So Sunday night saw the second season premiere of I Am Cait, E!’s most recent foray into both choking the American public to death with toxic television and milking every last bit of revenue out of the Kardashian juggernaut. Given that it’s been nearly a year since the full-court press began over Jenner’s transition, by now you know the drill. The show features the woman formerly known as Olympic gold medalist and Wheaties connoisseur Bruce Jenner, growing into her new identity as the person she always was on the inside and the highest-profile name within transgender America, in many ways its face to the world (whether she wants that responsibility or not). I Am Cait is a reality show, to be sure, and as such it can’t avoid automatically coming off as somewhat tawdry. But it’s a reality show with undeniable pretensions given the cultural “importance” of the woman at the center of it.
Sunday’s premiere had Caitlyn Jenner hitting the road for a cross-country trip with her “girl squad” and lamenting the fact that men apparently won’t date her. Maybe that’s a further shock to those still clinging to the vestiges of her old identity, but it shouldn’t really be surprising. What should be surprising to a whole other audience, though — what should continue to be surprising, and more than a little disconcerting — is Jenner’s take on the difficulties of being a conservative trans woman. It was already well known that Jenner is politically conservative, given that she announced as much during an interview with Diane Sawyer last year. But since then she’s doubled and tripled down on that statement, seemingly clueless as to how incongruous a position it is when you consider that the modern conservative movement has been violently opposed to trans people and has worked time and time again to push them into society’s darkest shadows.
Still, there was Jenner, obliviously claiming that all of the current Republican candidates for president would be supportive of transgender rights while in the White House. “None of the Republicans (say), ‘Oh, I hate trans people,’ or, ‘I hate gays,’” she said. “They do more, ‘I want a thriving economy so every trans person has a job.’” While it’s true that hardly anyone comes right out and says that they hate trans people, the overall spirit of this — certainly that last part — is so demonstrably fucking divorced from reality as to be laughable. Sure, there’s a very specific breed of long-since-dead Republican who was concerned almost entirely with fiscal issues and for whom “conservatism” was strictly an economic designation, but that’s so far removed from the hyper-exclusionary, Fox News-fed right wing shit-show of today that it may as well never have existed at all. Today’s Republicans make a grand show of persecuting the LGBT community; it’s written into their platform and an inextricable part of their political and social DNA.
Later in the episode, when confronted with, you know, undeniable evidence that the Republican party considers gay and trans people second-class citizens — if that — Jenner responded, “I don’t feel like they’re out to get us. Every conservative guy I know believes in everybody’s rights.” And that right there is the problem. Every guy Caitlyn Jenner knows. Jenner’s experience is specific only to Jenner. And to the world at large, Jenner has only been a woman for a year. Before that, to everyone else, Caitlyn Jenner was Bruce Jenner, an American hero and a very wealthy, famous white man. While dismissing a person’s behavior as being indicative of white male privilege is an often overused tactic, one meant to shut down an argument without having to make a legitimate counter-argument, here it fits. Caitlyn Jenner has lived her life — until recently, the life of “Bruce Jenner” — so ensconced in a bubble of extreme privilege that even now she isn’t fully able to step outside herself to see what those not as fortunate as her have had to deal with.
Jenner has been a legendary figure for decades. No matter what was going on inside her, how uncomfortable she felt being someone else, that someone was still rich as all hell and as such apparently held political views that reflected a desire to protect that wealth and privilege. It’s tough to know whether she’s ever even really paid attention to politics other than in her dealings with rich California Republicans, who, quite frankly, don’t always embrace the same staunch social conservatism that we see in other parts of the country. It’s easy to hold tight to some high-minded tale of Republican inclusiveness when you’ve never been the one denied inclusion. Caitlyn Jenner has no idea what kind of legislative tyranny is still being committed against the LGBT community by the Republican party because, well, how would she know? Up until recently it didn’t impact her — and it may never, given her heightened status within our culture and the cushion of money she goes to sleep on each night.
The exchange on I Am Cait follows equally mind-boggling comments made to The Advocate last week by Jenner in which she claimed to want to be Ted Cruz’s “trans ambassador.” She says she met Cruz last year — notably, before her transition — and thought he was a “very nice” guy. As Rich Juzwiak over at Gawker says, “Hearing a trans person calling presidential candidate Ted Cruz ‘very nice’ is like hearing a seal wax ecstatic about her new shark buddy.” Jenner’s fantasy of Cruz bringing Jenner and her “girls” on-board to advise him on trans issues — punctuated with an almost self-parodic, “Isn’t that a good idea?” — is the height of delusion, given that Cruz’s fundamentalist Christianity and virulent opposition to trans issues and the community itself is well fucking documented. Ted Cruz doesn’t want a trans ambassador. He doesn’t give a good goddamn about trans people and you can be almost certain that neither does anyone voting for him. That’s the reality of the Republican party as it stands right now and specifically about Ted Cruz as one-third of the GOP candidates running for president.
At one point during the political discussion seen on Sunday’s episode of Caitlyn Jenner’s reality show, Jenner went off Hillary Clinton, claiming that America would be “unfortunate” to have her as its next president. “She could care less about women. She cares about herself,” she said. Coming from Caitlyn Jenner, that comment is so beautifully, comically ironic.