Caitlyn Jenner speaks to the media after casting her vote in the California recall election (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty)
Caitlyn Jenner came out as trans in 2015 and has, for the last six years, enjoyed the unenviable position of being both the most famous trans woman in the world and one of the least liked by the rest of the LGBT+ community.
As many others have pointed out, it’s unsurprising that Jenner, 71, is broadly disliked: she’s a rich, Trump-supporting Republican whose daily life is a far cry from the realities faced by other trans and non-binary people. Plus, she plays golf.
And unlike other famous trans celebrities, such as Elliot Page and Laverne Cox, Jenner has not used her huge platform to advocate for trans and non-binary people who are less privileged than her. Instead, she’s done the opposite: Railing against trans girls playing school sports, upset lesbian hero and vocal trans ally Megan Rapinoe, and defended Dave “transphobic jokes” Chappelle.
Her fame and wealth mean she could be a useful ally in the struggle against transphobic violence and discrimination, but because of her terrible politics she’s instead chosen, several times, to throw her trans siblings under the bus.
When it comes to representation, we know that one person can never represent “the trans community” – there are as many different experiences of being trans as there are trans people. We also know that visibility politics, promoted through awareness-raising calendar events like Trans Awareness Week and Trans Day of Visibility, often achieve little in terms of improving trans people’s lives. The concepts of visibility and awareness are often criticised for failing to tackle the barriers to housing, healthcare, employment and safety that so many trans people suffer, and representation is the third prong of that useless trio.
Trans celebrities, just like other celebrities, are sometimes looked to as the leaders of a movement. But in the case of Caitlyn Jenner, it’s been made crystal clear that the only interests she’s promoting are her own. Here are six of the times that the most famous trans woman in the world showed us that representation truly isn’t everything.
1. The time Caitlyn Jenner said ‘it isn’t fair’ for trans girls to play sports at school
In May 2021, former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner said that trans inclusion in sport is “a question of fairness” and added: “That’s why I oppose biological boys who are trans competing in girls’ sports in school. It just isn’t fair and we have to protect girls’ sports in our schools.”
But the internet’s memory is long: In 2016, Jenner had competed in a women’s golf tournament at a fancy country club in California.
I didn’t expect to get asked this on my Saturday morning coffee run, but I’m clear about where I stand. It’s an issue of fairness and we need to protect girls’ sports in our schools.https://t.co/YODLDQ3csP
— Caitlyn Jenner (@Caitlyn_Jenner) May 1, 2021
2. Backing Texas’ internationally reviled abortion ban
Ahead of the California gubernatorial recall election on 14 September, Caitlyn Jenner continued her campaign strategy of saying the worst things possible.
Addressing the new law in Texas that makes it illegal for people to terminate pregnancies beyond six weeks, which is well before many even know they are pregnant, Jenner said that although she supports “a woman’s right to choose” she also “supports Texas in that decision”.
3. Defending Dave Chappelle, a poor victim of ‘woke cancel culture’
Dave Chappelle’s Netflix special The Closer has been widely condemned for homophobic and transphobic jokes, with LGBT+ activists supporting trans Netflix employees in organising a company-wide walkout in protest at how the streaming giant handled the whole sorry situation.
Jenner, meanwhile, was busy defending Chappelle by reposting a clip of the comedy show on Twitter and adding that Chappelle is “100 per cent right”. She went on to explain that for her, the controversy isn’t about the “LGBTQ movement” but really about “woke cancel culture run amok, trying to silence free speech”.
“We must never yield or bow to those who wish to stop us from speaking our minds,” Jenner said.
Dave Chappelle is 100% right. This isn’t about the LGBTQ movement. It’s about woke cancel culture run amok, trying to silence free speech.
We must never yield or bow to those who wish to stop us from speaking our minds. pic.twitter.com/Nklalj6h5Y
— Caitlyn Jenner (@Caitlyn_Jenner) October 26, 2021
4. Saying she’ll fight against the teaching of critical race theory
Critical race theory is essentially an academic framework that considers how racism is embedded within legal systems, policies and society rather than just being an issue of individual prejudice. But in June, when Caitlyn Jenner was asked for her thoughts on critical race theory, she declared: “I will do everything to fight critical race theory being taught to our children.”
She added, somewhat confusingly: “This generation coming up is probably the least racist generation, the most open-minded generation in the history of our country, we don’t need to set them back and try to teach them racism.
“So I am totally 100 per cent against [critical race theory].”
5. Caitlyn Jenner upsetting Megan Rapinoe
Megan Rapinoe, the lesbian darling of US soccer and an outspoken trans ally, was unimpressed by Caitlyn Jenner’s statements about it not being “fair” for trans girls to play sports at school.
“You were an exceptional athlete. You’re not an exceptional politician,” Rapinoe said of Jenner on an episode of the Fubo Sports Network show The Cooligans.
6. Complaining about people who are homeless
When she announced her (dramatically unsuccessful) bid to become the governor of California from her private aeroplane hangar, Caitlyn Jenner had already set some people’s hackles on edge. But in an interview with Fox News to promote her political campaign, Jenner managed to go even further – by complaining about homeless people.
“My friends are leaving California,” Jenner said. “My hangar, the guy right across, he was packing up his hangar and I said: ‘Where are you going?’
“And he says: ‘I’m moving to Sedona, Arizona, I can’t take it anymore. I can’t walk down the streets and see the homeless’.” Her comments quickly became a lightning rod for criticism on Twitter, with countless users incensed at how “out of touch” the plane-owning millionaire is.
One in five trans people in the US will be homeless at least once in their lifetime, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.