Congratulations, everyone! We did it! Anti-LGBTQ+ bias is over and done now that Caitlyn Jenner is running to be California’s next governor! If we’ve learned anything from these past four years, it’s that putting a completely unqualified ego-maniac in charge of things is a great idea. Great, great. Nicely done everyone.
I’m kidding. Not about Caitlyn Jenner running for governor. I wish that was a joke. Or, I mean, it is a joke. But not a “ha ha” joke. A “that’s pathetic” joke.
There is currently a Republican effort to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom because he was too mean to COVID-19, daring to enact restrictions to stop its spread. HASN’T HE EVER HEARD OF FREEDOM? Doesn’t a deadly virus deserve freedom, too? So, perhaps Jenner is hoping to capitalize on that.
Look, I’m all for women getting elected to the highest levels of government. And I’m all for trans women holding these positions! We need more transgender people making policy because the current wave of anti-trans bills flooding the nation is heinous.
But Caitlyn Jenner is not the one, thank you.
And I’m reminded of the many people who said things like, “I’m all for a woman being President, but not this woman” when talking about Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, etc. The difference, of course, is that all of those women were — and still are — imminently qualified to hold the position, which laid bare the sexism behind the “not this woman” argument that rejects women candidates.
But Jenner is not qualified. At all.
You don’t have to take my word for it. On April 23, transgender activist Charlotte Clymer tweeted in response to the announcement, “Caitlyn Jenner is a deeply unqualified hack who doesn’t care about anyone but herself. Her views are terrible. She is a horrible candidate.”
Clymer also points out the wrong response to Jenner’s announcement: “Misgendering Caitlyn Jenner because you think transphobia is OK.”
And that’s part of what’s tricky about Jenner. On the one hand, she’s transgender and on the receiving end of a lot of anti-trans hate.
On the other hand, as a Republican, she’s historically supported a political and social structure that has inequity at its core and has benefited from it.
Jenner supported Donald Trump in 2016, for example. She said that he’d be “very good for women’s issues,” even.
After Trump’s push for anti-trans policies, she claimed to no longer support him, but then was photographed out and about wearing a red MAGA hat, claiming that she’d just grabbed the first hat that was handy while she ran out to run errands.
Uh, sure. I have no doubt that a celebrity who knows that every single public second of her life will be photographed “accidentally” wore a hat celebrating fascism.
Then there’s the “Big Tent Party” argument: the Republican Party needs LGBTQ+ people on the inside in order to change the party for the better.
Keep in mind that the Republicans have only gotten more anti-LGBTQ+ over time. They are not shifting away from hate — they are embracing it more openly than ever.
As Abigail Covington pointed out in Esquire, Jenner is also a useful symbol for Republicans’ window dressing that helps to obscure their hostility toward transgender people.
“Republicans will cite her campaign as evidence of their lack of transphobia,” Covington writes, “while they draft legislation that bans gender-affirming health care for transgender minors. ‘How can we be transphobic,’ they will claim, ‘when Caitlyn Jenner is running for governor as a Republican?’ It’s the LGBTQ+ version of the ‘America can’t be racist because we elected Obama’ argument.”
And we see how that’s working out! A single president isn’t enough to undo hundreds of years of racism. And a single transgender woman running for governor won’t be a panacea, either.
It’s also worth noting the there isn’t much the Republican party has to offer transgender people. It’s the party of making the rich richer, while most transgender people face significant barriers — including the kind of bigotry the GOP reinforces — to employment and job advancement. It’s the party against everyone having health insurance even during a pandemic. It’s the party that excuses at best, or endorses at worst, misogyny and sexism that makes life even harder for transgender people. It’s the party that is actively working to hurt transgender people every single day through legislation to do things like ban trans athletes and prohibit gender-affirming care for minors.
Not only would Jenner assuming the governorship not help transgender people, it’s more likely to hurt them, something a lot of people understand.
“Make no mistake: we can’t wait to elect a #trans governor of California,” Equality California tweeted. “But @Caitlyn_Jenner spent years telling the #LGBTQ+ community to trust Donald Trump. We saw how that turned out. Now she wants us to trust her? Hard pass.”
There are plenty of transgender women who would be great public servants. But we’ve seen how this reality show goes. We canceled it. We don’t need a reboot.
D’Anne Witkowski is a writer living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBTQ politics for over a decade. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski.