Caitlyn Jenner was briefly a saint to the left thanks to her global coming out as a woman. When Bruce became Caitlyn the world became just a little more accepting of transgender people and for that she deserves credit. However, many on the left, especially social justice advocates, have snapped back now it’s become clear that Caitlyn shares the same political beliefs as Bruce – and those beliefs are conservative.
Bruce Jenner was a Republican whose views on social issues, including opposing same-sex marriage, are a matter of record. Nonetheless, some were convinced that transitioning to Caitlyn would bring about a radical change in her opinions, essentially an about face on Bruce’s political outlook. Unsurprisingly, that didn’t happen. Jenner is unenthusiastic about gay marriage, falling just short of opposing it, she is a strong supporter of traditional family structures and questions the benefit of social welfare payments. Social justice warriors are frothing with outrage. Jenner is blinded by residual “white male privilege”, she is “failing to connect” with the transgender community, she’s been branded a traitor to the LGBT community.
There is a prevailing attitude among some left liberals that anyone who belongs to a minority should be liberal. How, they ask, could a transgender person be a conservative when conservatives deny transgender rights? How can so many gay men be Republicans (Log Cabin Republicans)? How can poor people vote Tory? Obviously, conservatism is not the hateful monolith many liberals see it as. Conservatives fall on a spectrum, a concept that should be familiar to those supporting LGBT rights. More importantly, the presumption that LGBT people should also be lefties is bizarre and dangerous. Bizarre because you can believe in gay rights and also have conservative ideas on economics and justice; dangerous because it puts pressure on LGBT individuals to conform to a set of principles they may not believe. Applying social pressure to control LGBT people’s political beliefs is eerily reminiscent of campaigns to prevent homosexual “recruitment”.
Public figures are especially vulnerable to this kind of pressure. Take conservative Ken Mehlman, campaign manager for George W. Bush, who led the Bush campaign’s efforts to fight gay marriage back in 2004. Mehlman robbed “his people” of the right to marry, as though he had a responsibility to all other gay people just because he is gay. LGBT people do not have a responsibility to the LGBT community as a matter of course. There is no moral imperative on Mehlman and Jenner to adopt the political agenda of the (majority) of the LGBT community. Claiming that LGBT people must adhere to a certain set of political ideas or be ostracised and reviled is a chilling reminder that intolerance takes many forms.
It’s grotesque that LGBT activists embrace diversity in gender identity and sexuality but condemn those whose politics differ. Brave men and women fought for decades so LGBT identities can be seen as normal and not merely adopted social identities or “lifestyle choices”. By tying up LGBT identities with one type of politics, otherwise well-meaning activists risk turning sexuality and gender into political identities rather than matters of natural inclination.
Caitlyn Jenner is conservative. She has as much right to be conservative as she does to identify as a woman. Her transgender identity does not open her to the demands of others who wish to use her for political purposes, no matter how worthy those purposes are. Jenner will remain conservative, and everyone else should get over it. If nothing else, the backlash against Jenner is a cautionary tale about stereotyping LGBT people and pigeon-holing their beliefs.