The cover preview went live this morning. Immediately the link was being shared, reshared, growing the way all good Facebook trees do. Comments of support, admiration, solidarity; comments of derision, hatred, ignorance.
And I wondered, what is it that sets my personal view of Caitlyn Jenner so many worlds apart from the latter?
Why do I see a beautiful human being bravely, and fully, finally living her life? And so many see "a grotesque queer," "a fucked up mental case," "a degenerate"? (Quotes from Facebook comments)
My first reaction was actually a fist pump in the air. Then I excitedly asked one of my daughters if she had seen. I texted another. And another. They all shared the same emotions - joy, love, happiness for another human being.
Absent was condemnation. There was no disgust. Just plain and simple acceptance.
Yet, as I said, I have wondered all day what is it that separates my mindset (and theirs) from the ugly spittle and froth being hockered all over the internet. (I honestly don't understand what these keyboard cowards believe they reap by what they sow.)
Was I raised this way? NO. In that I will be very honest. I was not. Sorry, Mom and Dad, but ours was not a household in which diversity of thought or deed was encouraged, much less accepted. Conformity? Absolutely. Being seen and not heard? Bingo.
Yet here I sit, with three kids of my own, and I do not share the limited views of my childhood, and I certainly have not passed them down to my daughters like a shit stained pair of pants.
So I know it is possible to be steeped in views growing up yet acknowledge them for what they are - complete horseshit - and walk away from them as an adult. Possible, yet it seems like so many choose to stay ignorant, hateful, biased, stewing in their own juices of arrogance and misplaced superiority.
Caitlyn Jenner is not grotesque. Caitlyn Jenner is not a threat to anyone. Caitlyn Jenner is not a fucked up mental case, or a degenerate.
Caitlyn Jenner is a human being. A human being who did not win the genetic lottery that comes so easily to so many - that of having their insides match their outsides. And just because that spot on the spectrum is inhabited by more people, it doesn't negate those who inhabit the spot Caitlyn has. It doesn't make them less, in fact, in my opinion, it makes them more.
More because they have hurdles to go over, a society full of ugliness to fear, and a road laden with emotional potholes of which they must attempt to steer clear. They are more because they suffer, yet still stand. They are more because they know they are viewed as less, yet persevere. They are more because they have to put up with the slings, arrows, anger, humiliation, displacement, religious bullshit, and abandonment so prevalent in the process of giving voice to what they know to be true.
In the preview of the Vanity Fair interview, Caitlyn tells the interviewer, “If I was lying on my deathbed and I had kept this secret and never ever did anything about it, I would be lying there saying, ‘You just blew your entire life. You never dealt with yourself,’ and I don’t want that to happen.”
"You just blew your entire life."
That one line is beautiful, and heartbreaking, and oh so cautionary. And it has stayed with me all day.
How many people do get to their deathbeds and look back on a landscape of obligation, unfulfilled dreams, emotions too scary to have been released, and days wasted deigning to think that they had any right to insert themselves and their hatred into the lives of others?
How many people truly do blow their lives?
When I posted the story link on Facebook earlier today I made it clear that "if you see anything beyond a human being pursuing their essential truth, are clouded by your own willful ignorance or your chosen religious dogma, remove yourself from my list now. Yes, this is my personal line in the sand."
Has my friends list gotten shorter? Well, on any given day I could not tell you how many I have, so I have no idea if people have left. If they have, good. As in good riddance.
This is personal to me. I have friends and loved ones who occupy just about every spot on the spectrum. They are not less, they are more. They are all at various stages of their personal pursuits to live their lives honestly, authentically. To give voice to their emotions, their essential truth.
It takes bravery to do so. Whether gay, trans, or somewhere among the shades of gray - it takes a courage like no other. A courage someone like me - born with a shell that matches my creamy center - cannot fully comprehend. But I do understand enough to know that all they want is what comes so easily packaged for me. The ability to live my truth without fear, to enjoy my days without thought to hiding, to breathe freely as the person I know myself to be.
I have seen many rudely put down the story because "there are so many more important problems in the world" and crassly ask, "why is this even a story?"
Yes, of course the world is full of other issues, but most of us are able to mentally multitask - not forgetting ISIL while appreciating Caitlyn. It's important because she is being an advocate for those just like her. For an entire community which largely goes without voice. The story is impactful because it may, just may, open some eyes, some minds, some hearts. It may lead a person to Google, to read, to learn, to better understand.
Not that your or my understanding is crucial in any way. But neither is our hatred. I do not hate what I may not fully understand. Quite frankly, it is not required that I understand. What is required is that I don't cop some attitude that I have some born in right to dictate who someone else is. I may not understand why someone eats themselves into the hospital like it has a revolving door, but go for it. I don't have to understand. I don't have to understand why someone is having an abortion. Not my intensely personal decision to even begin to insert myself into. I don't have to understand your religion - not my circus, not my monkeys, as the saying goes. But by the same token, I don't get to come into your place of worship and shut it down because it makes no sense to me.
Ask yourself, what is it about YOU that someone else could judge, demean, denigrate, ostracize you for? Your love of NASCAR? Your feet with the second toe much longer than the first toe? Your accent? A face full of zits? A wide bottom? A widow's peak, Male pattern baldness. A small dick. A big dick. Lopsided boobs. Pick anything. We all have something which sets us apart. Now imagine that something, especially a trait that you were born with, is used against you in the most heinous way.
If someone gives voice to the feelings they have inside - that they feel a complete disconnect between who they ARE, and who they appear to be - I do not understand meeting that with anything but love, and compassion, and support.
If it is your child and you do anything besides embrace them and assure them your love is unchanging, you fail. Completely. If your love for your child is that gossamer that it can be torn apart by a cry for help; so dependent upon what other people might think that you disown them; held in such a stranglehold by the tenets of your chosen religion that you cling to your god instead of your child?
You are LESS, not them. You are unworthy of the title of parent.
Human beings are organic life forms, highly complex ones. Our hair comes in many colors, as do our eyes, heights, weights, ailments, and fragilities. Why on earth is it so hard to believe that our complexities extend to our genders, our sexualities?
The answer, of course, is found in the word FEAR. Fear of anything different than the accepted norm. Fear of what you don't understand. Fear is ugly. But just like its equally abhorrent sibling, ignorance, there is a cure. Education. Information. It is far harder to fear something when you have a better grasp of it.
It is just too bad that so many eschew the cure, opting instead for the cancer of hate, derision, and stupidity that fuels them.
Personally, I go with education, information, understanding, acceptance, and love. Because like Caitlyn, I don't want to blow my life.
Welcome to the world, Caitlyn. And thank you for your bravery, your candor, your voice. Now fly, beautiful butterfly, fly.