Friday, June 5, 2015

Caitlyn Jenner

All right, I've now seen several variations of "This soldier is a bigger hero than Caitlyn Jenner" or "While you were distracted by Bruce Jenner, this (other story) happened."  Two of the more prominent memes turned out to be based on misunderstandings (see here and here), but the larger sentiment - that Jenner doesn't deserve all this attention while there are real heroes out there - is still going strong.

As if nobody can read more than one article a day, and the entire reason the other stories were under reported is because people were talking about Jenner.  Believe me, if I didn't catch that other story, it wasn't because of Jenner.

There's always going to be a more important story or a bigger hero somewhere.  You can't just go through life saying, "This story isn't important because there's a better one over there."  Do you really want to live in a world where news outlets are only allowed to report one story a day?  Where they have to get together and vote, "Well this this earthquake destroyed more homes than that tsunami, so we won't report the tsunami at all."  

No reporting on the guy who saved a child from a bear, because somewhere overseas a soldier just saved ten people... but no reporting on him either, because a few days ago another soldier saved twenty people.  Fine, we'll track down which soldier has saved the most lives in human history, report the story, and never have another news story again.  No need to watch the news any more, people, it's been reported. 

Besides, the Jenner hoopla isn't all about heroism.  Transgender issues are new and confusing to some people, and they're going to talk about it.  There have been heroic soldiers all throughout history, and not to downplay them in the slightest, but at least people understand them.  I look forward to a day when transpeople are so accepted and understood that they aren't news.  But right now, it's legitimate news.  Yes, there's a lot of other heroes who deserve to have their stories told, and yes it would be great if these soldiers/police officers/firefighters/etc would get the recognition they deserve.  But blaming it on Jenner is ridiculous.

Bottom line:  There is room on my Facebook feed for more than one news story, and more than one hero.  Maybe the Jenner story is getting too much attention, maybe not, but I've still been seeing plenty of other stories in my newsfeed.  And seriously, if you do hear about a hero who isn't getting enough media attention, share their story!  Preferably without making comparisons to Jenner.  Chances are, the hero you're reporting wouldn't want their name being used to put down someone else.

Switching subjects a little... 
I do hope the increased transgender awareness is a good thing, but it still scares me.  I personally don't like being in the spotlight, and the extra attention makes me uncomfortable.  Plain old "gay" has become so mainstream that media can no longer get extra attention from it, so they're starting to make all sorts of TV shows about transgender people.  I hope that it succeeds in normalizing* it; maybe the next generation will be so used to the concept of transgender that they won't go into a murderous panic when someone comes out to them.

But my fear is that heightened awareness will just alert the wolves.  Twenty years ago most people didn't know the word "transgender".  They were aware that some people got sex changes, but it was so rare that the average person didn't believe they'd ever meet one.  Twenty years ago if a bigot saw an unattractive woman go into a women's restroom, they'd probably just think, "She's ugly" and leave it at that.  Not a nice thing to think, but at least they didn't immediately get suspicious about the woman's sex.  The increase in awareness has brought with it an increase in panic, with legislators drafting new bathroom laws and so on.

Overall this media attention is something that has to be done, and I'm not saying we should hold back.  I'm just saying the next few years are going to be scary for me.

* I'm not comfortable with the word "normalizing", though.  Even in a perfect world I don't know if I'd want transgender to be considered normal.  IMO, it's basically a birth defect, so calling it normal is like saying it doesn't need to be fixed.  We give artificial arms and legs to people born without limbs, so the last thing I'd want to tell a transperson is, "Just live with it, you're normal as is."