Why Caitlyn Jenner’s Run For Governor Could Hurt The Trans Community

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Britni de la Cretaz
·4 min read
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US television personality and retired Olympian Caitlyn Jenner attends The Hollywood Reporter’s Empowerment In Entertainment Event 2019 at Milk Studios on April 30, 2019 in Los Angeles. (Photo by VALERIE MACON / AFP) (Photo credit should read VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images)
US television personality and retired Olympian Caitlyn Jenner attends The Hollywood Reporter’s Empowerment In Entertainment Event 2019 at Milk Studios on April 30, 2019 in Los Angeles. (Photo by VALERIE MACON / AFP) (Photo credit should read VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images)

Caitlyn Jenner announced on Friday that she had filed papers to run for governor of California. Jenner, a former Olympian and reality television star, is running as a Republican and hoping to unseat longtime Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom in a recall election. But her decision to run as a Republican — despite the party’s continued attacks on transgender people — proves what the LGBTQ+ community has known all along: Caitlyn Jenner doesn’t care about trans people.

So far, Jenner’s campaign website doesn’t list a single policy proposal, instead showing just “shop” and “donate” buttons. (You might not know what Jenner will do if elected governor of California, but at least you can purchase campaign-branded wine glasses!) However, a campaign advisor told Axios, “She’s running as someone that’s socially liberal and fiscally conservative.”

While it’s still unclear what kind of support she will receive from the Republican base, one thing that is clear is that the trans community will not be rallying around to support one of their own. Since transitioning in 2015, Jenner has repeatedly lamented that trans people don’t like her, without seeming to really question why that is. She recently speculated that it’s because she’s white, “didn’t live in the gutter,” and hadn’t “hook[ed] for a living.” In 2015, she told TIME magazine that trans women should avoid looking like “a man in a dress” if they wanted mainstream acceptance.

She seems to understand that the trans community is disproportionately impacted by poverty and violence, but adheres to bootstrap rhetoric to talk about why she has been shielded from those things. In an interview on Dear Media’s The Skinny Confidential Him & Her podcast, Jenner acknowledges that she has a lot of privilege, but attributes it to the fact that she’s “worked hard” her entire life. She continues to try to position herself as the “good trans person” who wants to assimilate into mainstream, cisgender society and who doesn’t get upset when people misgender her, pitting her against the more “inconvenient” trans people who demand things like basic respect and human rights.

Jenner has also expressed frustration that the trans community hasn’t given her more credit for her political efforts — for her lobbying of Evangelicals in Washington, D.C., for her attempts to persuade Republicans to support trans rights. But Jenner voted for Trump in 2016 and was photographed wearing a “Make American Great Again” hat. She issued a tepid apology to the trans community after she was spotted in the hat and criticized Trump’s ban on trans people in the military. In 2018, she finally spoke out against him, saying that her hope in Trump had been “misplaced.” For a while, it appeared that she might be reconsidering her support for a party that was hostile to the community she was now publicly identified with.

And yet, she has continued to align herself with the Republican Party, even as their policies have gotten increasingly harmful for the trans community. In 2021 alone, more than 144 anti-trans bills have been passed by members of the GOP across the country, seeking to do everything from deny trans children gender-affirming care to banning trans girls from competing in girls’ sports. Jenner has not spoken out against any of this legislation — even after O.J. Simpson used her as an example of why trans women should not be allowed to play women’s sports.

And to make matters worse, Jenner is particularly unqualified, and running on the backs of former Trump staffers and conservatives. Her campaign team includes Brad Parscale, a former Trump campaign manager and Russian agent, and Tony Fabrizio, the GOP pollster whose internal polling data went to Russian intelligence.

But the reality of it all is this: Caitlyn Jenner’s community — her entire identity — is under attack from her own party. And she has stayed silent throughout it.

Jenner is a perfect example of the fact that the trans community is not a monolith. But she cannot continue to begrudge the majority of the trans community for not rallying behind her when she is choosing to actively remain part of a political party that seeks to legislate us out of existence. And hiding behind “socially liberal” policies won’t help, because fiscal conservatism harms marginalized communities like the trans community, too. All Jenner is doing is proving that she doesn’t care about her community, she only cares bout holding onto her own wealth, her status, and her professional aspirations.

This isn’t about “sacrifice” as she stated in her open letter announcing her candidacy. This is about personal profit, and she will ultimately hurt trans people even more than she already has.

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