Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re aware that this week, the artist formerly known as Bruce Jenner has unveiled the transition to a woman, and will henceforth be known as Caitlyn Jenner. You’ve also likely seen the photos and comparisons to Jessica Lange and the fact that she’ll be given an award at the ESPYs and so on and so forth. If you haven’t, go ahead and do some Googling. I’ll wait.
All set? Ok then. Before we begin, let me clarify that I have no beef with the transition Caitlyn has gone through. You are 100% allowed to have your own opinion on that, but at the moment, it’s not up for debate here. I will say, that like a lot of other things nowadays, I don’t feel that this needs to be force fed through thousands of media outlets so wherever we turn, we see it. I feel the same about anything reality TV, Kanye West, false news reporting (or Fox News anything, for that matter), the latest celebrity marriage that has failed or anything else that the internet chooses to regurgitate a dozen different ways until the next best story comes along. There are days I just want the world to shut up. I think that the electronic age is a double edged sword, but that’s another post for another time.
Regardless of which side of the fence you stand on regarding LGBT issues, you’ve either seen this story and said “Oh, good for her” or felt the need to go online and voice your strong opposition. I’ve seen some nasty comments in my day, but I’m always surprised at the lack of basic human respect via the Internet. I believe Cher said it best when she sang “words are like weapons, they wound sometimes.”
Back to Caitlyn. People and media are using a lot of terms to describe what she’s gone through: crazy, brave, courageous, beautiful, insane, ridiculous; however, the term that seems to have pretty much everyone in a tizzy is only 4 letters long. H-E-R-O.
You’ve probably seen the posts in your newsfeed on Facebook. They usually show an amputee or soldiers on the battlefield and have some slogan regarding how this person lost a limb or died in battle or fought for their country, and they’re a hero and Bruce/Caitlyn is not.
They’re wrong. Before you hit the “reply” button and tell me that I’m an idiot or unfriend me, let me explain.
The word hero means a lot of things to a lot of people. I’m thinking that unless you’re on an entirely other planet when it comes to respecting people in our Armed Forces, or even civil servants like police officers, firefighters, et al who put it on the line day after day for the safety and security of others, there would be no argument to call them a hero – even when most of them will sheepishly tell you that they’re just regular people doing a job. Trust me: I know a lot of firefighters and military personnel, both current and former. I have yet to hear one of them go around beating their breasts and proclaiming to the world that they feel that they’re better than someone else because of what they do. It just doesn’t happen, but a lot of people still call them heroes and no one has a problem with it. It’s accepted. Sometimes, it’s expected. You may have never had to call upon the services of a police or firefighter, but you will likely not discount them should someone else call them a hero, nor should you.
When someone like Caitlyn Jenner hits the spotlight and the word is used to describe them though, the backlash is almost too much to wade through. Still, I think she deserves it, because she is. Most of the time (and I’m putting my faith in the common sense thinkers of humanity), the word hero is applied to this type of situation, but those using it are not doing so in comparison with someone who is fighting for their life and the lives of others in a completely different setting. When someone goes through something like that and has the courage to be or do something that others actively struggle with to be true to themselves, it is heroic. Perhaps it doesn’t seem so to you because your situation is a complete 180 from what this other person represents. But to others out there, someone like Caitlyn Jenner is a hero. She wasn’t happy with her previous life. She wasn’t happy living in the male gender role. She wanted a change so she made a change. To someone who struggles with a similar issue – she is a hero, and that’s not for anyone to discount. I highly doubt that the person who sees her as such is thinking that she’s better than someone who fights for their country, who saves others or anything else we associate with the word. If they do, then it’s still their right, regardless of what you or I may have to say about it; however I’d like to think it’s not the case.
If that still seems a bit ludicrous to you, think of it this way: have you ever looked at someone in your life who was a role model, be it a family member, friend, someone you work with or just a random person you witnessed doing something cool and said “that person is my hero”? I’m pretty sure most of you have. Personally, I’ve used the term my whole life and no one has ever accused me of being anti-American or whatever label you want to slap on it. When I tell people that I think my Grams was a hero, no one is standing there saying “Did she ever fight in a war? Save someone’s life? Cure a disease? Tutor underprivileged children? No? Then she’s not a hero. Soldiers are heroes. Get it straight.”
See what I mean? At no point while I was uttering those words did I even infer that I was putting her in that category. She’s my hero. Personally, because she made an impact on my life and I hold her in high regard for it.
Regarding the Arthur Ashe award that Caitlyn will receive at the ESPYs: I’m not sure if that was something that was in progress prior to Bruce becoming Caitlyn, but I will agree that the timing is suspicious. I don’t pretend to know what the selection process entails or who lost or if ESPN is trying to make a statement about being LGBT friendly or what, but whatever. You can’t discount that Bruce Jenner wouldn’t have qualified for his machine-likeness back in the day and if it took them this long to give him the award and Caitlyn will now accept, more power to her.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that we all need to exercise a little bit more common sense. I know I’m asking a lot, especially when it comes to the comments sections of 99% of the internet, but flogging someone for truly believing that someone else is their personal hero is a bit of a stretch. If you can just use a bit of thought instead of just hitting the reblog button and screaming “YEAH!!” when the situations aren’t even comparable, then I’ll be proud to say it: you’re MY hero.
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