The Bruce Jenner Debate: Transphobia on the Rise?

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Many years ago when Perez Hilton ruled the blogosphere, he found great pleasure in outing closeted, famous homosexuals in what Salon appropriately called a “gay witch hunt.” Some of those celebrities included Neil Patrick Harris, Lance Bass, and Wentworth Miller. I use their names in this article because they have since been very public about their sexual preference. Perez justified his bully-tactics with a boast about social change, claiming, “I know there is some controversy about outing people, but I also believe the only way we’re gonna have change is with visibility. And if I have to drag some people screaming out of the closet, then I will. I think that lot of celebrities have an archaic fear that being gay will hurt their career but look at Rosie. Look at Ellen.” The mud-slinging sunk his reputation, and Perez has since made very public pleas for forgiveness. For the record, I no longer read his website, and I severely question his sincerity. It’s easy to to express sadness when your source of income has suffered.

Society has made severe social changes since Perez kicked people out of the closet. Gay marriage is now legal in a majority of states, and the United States Supreme Court is about to decide whether same-sex marriage should be legal on a federal level, which will finally put this bigot-brigade to rest and allow us an opportunity to grieve our history in the same way we do about the world before Loving v. Virginia. But despite the aforementioned social change and objective acknowledgement that “outing” is fundamentally dangerous and irresponsible, there’s still one last group we have yet to respect — and that is the transgender community. When In Touch magazine published a doctored photo of Bruce Jenner dressed as a woman, I found it both shocking and reprehensible. In a world where transgender kids are committing suicide daily, you’d think even a tabloid would take things more seriously. Much like the arguments against Perez, these issues are personal, and if the stories about Jenner are accurate, it is his story to tell — and no one else’s. Grappling with gender identity is a serious issue, and the jokes about Jenner only hurt children engaged in an internal struggle with nowhere to turn. We need more people like Laverne Cox, and it’s clear that despite how far we’ve come, we still have a lot to learn about love, respect, and acceptance.

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