Jenner, Republicans, and the Rest of Us

The Washington Post observes:

In the four days since Bruce Jenner came out as a woman named Caitlyn, many Americans have celebrated her transformation as a courageous and even heroic act. But among the social conservatives who are a powerful force within the Republican Party, there is a far darker view. To them, the widespread acceptance of Jenner’s evolution from an Olympic gold medalist whose masculinity was enshrined on a Wheaties box to a shapely woman posing suggestively on the cover of Vanity Fair was a reminder that they are losing the culture wars.

As indeed they are. And it matters not that Jenner herself has said she’s a Republican and, on many issues, a conservative.

Here’s the rub:

Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior adviser to Obama, argued that the electorate has evolved so quickly on gay rights in particular that Republicans risk sounding out of touch whenever they talk about these issues.

“Republican reticence and at times intolerance on LGBT issues is a problem for them because they have become a litmus test for young people,” Pfeiffer said. “Even if they’re conservative on other issues, if you break with them on gay or transgender rights, you look like a candidate of the past.”

But Republicans are in a bind: seem backward and intolerant to most younger (and a growing number of older) Americans, or alienate the religious right that votes heavily in GOP primaries, particularly in the South, and dominates the Iowa caucuses. They’re caught in a vice of their own making.

On the subject of Jenner’s transition, noted economist Deirdre McCloskey, herself a transwoman, makes an important point countering the lazy if perhaps politically expedient view that LGB and T are some sort of continuum (they’re not), writing:

How to stay calm? Stop thinking of gender change as being about sex, sex, sex. Stop believing the locker-room theory that gender changers are gay, and gays want to be women. Whom you love is not same thing as who you are. …

Believe me, I would much rather have realized at age 53 that I was gay…than to go through a dozen operations and a lot of funny and terrifying embarrassments.

Bisexuality is on the Kinsey scale from straight to gay/lesbian, but gender identity is distinct from sexual orientation, and we shouldn’t confuse matters further than they already are by the simplistic idea of an LGBT identity.

14 Comments for “Jenner, Republicans, and the Rest of Us”

  1. posted by Mike in Houston on

    Everyone has a sexual orientation AND everyone has a gender identity. How you express those is up to the individual… which is where the rest of the alphabet soup starts to run on…

    (LGBT refers to the social grouping or community of people whose gender identity and sexual orientation are minority populations.)

    Most folks who fall into one of the L,G,B and/or T categories have a basic understanding of the nuances or at least some degree of empathy towards others’ journeys to self-acceptance.

    The religious right, however, reduces all LGBT people to their genitalia and what they do with it… hence trans people are self-mutilating & mentally ill; LGB people are oversexed, disease-ridden, perverts… which makes it kind of hard to have a conversation about shared values and common humanity.

    I keep hoping for a Sista Souldjah moment in the GOP, but sadly I don’t think it’s going to happen.

    • posted by Houndentenor on

      After a couple of weeks of defending the Duggars, Mike Huckabee has obviously been having his campaign scrub all references to that family from his website. There is very clearly a danger to your children, and it’s not Caitlyn Jenner, it’s Josh Duggar and his enabling parents and community. Is this going to be a wake-up moment for the GOP? The far right Christians are a liability and as some of us have been saying for years, they are a lot weirder and more dangerous than they’ve been portrayed in the media.

      • posted by Lori Heine on

        “…[T]hey are a lot weirder and more dangerous than they’ve been portrayed in the media.”

        That is a statement so true, it’s almost like saying that water is wet. 🙂

        The most bizarre conversations I’ve ever had on the subject of sex (always entered into involuntarily on my end) have been with social conservatives.

        Bad religion attracts the mentally ill.

        • posted by Houndentenor on

          I don’t think the public at large is aware of what’s going on inside this sort of hardcore fundamentalist culture. They know Southern Baptists and others who are by modern standards “socially conservative” but this crowd considers those folks too progressive. The amount of child abuse, spousal abuse and other things going on in these communities is astonishing. The Duggars are just the tip of the iceberg.

          • posted by Lori Heine on

            This is a sort of Christianist Sharia. I don’t think it’s at all hyperbolic to point that out.

            Will it ever “creep in” and “take over America?” Of course not. But it is attempting to mainstream itself, by gaining acceptance as “social conservatism” (as in, just like the more-accepted kind) or at any rate, as something benign.

            The dark underbelly has been exposed. That’s why social conservatives ultimately are not likely to put up too much of a fight about the program being taken off the air.

