NEW YORK (AP) — Since coming out a year ago, Caitlyn Jenner has not always been a unifying force in the transgender community. Her latest political remarks — underscoring her conservative outlook and praising Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz — ignited a storm of criticism from supporters of transgender rights, who view most conservative Republicans as adversaries.
“Breathtakingly clueless” was the rebuke from blogger Monica Roberts. Tennis great Martina Navratilova and country singer Chely Wright were also among the many people denouncing Jenner.
Yet a more nuanced conversation followed, questioning whether transgender Americans must be monolithic in broadly espousing progressive politics, or whether they can make room for differing views in their ranks.
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said she is grateful there are transgender Republicans and would like to see the issue of transgender rights addressed on a nonpartisan basis. She also said it is inevitable that the ranks of transgender Americans would grow more diverse.
“Trans people need to buckle up,” she said. “With all the folks who will be coming out in the next few years, you’re not going to agree with all of them.”
While Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have voiced strong support for LGBT rights, Cruz and the other Republican contenders have expressed misgivings about same-sex marriage and supported protections for people who oppose it on religious grounds.
Among those wrestling with the fallout of Jenner’s remarks is Jennifer Finney Boylan, a writer and professor at Barnard College. She is a consultant and cast member on Jenner’s reality show, “I am Cait.”
In one episode, Boylan — who has described Cruz as a bigot — became so aggravated with Jenner’s political views that she swatted her with a rolled-up newspaper.
“In terms of equality and dignity, the difference between Republicans and Democrats is night and day,” Boylan said in an interview. “I don’t really get why you’d vote against your own civil rights.”
Yet Boylan remains engaged in the TV series and considers Jenner a friend.
“How is it possible to communicate with people whom we want to smack with a newspaper?” Boylan asked in recent blog post. “The question, for me, is not, will Cait become a liberal? There is no operation for that, alas. But she CAN become someone who listens, who opens her heart, who has compassion. And so can I.”
Jenner sparked the furor with comments in a March 2 article in The Advocate.
“I like Ted Cruz,” Jenner declared, even while describing the Texas senator as “one of the worst ones” in regard to transgender rights.