I didn’t want to write about Bruce Jenner. But when his mama opened her mouth and fed her son to the sharks, I had to say it: Back off.
Gender identity is personal. And this three-ring rag-mag circus engulfing him is wrong. Everyone keeps saying he has no rights to privacy as the patriarch of the “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” clan — the most famous family on reality TV.
Jenner, once cherished for winning the gold medal in the decathlon in the 1976 Montreal Olympics, has become a joke. And I’m not laughing.
Tabloids and blogs have tried their parasitic best to out him as a transgender person. In Touch even Photoshopped makeup onto his face and put his head on a woman’s body. Rather than respect his silence, his mom, Esther Jenner, talked to The Associated Press on Wednesday about her son’s transition.
That same day, “Brady Bunch” star Barry Williams used Jenner as a shield when ducking questions about his own custody battle:
“We don’t have time for all of that rigamarole and sorting it out,” he said on HuffPost Live. “I want to find out if Bruce Jenner is going to become a woman or not. That guy is committed. He is committed to promoting himself. And I’m thinking, maybe, I don’t know, I could say — I’m just saying, if this thing doesn’t work, and the series isn’t doing as well as I want, I’m going transgender.”
It’s not funny. It’s disgusting. And no argument about celebrity, reality TV, a Diane Sawyer interview or a future docuseries is a defense for this gross insensitivity and invasion of privacy.
It’s the same as when nude pictures of Jennifer Lawrence and other celebrities were leaked all over the blogosphere last year. People were saying it was no big deal: The women were famous, and many of them had been nude in movies and magazines. No. This was a deep violation of intimate privacy.
Now Lawrence has posed nude for Vanity Fair’s March issue. But that was her choice. She’s sharing what she wants.
We don’t have permission to take more than that. A woman walking on a beach in a bikini isn’t inviting you to touch her or post her photo on Instagram. Boundaries exist in the real world, and in Hollywood, too.
This is Bruce Jenner’s story to tell, said Debi Jackson, a Kansas City mother of a transgender child and president of PFLAG KC, an LGBTQ advocacy group. While she appreciated that Jenner’s mom said she is proud of her son, it’s still not her story.
“I have avoided talking about it for months despite the speculation,” Jackson said. “We don’t know for sure how Bruce is going to identify. It doesn’t matter if Bruce is doing a docuseries. This is a very personal decision.
“Too often the media decide they have the right to know absolutely everything about a person’s life. Even on reality TV, you only see the parts they want us to see. You don’t see everything. It has taken over 60 years for Bruce to reach this level of comfort and take these steps. For us to continue to speculate or rush the process is inappropriate.”
This hoopla is forcing Jenner into doing things on our schedule. Esther Jenner said her son told her: “I want to be honest about my identity, and I know this is coming out in the press.”
Can’t you see? This is an outing. Much as we should not out anyone as gay, we should not out anyone as transgender.
While the transgender community has made strides — “Transparent” winning a Golden Globe and Time magazine making transgender actress Laverne Cox a cover girl — transphobia pervades our society. We started this year with the tragic news of Ohio transgender teen Leelah Alcorn’s suicide. She said she didn’t have support.
“This nonsense has to end,” GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement. “Speculating about a person’s gender identity only inflames the invasive and gross scrutiny that transgender people face every day at school, at work, or even when just walking down the street. It’s long past time that media outlets stop gossiping about Bruce Jenner’s gender.”
If Bruce Jenner is transgender, it’s his truth to own. And how we react isn’t just about this one celebrity, it’s about putting prejudice to an end and accepting an entire community as people, not spectacles.