Staff editorial: Transgender experiences not to be mocked

Duke Staff

If you google Bruce Jenner, one of the first three suggestions that appears is “Bruce Jenner Woman.” Follow this suggestion on Google images and you will find an array of tabloid mock-ups of the 55-year Olympic gold medalist as a woman.

While Jenner has been in the news recently for a car accident on the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu that left one dead, he is seeing more media coverage due to a speculated gender transition. Though Jenner has not confirmed the rumors of him undergoing procedures, those in his “inner circle” have not denied his intent to become a woman, according to multiple sources.

The news of Jenner changing gender is speculation, as of press time. But what is definite in this situation is the inappropriate and unwarranted treatment of the Keeping Up with the Kardashians star. Regardless of a person’s background or status, a choice as important as gender should never be mocked. Why is it necessary to fabricate photos of Jenner with lipstick and altered facial features?

The intentions of Jenner are not yet known and may not be for some time. But those intentions are not the focus. What makes it “okay” to ridicule Jenner? There is no reason nor excuse to ridicule him whether he becomes female or not. Does being in the constant limelight because of his role in a moderately popular reality television show on Entertainment Network justify mocking his own personal decisions?

Although a different sort of fame, Tom Gabel, lead singer/guitarist in punk band Against Me!, underwent transition procedures in 2012 and became Laura Jane Grace. In Grace’s transition, she was met with a great deal of support by her family, band members and fans. Grace had a life-long feeling of transgender dysphoria, a feeling that one’s biological gender does not match how they feel about their gender, and eventually acting on that feeling.

The reactions that Grace found herself in and Jenner now may be in are by no means the same, but they do share the similarity of one’s choice to change their identity. Only two months removed from the suicide of transgender teen Leelah Alcorn, we find ourselves in a constant conversation about transgender rights. Before the conversation on the rights of those that are transgender can continue, the majority cisgender (or the non-transgender) population must stop ridicule and the acceptance of ridicule of those that consider themselves transgender.

From being on the Wheaties cereal box in 1977 as an olympic hero, to being Photoshopped on tabloid covers in 2015, Bruce Jenner’s image has been negatively impacted by his possible choice. No one deserves that sort of satire. He and the transgender community deserve better than that.