A star was reborn Monday when Caitlyn Jenner introduced herself to the world via Twitter, and promptly broke the internet. The culmination of Olympic decathlon gold medalist Bruce Jenner’s transition to trans-woman, Caitlyn’s emergence on an upcoming Vanity Fair cover shot her into the social media stratosphere, and shattered a record for fastest accumulation of one million followers: four hours and three minutes. The previous record was set just a few weeks ago, by President Obama’s new Twitter feed, which reached that mark in four-and-a-half hours. Jenner’s total follower count still lags behind President Obama’s by about half a million, but the week is young.
Among those tweeting support for Jenner was the @BarackObama Twitter account, which is run by Organizing For America volunteers:
It takes courage to share your story. https://t.co/Q7wWjV9Rxx
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) June 1, 2015
At Tuesday’s White House daily briefing, Press Secretary Josh Earnest was asked if President Obama had any reaction to the end of his short reign in the record books, or to Caitlyn Jenner’s announcement. “It was good while it lasted,” Earnest said of the record, but praised Jenner for her announcement:
“The President does believe that Caitlyn Jenner has shown tremendous courage as she has undergone this transition in a very public way, and that’s worthy of our respect.”
Jenner is most certainly an extraordinary ambassador for trans people, especially given her cross-generational appeal as an icon, first as Olympic athlete, and then as reality TV star, and swimming against a cultural tide like gender normativity certainly does take courage, even if it is cushioned by the advantages of fame and fortune.
But I would reserve the phrase “tremendous courage” for others, like the trans people who have always been at the tip of the spear for LGBT rights, from Stonewall to Brandon Teena, to the activists who face down violence and discrimination in order to work toward equality for others. Several years ago, I was privileged to cover one such group as they lobbied for a hate crimes bill that included trans people. That took tremendous courage, and I hope that as Caitlyn enjoys the fruits of their courage, and the courage of activists who still fight for LGBT equality, She remembers that the people they were fighting are the same bastards Caitlyn votes for now.