag? But to no avail. I did, however, find her wearing a MAGA hat in 2017, and claiming that she wore it “by mistake.” Yes, I have MAGA hats sitting around my apartment that I always wear by mistake. Who says such a thing?
How pitiful, almost as pitiful as Trump’s denunciations of trans people and his administration’s record of implementing and supporting anti-LGBTQ initiatives, which Jenner tacitly approves of, and takes pride in via her choice of hats.
It almost seems that Jenner takes no pride in being trans, and takes no responsibility for how she can help millions of people struggling with their gender identity. It’s a baffling arrogance that has left many of her friends at a loss. In my May column, her friend, writer and activist Jennifer Finney Boylan, said she was done talking about Jenner.
Jenner is 71 years old, and since she’s come out as trans, she’s been a major disappointment to the LGBTQ+ community. It’s almost as if she’s ignorant to the plight of the problems that the average trans person experiences. She sits, almost as a recluse, high on top of a mountain in her multi-million-dollar home in Malibu. She has every right to live the life she chooses, but when she can help the rights of those who are afflicted, she takes a pass at every turn.
This race could have been something special for her, and for our community. She could have used her voice in a way that truly differentiated her from the dozens of Larry Elders in the race. Instead she tried to match Elder on supporting conservative issues. Just imagine how her poll numbers might have been different if our community supported her because she supported us?
Netflix just dropped a sports-themed documentary series, Untold, which includes the story behind the infamous Pistons and Pacers game in 2004 where the players fought the fans, and the tale of a hockey team run by the mob. It also includes the story of Jenner as an athlete and her performance at the 1976 Olympics, winning the Olympic gold for the decathlon.
It was interesting to watch Jenner talk about those days, nearly 45 years ago. She pointed out several times that winning the decathlon meant that you were the greatest athlete in the world. As she spoke, she became filled with pride about her accomplishment. I felt a little pity for her, and at the same time, resentment. Pity because she just seemed so lonely and lost, as if she was searching for that glory back. And then came that resentment.
If Jenner was half as proud about being trans as she was about her glory days, imagine what that would mean for our community – and Jenner's own happiness.
John Casey is editor at large for The Advocate.