            They need the whole household if they want to get any legislation passed, or hope to intimidate judges and fool the public. But that crazy uncle keeps breaking out of the attic…

          • posted by Houndentenor on

            Agreed. The only reason it’s hyperbolic is that the religious right is not the majority they like to imagine themselves to be, even among Christians who regularly attend church. And their current fall in public opinion, as much as they would like to blame it on liberals, is their own doing. They have always been this mean and nasty but they didn’t always say such mean and nasty things in front of a microphone. Did they really think that attacking a beloved national hero and Olympic champion would win them any favors? It just shows what kind of bubble they live in now. They’ve always talked like this among themselves but now that the saner voices on the right have left the building, this is front and center. That was never the intention of the conservatives who invited them in but that crowd, as Goldwater so long ago predicted, cannot be managed, controlled or expected to compromise. You’ll excuse me the moment of Schadenfreude as we watch the slow-motion implosion. I’m only surprised it took this long.

  2. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    [G]ender identity is distinct from sexual orientation, and we shouldn’t confuse matters further than they already are by the simplistic idea of an LGBT identity.

    I don’t think that “LGBT” constitutes and identity (sexual orientation, as Mike in Houston points out, is distinct from gender identity) so much as a recognition that prejudice is prejudice, and like rain, falls on the “LGB” and “T” alike.

    I’ve heard arguments back and forth over the years about whether the gays and lesbians should separate from bisexuals and/or transsexuals, but the bottom line is that historically the “LGBT movement” has included all groups. I see no reason to change that at this point, particularly, since the issues presented by prejudice (employment discrimination, housing discrimination) are common issues.

  3. posted by Houndentenor on

    Jenner is in an interesting and rather unique position. She’s a long time GOP donor as well as a popular sports figure, at least to those of us 50 and older who remember the 1976 Olympics. This is a rare opportunity for a trans person to have access that few people can get, because that access has to be paid for. (That’s a sad commentary on our current political system but it’s the truth.) I think this is a rare opportunity to at least give Republicans some pause as they celebrate the horrendous slurs being made about trans people by their colleagues.

  4. posted by Tom Jefferson III on

    It may seem a tad silly, but I do believe that “kindness is contagious” or at least kindness can be contagious.

    It is nice to see conservatives — gay and straight — thinking twice about horrendous slurs against transgender people or the desire among (some?) gay conservatives to toss transgender people under the proverbial political bus.

    Yes, sadly one of the rather unpleasant aspects of our political process is the necessity to “buy” access.

    Caitlyn — my spell checker insist that this is an improper spelling — has not only the ‘T.V. friendly’ look (as an athlete) but a long track record of supporting the Republican Party (especially when it comes to writing the checks) and that does make a difference. In this particular cause hopefully it turns out to be a good difference.

    Meanwhile… of the main arguments used to kill a LGBT civil right bill (it would have just in North Dakota was the “bathroom argument”.

    • posted by Mike in Houston on

      Interestingly, some in the GOP continue to fall all over themselves to burnish their anti-LGBT credentials.

      Senate Republicans just rejected extending veterans benefits to married gay couples who live in a non-marriage equality state (like Texas). And while this will hopefully be moot very soon, none of the naysayers used that argument in killing it. Petty… but just the thing for Cruz, Graham, Paul & Rubio to tout in Iowa.

      • posted by clayton on

        I have seen absolutely no indication that the primary voices of the GOP have any intentions of slowing down their anti-LGBT rhetoric–or actions. Huckabee, Jindal, Perry, and Santorum are all promising to resist or work to overturn a pro-equality SCOTUS ruling, while Jeb Bush is sounding increasingly hostile, even if his responses are more muted. If equality comes, I predict all manner of attempted backlash legislation, all proposed by the GOP.

        • posted by Doug on

          ” If equality comes, I predict all manner of attempted backlash legislation, all proposed by the GOP. ”

          I hope they try to one up each other in attacking the LGBT community. Independent voters will flee in droves and probably a fair number of Republicans too.

        • posted by Houndentenor on

          Several, including Walker most recently, seem to be implying they will revive the push for a constitutional amendment if SCOTUS rules for gay marriage. But even then, it seems to be in terms of allowing states to “decide for themselves” and not banning it altogether. That alone is a retreat from 2004. Also, they aren’t addressing it directly (although maybe they will later after the ruling comes down) which is also a far cry from the 2004 front and center push to amend the constitution. Deep down they all have to know that such an amendment has no chance of passing anyway.

  5. posted by Tom Jefferson III on

    Socially conservative voters are still not giving up on the prospect of sending the nation’s laws and attitudes concerning LGBT people back to the 1950s. They still hold great influence in GOP primaries and outside of blue or purple zones, politically speaking, they have enough influence to kill bills and convince people that ‘da gays’ are something out of a B movie.

    If you live in the Midwest and South — outside a few zones — then you are quite familiar with the sway that socially conservatives can have on school boards` city and county government and a fair number of state and federal seats.

    Especially when such people make the mistake of thinking that everyone in ear shot is straight or eager to believe that gays are monsters.

Comments are closed.