Caitlyn Jenner and the War on Facts

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As you may have heard, Bruce Jenner—former Olympian, raspy-voiced media showboat, and newly manufactured creature of the Hollywood “No, seriously, no one is ever going to watch this … oh, Great Xenu, they’re actually watching it!” reality TV factory—is now a woman.

He’s not just any woman, of course: “Caitlyn,” as Bruce is now called, is kind of hot, at least with the help of the undoubted layers of Photoshop that support her now-legendary Vanity Fair cover. On paper, her cheekbones glisten. Her bosoms almost levitate. Caitlyn, at least as captured by Annie Leibovitz, is an otherworldly and mysterious creature, particularly when it comes to deciding which pronoun to use when describing her. (“His bosoms almost levitate,” you see, simply does not work.)

Americans of all stripes have showered accolades upon the new Ms. Jenner, all the way up to the White House. “It takes courage to share your story,” Barack Obama’s Organizing for America Twitter account declared; White House fixture Valerie Jarrett echoed this praise. Countless media outlets heralded Jenner’s “bravery”; others thanked his/her “life-affirming” public transformation. Many naïve souls praised Caitlyn’s beauty, which led, somewhat hilariously, to an immediate leftist backlash, with various commentators bemoaning “female objectification” and the oppressive reinforcement of white, upper-class beauty standards. There are certain squares in this cosmic bingo match, friends, where you can’t win.

One can view Caitlyn’s positive, wall-to-wall, quasi-obsessive cultural reception as a welcome sign—an indicator that most Americans, despite our nails-on-the-chalkboard, marathon culture wars, just want to be kind, supportive, and accepting. For most people, this is certainly true. Why should anyone care about someone else’s personal decisions? What difference does it make? These questions, however, are based on the assumption that “live and let live” is a two-way street. Unfortunately, for most hard-core transgender supporters, that’s just not the case: In their world, we all must agree. Because of this, many people are simply too scared to say what they really think.

Caitlyn, of course, is not really a woman. Mr. Jenner has not even shed his essential lower male infrastructure, let alone his pesky, clinging XY chromosomes. In this sense, he’s actually more of a proverbial Gender Centaur, or even a proverbial Gender Mullet, than anything else. This might be uncomfortable, but it is the truth. It certainly doesn’t lessen Jenner’s worth as a human being or as a child of God. Yet, strangely, if you calmly note this simple scientific fact, certain people will get very, very upset. 

Declare that Caitlyn’s not a woman, and within moments, echoing the infamous Monty Python “Spanish Inquisition” skit, transgender enforcers—from various corners of the media, politics, and, increasingly, public schools—will rush in, displaying alarm, surprise, and a fanatical devotion to magical gender fluidity. Caitlyn, we are told, is a woman, because she says so; it is rude, cruel, backwards, and dangerous to think or say otherwise.  After the Vanity Fair cover release, in fact, a Washington Post reporter teamed up with a friend to diligently code a program to automatically reprimand and correct any Twitter user who referred to Caitlyn as a “he.”

This insistent squelching of the freedom of thought, and of simple facts, is remarkable. It’s also remarkably unscientific. But in this sense, the Caitlyn Jenner media adoration explosion becomes illuminating, as it reveals an eternal truth about human beings: We can be incredibly intelligent and incredibly moronic at the exact same time, and are desperate for certainty in an uncertain world. 

On Sunday, the New York Times ran a retrospective on the work of Paul Ehrlich, an acclaimed Stanford biologist who famously predicted mass chaos and apocalypse if world population growth didn’t come to a screeching halt. His now-discredited 1968 book, “The Population Bomb,” caused a panic of sorts, encouraging a wide range of anti-human, anti-growth policies and cultural norms, often spurred Ehrlich’s infamous comparisons of human beings to insects or garbage factories.

It’s striking to watch the earnest past news coverage of the impending “population bomb”—a problem that never came—and compare it to current “climate change” hysteria, together with its many failed predictions for an apocalyptic present. It’s also striking to compare both movements to the panicked line of people knocking each other over to display the “correct” opinion on transgender life, a phenomenon that is still not widely understood.

Even smart and sophisticated people, in short, are subject to crazes, and these mass bouts of hysteria, groupthink—and even outright panic—can leave significant collateral cultural damage in their wake. Let’s all hope that Caitlyn Jenner does well, and that she finds peace. But the reason to care about her story has nothing to do with the fact that it’s a celebrity publicity stunt, an obvious piece of propaganda, or a clever mix of the two.

The past, as ever, is prologue; humans, no matter how much technology, science, and knowledge we acquire, will always be a little crazy. With this in mind, we might want to tread carefully when forcing our ideas upon others. If Caitlyn can teach us that simple lesson, perhaps she’ll have earned her round of applause.

Heather Wilhelm is a writer based in Austin,Texas. Her work can be found at  http://www.heatherwilhelm.com/ and her Twitter handle is @heatherwilhelm.



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