One of the fiercest demands of transgender ideology is that post-transition, a person’s former life and experiences are not to be mentioned. To say the birth name of the person out loud is to utter a terrible blasphemy, the cardinal sin of “deadnaming.” So, too, with pronouns and “misgendering.” Instead, we are supposed to suspend our disbelief and accept that people were always as they are now, the sex with which they identify. This is no small task.
Consider this. Back when Caitlyn Jenner was Bruce Jenner, he was a world-class athlete. He began his athletic career in high school in Connecticut, where he was the East Coast all-over champion in 1966, 1969, and 1971. He won a football scholarship to Graceland College in Iowa, before switching to basketball and track. In 1976, he won the decathlon gold medal at the Olympic Games in Montreal. He worked as a TV sports commentator, a lecturer, and a book author. It would be fair to say that Bruce Jenner — when he was Bruce Jenner, known as a “he” — knew a fair bit about the advantages and capabilities of male bodies in sports.
But when Bruce Jenner became Caitlyn Jenner, Bruce Jenner died (so to speak). And all of Bruce Jenner’s impressive athletic achievements were refashioned in the fabric of time and space, to be referred to retroactively by journalists as if they were achieved by Caitlyn. Caitlyn — a trans woman — who just happened to compete and win in the men’s category. This was necessary since, when Bruce became Caitlyn, “he” became “she,” and Caitlyn became a revered cultural authority on what it is to be a transgender woman.
In 2015, after “coming out as trans” (as they say), Glamour magazine heralded the star athlete and father of six as the “Woman of the Year.” Vanity Fair ran a cover of the post-transition 66-year-old in a white push-up-bra body piece, legs crossed over, lips pouting, and looking windswept and alluring. A Barbie doll, in other words — and the most stereotypical display of female sexuality in the book. For progressives, Jenner the trans woman was a real woman and therefore a prized darling of their cause. Until that is, these two worlds — sports and trans, male and female — spectacularly collided.
On Saturday, an interviewer for TMZ asked Jenner about female-identifying transgender persons — males — competing in girls’ and women’s sports. Jenner replied, “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.” As you can imagine, this upset LGBTQ activists. But in the face of such backlash, Jenner only doubled down, writing in a tweet: “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.”
In one sense, Jenner’s remarks, and, moreover, the reaction to them, is the latest illustration of how transgenderism has become a stark fault line in American politics. Jenner is a Republican and earlier this month announced plans to challenge Democratic governor Gavin Newsom in Californian’s upcoming gubernatorial-recall election.
While many conservative states have taken a bold stand against the transgender-sports policy agenda, for instance by introducing legislation that upholds sex-exclusive sports, others have preferred to capitulate, putting business interests before fairness for female athletes. Various Republicans, including the governors of South and North Dakota, as well as Florida legislators, have been far too squeamish about the transgender-sports issue.
The fact that Jenner refers to transgender-identifying females as “biological boys” suggests that Jenner’s conceptualization of transsexualism is of the old-school variety. Jenner’s claim to femaleness is metaphysical, not material. Jenner acknowledges that, despite looking like a Barbie doll, a transgender woman is still — biologically — a man.
Jenner’s intervention brings further shame on those Republican leaders who, in pursuit of reputational and monetary self-interest, have ignored material reality (and all that means for women and girls) and instead sided with the activist Left. But it also poses a serious problem for transgender activists themselves. Jenner is not any old Republican, but arguably the most prominent transgender-identified American in public life.
The anti-science progressives have been pushing the narrative that it’s only nasty bigots who are opposed to including trans females in girls’ and women’s athletics; in Caitlyn Jenner, they have encountered a stubborn falsification of their hypothesis.
It’s a fascinating spectacle. Who created this curious and colorful force to be reckoned with — Caitlyn Jenner? Republicans or Democrats? Hard to say. Without getting too hopeful, it’s just possible that Jenner may be the wrecking ball that puts both sides to shame.