Caitlyn Jenner was the celebrity guest of honor at a Wednesday brunch associated with the Republican National Convention. Introduced as “the most famous Republican in the world,” Jenner told the crowd that being a conservative has been a challenge.
“It was easy to come out as trans,” she joked. “It was hard to come out as Republican.”
The fete was hosted by American Unity Fund, a lobby group that helps further tolerance toward LGBT people in the Republican Party. Jenner, a former Olympian who came out in a Diane Sawyer interview last year, says that she’s saddened with the GOP’s recent shift to the far right when it comes to social issues.
"I feel like our best hope to get back to a constitutional government with 18 enumerated powers is in the Republican Party,” Jenner argued. “I have to admit I've been very disappointed over the last five, 10 years, but I won't give up hope on it.”
If she hopes to change her party, Jenner faces a steep climb. Last week, the GOP unveiled what many called the most anti-LGBT platform in its history. While speculation suggested that Republicans might soften their language on topics like marriage equality, the GOP platform affirmed its definition of marriage as a union “between one man and one woman.”
The platform also refers to the Obama administration’s guidance on affirming bathroom access for transgender people as “illegal [and] dangerous, arguing that it “ignores privacy issues.”
Jenner poked fun at the GOP’s stance on restroom use to laughter from attendees.
“I have not had any issues about bathrooms myself,” she said. “I haven't used a men's room in a year and a half, and thank God, because there's some great conversation going on in the ladies' room. And I just want you to know, girls, that I follow all the rules, I've never flushed a feminine product down a toilet.”
Jenner, who currently stars in I Am Cait on E!, then turned her attention to House Bill 2, the controversial North Carolina law that forces trans people to use public bathrooms that do not correspond with their gender identity. Pushed through an “emergency session” of the state’s Congress on March 23, the legislation was introduced, debated, and signed into law in the span of a single day.
Jenner worried about the effect HB 2 could have on youth—who, she argued, face enough bullying in schools as is.
“Now you're telling me that the State of North Carolina is going to come in and bully you too, and say you can't live your authentic life and you have to go in this other bathroom,” the reality star told the American Unity Fund. “It just doesn't work. It's even more depression for these kids.”
Jenner added that it’s important to change hearts and minds through visibility. “The Republican Party needs to understand,” she said. “They need to know people who are trans.”
Her comments were in stark contrast not only to the GOP convention but the crowd who gathered for the event. Outside the Quicken Loans Arena, many attendees were spotted wearing hats mocking Jenner, as People magazine reported. The red trucker hats read “Make Bruce a Man Again,” a play on Donald Trump’s campaign slogan.