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The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Caitlyn Jenner on Gay Marriage: Negotiating Identity in a Binary World

Caitlyn Jenner

Caitlyn Jenner is not new to the media, or to the public eye. She is also not new to the binaries that exist in society regarding gender — male or female. The transgender community has been negotiating their identity and where it places within a binary world. There is no question that Jenner has shed light on a subject that is normally left in the dark, or worse, exploited for its difference. Most importantly, she asks for acceptance on a grand scale and in many ways has achieved that in her mainstream status. Caitlyn Jenner’s success speaks for the progress of acceptance of the transgender populace, but even more significantly, she uses that fame with intent to reach out to both new and old communities as a role model.

Recently, Jenner has appeared on Ellen DeGeneres to discuss her transition and to fuel the momentum of her inspiring story. What was supposed to be a week of strong women for Ellen’s premiere week — with guests like Malala Yousafzai and Hillary Clinton to keep Jenner company – ended up being disappointing. Jenner’s otherwise inspiring story has taken a new turn with the revelation that she does not entirely support gay marriage which comes as a blow to the recent victory of the Supreme Court Ruling across the US legalizing gay marriage. When asked by Ellen what her opinion of gay marriage was, she responded with hesitance,“I have to admit…at first I was not for it[gay marriage]…I kind of like tradition. It’s always been a man and a woman. I’m thinking I don’t quite get it.” It is wrong for Jenner to ask not to be judged based on the same premise that she ends up judging others on. There are obvious differences between gay and transgender, but not that different.

Jenner made a point to say that she did not want to hinder anyone else’s happiness regarding the matter of gay marriage: “If that word is that important to you then I say go with it.” But that is exactly the word and the entire point. Ellen hones in at this point during the interview: “‘Marriage’ is an important word because marriage is marriage and equality is equality so we want the same word that everyone else has.” Ellen says what most everyone in the audience is thinking at this point and uses the rhetoric of pretty much any of the civil rights movements. It can’t be only about tradition or else there would never be any forward progress. The point is that this community as a whole is looking for the same rights legally and socially, which include specific language; it is more than just a word in that sense.

Unfortunately, what gets lost in the backlash for Jenner’s stance on gay marriage is that yet again, as a transgender, she is presented with another binary choice. Caitlyn Jenner as a conservative republican is well known from her show I am Cait. What is underpublicized throughout this incident so far is the fact that the LGBT community is forced to choose between their faith and their sexuality. Additionally, their political views are also reflected in this binary choice. Caitlyn Jenner represents a faction of her community that struggles in this world without a gray area, waiting for some kind of progress in ideology.

The church itself is making progress, but it still lags regarding gay marriage. Pope Francis himself has made statements against condemning those in the LGBT community with hopes of integrating them into society. His words of acceptance are ambiguous which the church itself has been quick to point out. Pope Francis is certainly more compassionate on this matter and it may have potential influence over people like Caitlyn Jenner who wish to maintain traditional religious values despite the contradiction of her faith and sexuality. The contradiction still exists in lieu of potential progress in the church, and thus, so does Jenner’s conflict that has recently aired on Ellen.

The fact remains that as a role model and mouthpiece for not only the transgender community, but anyone that looks to her courage for inspiration, Jenner is held to a higher standard. What these controversial comments have revealed is that many people are depending on Jenner, but they are also waiting for areas of weakness to criticize. Some of the criticism is warranted, and some forms of criticism are why the Ellen YouTube channel has had to disable comments on the recent interview. To only praise Jenner would be a disservice because the capacity to criticize her without it being considered transphobic or homophobic would be true equality. This kind of equality that Jenner strives for as a transgender is the exact same form of equality as those who fought for the right to marry. Furthermore, the choices Caitlyn Jenner is forced to make between faith and sexual liberty are not necessarily ones that should be judged against her as an individual, but should be condemned as a question forcing people in the LGBT community to choose between the two.