JUST SAY NO
Dear Caitlyn Jenner, Don’t Go To President Trump’s Inauguration
Caitlyn Jenner has reportedly accepted an invitation to President Trump’s inauguration. She will be betraying her fellow LGBTs if she actually goes.
Rumor has it that you’ll be attending Donald Trump’s inauguration next week. Or, at least that’s what Us Weekly heard from a source. Your publicist is saying that your attendance cannot be confirmed “at this time” but given your history of accepting Trump’s invitations, I wouldn’t be surprised if you were seriously considering it.
The last time you took Trump on an offer, you used the women’s room in the lobby of his Manhattan tower. That act had a certain sort of subversive value, but attending his inauguration sends the wrong message at a pivotal moment in the history of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. So I’m asking you, one transgender woman to another, not to go.
For the record, I have been one of your staunchest defenders in the press. After your Vanity Fair cover, I called out critics on the right and on the left for trying to put you in a box. When you indicated that you might want to date men and the tabloids promptly lost their minds, I pointed out that a woman dating a man is not exactly a newsworthy arrangement. And when even CBS News circulated the myth that you had decided to “detransition,” I did my best to put a stop to it.
But we’ve reached the point at which a Trump-embracing transgender Republican celebrity is no longer an unusual benchmark of progress. I’m not asking you to turn your back on your political party—if you want to try to change it from within, be my guest—but the inauguration is not a party for women like us.
It should worry you that Breitbart—the same outlet that loudly championed Trump throughout the campaign and landed its former chairman a place in the White House— can’t even bring itself to gender you correctly in its coverage of your inaugural invite. (I wouldn’t recommend reading the comments on that post either, either, unless you want to see the worst anti-trans slurs and transphobic myths swirling together in a primordial ooze of hatred.)
These are the people who got Trump this far and there’s no reason to expect they’ll show you any kindness in return for your tacit display of support.
It should make you nervous that Trump once chastised North Carolina for passing its hateful anti-transgender law HB 2 but quickly changed his tune and said that “states should make the decision” about our bathroom rights instead. Look, I get it. You’ve already changed your birth certificate. So have I. But there are transgender people less privileged than us who can’t even urinate without fearing for their safety.
Trump once seemed like precisely the sort of unorthodox figure who could look at this whole bathroom thing, see through the moralistic bullshit, ignore the myths about bathroom predators, and call a spade a spade. “There have been very few problems” with the way things were before the current bathroom panic, Trump once said and he was right. But Trump isn’t that guy anymore. He sold you out in exchange for people who hate us.
And that’s what should terrify you most: The fact that, if you go to the inauguration, you’d be rubbing shoulders with some of the most virulently anti-LGBT cabinet picks and advisors in recent history. His inevitably right-wing Supreme Court choice could at their worst dismantle marriage equality.
Ben Carson said that being transgender was “the height of absurdity.” Betsy DeVos and her family have donated to Focus on the Family, an organization that sees itself as being locked in a spiritual war with “transgenderism.” Don’t forget our next Vice President Mike Pence supported virulently anti-gay policies as Governor of Indiana, and has already promised a talk radio host that the Trump administration will roll back protections for transgender students. (Transgender youth, as you know, have an already alarming suicide rate and initial research on the subject suggests that being denied bathroom access is significantly related to suicidality.)
These are not people you want to share a cocktail with; these are people who have funded, supported, and sustained attacks on your personhood, and your lesbian, gay, and bisexual fellows.
Go ahead and take private meetings with them after January 20th if you really want to punish yourself. Keep on trying to become the “trans ambassador to the president of the United States” if you’re looking for a Sisyphean task to fill up the next four years of your life. I suspect a Trump White House would only try to transform you into a smiling puppet that they can use as a distraction from anti-LGBT policy, but if and when the proselytizing mood strikes you, then go preach on Pennsylvania Avenue.
But there’s a symbolism to the inauguration in particular that you can’t ignore. You didn’t ask to be the most famous transgender person in the world. But you are. And your attendance strikes an off celebratory note on the eve of a renewed political battle against people like us. State legislatures in Texas and Virginia are readying bills that explicitly go after transgender people. The Supreme Court could soon turn back years-worth of judicial protections for our rights. There will be a time for gowns one day, but now is the time for shirt sleeves.
I’ll leave you with a scene from Trump’s campaign to consider: Last October, he took a rainbow pride flag from one of his supporters and displayed it onstage. It was upside down. Someone had scrawled “LGBTs for Trump” on the yellow stripe. Trump held it up and beamed.
The photographers went wild. For months now, people have cited those photos as proof that I shouldn’t be afraid of a Trump White House—as if a simple publicity stunt were more significant than the stated policy positions of the incoming administration. I can’t count the number of times I have seen those photos sent to LGBT people on social media to mock them for having any trepidations whatsoever about the next four years.
You, too, are a symbol, whether you like it or not. Be you. But don’t be Trump’s rainbow flag.
P.S. If you do decide to go, say hello to Hillary Clinton again. She’s the reason you can get the gender marker on your passport changed. And if you haven’t done that already—you said it was “in the process” last April—you might want to take care of that before the inauguration. The after-party in Washington could very well be the elimination of our already tenuous rights. Just looking out for you.