Since coming out a year ago, Caitlyn Jenner has not always been a unifying force in the transgender community. Her latest political remarks — underscoring her conservative outlook and praising Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz — ignited a storm of criticism from supporters of transgender rights, who view most conservative Republicans as adversaries.
“Breathtakingly clueless” was the rebuke from blogger Monica Roberts. Tennis great Martina Navratilova and country singer Chely Wright were also among the many people denouncing Jenner.
‘Voting against your own civil rights’
Yet a more nuanced conversation followed, questioning whether transgender Americans must be monolithic in broadly espousing progressive politics, or whether they can make room for differing views in their ranks.
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said she is grateful there are transgender Republicans and would like to see the issue of transgender rights addressed on a nonpartisan basis. She also said it is inevitable that the ranks of transgender Americans would grow more diverse.
“Trans people need to buckle up,” she said. “With all the folks who will be coming out in the next few years, you’re not going to agree with all of them.”
While Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have voiced strong support for LGBT rights, Cruz and the other Republican contenders have expressed misgivings about same-sex marriage and supported protections for people who oppose it on religious grounds.
Among those wrestling with the fallout of Jenner’s remarks is Jennifer Finney Boylan, a writer and professor at Barnard College. She is a consultant and cast member on Jenner’s reality show, “I am Cait.”
In one episode, Boylan — who has described Cruz as a bigot — became so aggravated with Jenner’s political views that she swatted her with a rolled-up newspaper.
“In terms of equality and dignity, the difference between Republicans and Democrats is night and day,” Boylan said in an interview. “I don’t really get why you’d vote against your own civil rights.”
Cruz’s ‘trans ambassador’
Yet Boylan remains engaged in the TV series and considers Jenner a friend.
“How is it possible to communicate with people whom we want to smack with a newspaper?” Boylan asked in recent blog post. “The question, for me, is not, will Cait become a liberal? There is no operation for that, alas. But she CAN become someone who listens, who opens her heart, who has compassion. And so can I.”
Jenner sparked the furor with comments in a March 2 article in The Advocate, an LGBT-oriented magazine.
“I like Ted Cruz,” Jenner declared, even while describing the Texas senator as “one of the worst ones” in regard to transgender rights.
“The Democrats are better when it comes to these types of social issues. I understand that,” Jenner told The Advocate. “So why support Republicans? Number 1, if we don’t have a country, we don’t have trans issues. We need jobs. We need a vibrant economy.”
Jenner suggested lightheartedly that if Cruz is elected president, she could become his “trans ambassador” and seek to sway him on transgender issues.
Christian and fiscal conservative
Jay Michaelson, a rabbi, author and gay activist, urged Jenner to backtrack.
“I’m begging you to do so,” he wrote in The Daily Beast. “The Republicans’ promised actions — especially those of Ted Cruz — would be absolutely devastating to us, and even to you personally.”
Transgender activist Dana Beyer, executive director of Gender Rights Maryland, said it should not be surprising that the former Olympic decathlon champion retained long-held political views.
“We’re probably better off if she remains a Republican,” Beyer said. “The Republicans for the most part won’t talk to us, and we’re not going to make progress unless we persuade some of them. We need access.”
Dru Levasseur, Transgender Rights Project director of the LGBT-rights group Lambda Legal, said it would be useful if transgender-specific issues were raised in the GOP debates. He said he’d like to learn where the Republicans stand in the heated debate over transgender people’s access to public restrooms.
According to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which supports LGBT political candidates, there are no transgender Republicans currently serving in elective office in the U.S.
“The question, for me, is not, will Cait become a liberal? There is no operation for that, alas. But she CAN become someone who listens, who opens her heart, who has compassion. And so can I.”
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican, has a transgender son, and has cited that as a reason why she’s more supportive of LGBT rights than most of her GOP colleagues in Congress.
In 2010, a transgender woman, Donna Milo, unsuccessfully sought the GOP nomination for a congressional seat in Florida.
Being transgender “doesn’t define my values, my goals, my political ambitions, my conservative positions,” Milo told the Sun-Sentinel newspaper during the campaign. “Just because you are somewhat socially open-minded doesn’t mean that you’re not
In St. Paul, Minnesota, Susan Kimberly pursued a long, bipartisan political career after going public with a decision to transition from man to woman in 1984. She served as deputy mayor under Republican Mayor Norm Coleman.
Kimberly, 73 and retired, says she became a Republican while serving with Coleman and remains one today. She’s not enamored of Republican positions on LGBT rights, but believes the GOP best represents some of her core values — including self-responsibility and limited government.
“It’s really hard to be a Republican, but it remains impossible for me to be a Democrat,” she said.
The Advocate magazine again has compiled its annual list of the “Queerest Cities in America” and Madison, Wisconsin, comes in at No. 5.
Previously known as the “Gayest Cities in America,” the name has been updated, but the goal remains the same: Find the most unexpected LGBT-friendly cities in America.
“LGBT-friendly metropolises like New York and Los Angeles are not the only places where we live and thrive — and nightlife and gay ghettos aren’t the only factors that make for great LGBT living,” says Matthew Breen, editor-in-chief of The Advocate. “We seek the unexpectedly queer-friendly places in America, using criteria that changes each year. The results are always a surprising, and this year’s list delivers some absolutely unexpected queerest cities.”
Using its own unique equation, The Advocate again created a diverse list. This year’s criteria included points for a city’s transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances, pro-equality mosques, LGBT-friendly synagogues; Pink Pistol chapters; gay retirement communities; and tours of the Broadway shows Wicked, The Book of Mormon, and Kinky Boots, and more.
The raw score was then divided by the population to provide a ranking based on a per capita LGBT quotient.
The 2015 “Queerest Cities in America” include:
15. Carlsbad, California
14. Washington, D.C.
13. Cambridge, Massachusetts
12. Boise, Idaho
11. Spokane, Washington
10. Boulder, Colorado
9. Davenport, Iowa
8. Tacoma, Washington
7. Erie, Pennsylvania
6. Salt Lake City, Utah
5. Madison, Wisconsin
4. Lansing, Michigan
3. West Palm Beach, Florida
2. Atlanta, Georgia
1. Dayton, Ohio
The Advocate has named Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin its Person of the Year and is featuring the lawmaker on its cover.
Baldwin, who took the oath of office in the U.S. Senate on Jan. 3, is the first openly gay person to serve in that chamber.
In addition, she is the first woman elected to the Senate from Wisconsin.
The Advocate story says, “From her election to the Dane County Board of Supervisors at age 24 to her service in the Wisconsin State Assembly to her election as the first openly gay nonincumbent in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1998, Baldwin, now 50, has always been a trailblazer. Now, with her seat in the U.S. Senate, the granddaughter of the head costume designer for the University of Wisconsin’s theater department moves to her most visible stage to date in what has been called the ‘world’s most exclusive club.’ She joins the Senate as the freshman member with the most seniority.”
The magazine also has an interview with Baldwin.
In the House, six out representatives were sworn in on Jan. 3 – Mark Pocan, Jared Polis, David Cicilline, Mark Takano, Sean Patrick Maloney and Kyrsten Sinema – while Barney Frank ended his long career in Congress.
On the Web…
The Advocate names Tammy Baldwin person of the year: http://www.advocate.com/year-review/2012-review/2013/01/04/person-year-tammy-baldwin