My feet felt heavier with each step I took toward her. My heart beat rhythmically against my chest as I drew closer to where she was holding court. I came from behind Caitlyn Jenner so that I could face her directly. The trans community had already seen enough of her back; it was time she faced repercussions for her egregious betrayal.
This wasn’t like all of our other encounters. There was no laughter, jovial jaw-jacking or posing for photos as camera bulbs flashed incessantly.
Caitlyn leaned in to hug me once she recognized me. I immediately leaned away from her, because I hadn’t recognized her since the presidential election.
The goal was to have a calm conversation, but when we locked eyes, nothing but reprimands and pointed profanity escaped me. Initially I was somewhat embarrassed because I imagined I must have looked like a mad woman, but the spirit of truth propelled me. I wasn’t insane; I was insulted. Not only had Caitlyn sold the trans community out faster than Kylie’s lip kits, but she never acknowledged it or apologized.
The trans community was nothing but kind, patient and compassionate with Caitlyn Jenner, despite her incapacity to reciprocate. So it was time to press pause on the respectability politics and speak up for those who didn’t have access to her as I did.
As I went down the list of harmful things Caitlyn did and the impact her actions had on the trans community, she condescendingly studied me. She pursed her lips as if she were having a reaction to bad caviar and bad collagen at the same time. She continued to look on silently.
Exhausted and emotionally drained, I stared back, waiting for a response. The eyes are the window to a person’s soul. I’d hoped that the hurt, pain and fear in my eyes from living under Trump’s new world order would convey what I couldn’t quite articulate with words.
After dismissively asking if I were finished, Caitlyn retorted, “You … don’t … know me.” Her response was completely on-brand, as she’s done nothing but center herself since she transitioned. It’s always been about the community getting to know Caitlyn instead of her getting to know those who live on the margins of society — not a mansion in Malibu.
For many trans people, we’re all we’ve got. Community is synonymous with family. But Caitlyn Jenner doesn’t know the difference between a family and a fan base. Her celebrity is of no interest to most of us. While she was keeping up with the Kardashians, we were at Transgender Day of Remembrance keeping up with the trans death toll and fighting to stay alive. Caitlyn’s been positioning herself as this “heroine to the hopeless” — cashing in on book deals, appearances and TV shows — as we continue fading away in the backdrop.
Caitlyn Jenner was one of the biggest fraudsters of 2017. The trans community was nothing more than a prop intended to help her relive her glory days on the Wheaties box. We were hoping she’d bring us out of despair, but instead she was chasing after the cover of Vanity Fair.
When we began opposing her shameless exploitation of the trans community for camera cred, she targeted the nonprofits many of us rely on and started pushing her way into our safe spaces with her pocketbook. She used her $25,000 donations (tax shelter money) as press opportunities and even went so far as to honor herself through her own foundation at a recent gala. Over 2,300 of us petitioned against her and had the award rescinded.
When Caitlyn Jenner said I didn’t know her, she was absolutely right. In fact, none of us do— and we probably never will.
Getting to know us means meeting us halfway, not expecting the trans community to do all the work as her social valet. Caitlyn can’t be bothered with the murders of trans people, homelessness, employment discrimination, mass incarceration, trans military bans, attacks against trans children, suicide, HIV/AIDS or the shortage of trans data because she’s too busy searching for another gold medal.
She spent all of 2017 campaigning to “Make Caitlyn Great Again.” That wouldn’t have been a bad thing had Caitlyn Jenner not done it at the trans community’s expense, in exchange for tax credits, bathroom privileges at Trump tower and a friend request from 45 himself.
Ashlee Marie Preston is an activist, writer and media personality. She hosts Shook with Ashlee Marie Preston, a weekly podcast on iTunes, Revry and SoundCloud. Ashlee Marie was named one of The Root 100’s Most Influential African-Americans of 2017 and was featured in PopSugar and Logo/NewNowNext’s top 40 LGBTQs of 2017.
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