SAN DIEGO – With the tale of Caitlyn Jenner – the television personality and Olympic athlete formally known as “Bruce” – you have to take the good with the bad.
It’s good that someone who says she spent her entire life living a lie and keeping secrets is finally free to be herself, and that anyone else who feels the same way might take comfort and gain inspiration from the example.
It’s bad that some reacted in ways that could be termed sophomoric if not for the fact that some of what has been said would insult the intelligence of sophomores. Rapper Snoop Dogg referred to “that science project Bruce Jenner.”
Of course, not everyone who undergoes a gender transformation has the soft landing provided by money and fame, where you’re praised as a “hero” and you dive into a pile of cash with a magazine cover, reality show, possible book deal, higher speaking fees, product endorsements, etc. More often, it means chronic unemployment, shunning by family, difficulty making friends, even an increased likelihood of suicide.
After winning the gold medal in the decathlon in Montreal in 1976, Jenner landed on a Wheaties box and made millions of dollars by dabbling in acting, hitting the speaking circuit, filming commercials and starting various businesses all before marrying into the media-starved Kardashian family that is half carnival act, half ATM.
That chapter of Jenner’s life couldn’t have been healthy. Through their reality show, tabloid fodder and endorsement deals, the first family of reality TV has proved that fame can be as corrupting as money or power.
The Kardashians have all three. The E! network recently renewed its deal for “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” paying the family a reported $100 million for five more years.
Clearly, it’s no one’s business if someone wants to transition from one gender to another, except that Jenner – by giving an interview to ABC News’ Diane Sawyer and posing for a 22-page cover story and photo spread in Vanity Fair – seems determined to make it everyone’s business.
And in our “look at me” culture, this is good for the bottom line. Jenner will soon have an eight-part docu-series of her own. “I Am Cait” will premiere on E! on July 26.
When it comes to attention-grabbing and self-adoration, it’s not easy keeping up with the Kardashians. But Jenner seems determined to give it a try.
“I’m so happy after such a long struggle to be living my true self. Welcome to the world Caitlyn. Can’t wait for you to get to know her/me,” Jenner tweeted from a new Twitter account after the Vanity Fair cover was released. Her account rocketed from zero to 1 million followers with such speed that it became part of the Guinness Book of World Records.
To mark the occasion, she tweeted: “Another Jenner world record, and at 65? Who’da thought! Humbled & honored to have reached 1M followers in 4 hrs. Thank you for your support.”
Humbled? Really? Is that word even in the vocabulary of anyone connected to the Kardashians? None of what Jenner has done, or how he’s reacting to having done it, seems driven by humility.
Pre-Caitlyn, Jenner was worth about $100 million. Marketing experts have estimated that, when all future opportunities have been explored, she could be worth as much as $500 million in a few more years.
“I’m not doing it for money. I’m doing it to help my soul and help other people,” Jenner told Vanity Fair. “If I can make a dollar, I certainly am not stupid. [I have] house payments and that kind of stuff. I will never make an excuse for something like that. Yeah, this is a business.”
No, Jenner is certainly not stupid. However, she does seem much more attractive on the outside than on the inside. Apparently, one is easier to change than the other.
Some think that transgenderism is a “mental disorder” that should be treated. I don’t believe that. You know what is a mental disorder? Narcissism. The stricken worship at the altar of Me, Myself, and I.
Bruce suffered from it. After the worldwide notoriety he experienced as an Olympic champion, he went on to fail at three marriages and essentially abandon his four oldest children for many years.
Going forward, Jenner would do well to avoid that kind of self-centeredness. She’s not off to a very good start.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.