Why has Caitlyn Jenner been chosen to speak about 'diversity' in parliament? She doesn't represent transgender people

No cisgender person who supported Trump would ever be asked to do the same

Kaan K
Friday 04 May 2018 17:02 BST

It’s both ironic and disappointing that Caitlyn Jenner has been chosen to deliver a speech about diversity next week. There are so many people, transgender and cisgender, who would have been a far better choice than her. And after the previous two years saw Riz Ahmed and Idris Elba take to the mic, the choice to platform Jenner seems a massive step backwards on a concept that was really great up until this point.

I get what the organisers, Channel 4, must have been thinking when they chose Caitlyn Jenner: wouldn’t it be great to ask a trans person to make this speech? After all, trans rights have seen an increased wave of attention these past few years, with controversy around the Gender Recognition Act pushing transgender campaigners, and many who are against trans rights, into the media spotlight.

Just this week, 300 women resigned from Labour over the decision to recognise that it was important to be inclusive of trans women on all-women shortlists. A few days later, a transgender woman was raped in a men’s prison, and branded the prison system “discriminatory and dangerous” for transgender prisoners.

Ricky Gervais jokes about Caitlyn Jenner at the Golden Globes

It’s safe to say that trans rights are still very much to be fought for, and the few that we do have are under threat. As someone who is non-binary, and identifies as trans, I see this every day in every interaction that I make.

But while I applaud Channel 4 for choosing to give such an important platform to a trans woman (knowing that it will receive backlash for doing so), I can’t help but ask: of the hundreds of thousands of trans people they could have chosen from, why Caitlyn Jenner?

Far from a champion of diversity, Jenner is a republican and has for a long time been a vocal Trump supporter. She voted for him in the US election, and famously said she believed he “would be very good for women’s rights”, even after the string of sexual abuse allegations that were made against him. Despite criticising Trump for his trans rights record, she was seen a month later wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat – signalling not only that she still supports the US president, but that she also stands by all the nationalistic baggage that hat represents.

I’m not disputing that giving a platform to “diverse” people is important, but it’s essential that we look at the reasons why it’s important – to champion people’s rights and to better represent communities. That issue of representation is what’s key here – because I know I speak for many trans people when I say that Caitlyn Jenner does not represent us.

Giving someone a platform to speak on behalf of their “diverse” community is of course a matter of identity – it’s very important that a transgender person is chosen to speak about trans rights. But identity is not everything – you have to look to people’s opinions, personalities, politics, otherwise they just become a box that’s ticked. Otherwise they just become tokens.

I have no doubt that Jenner is on that stage not because of her progressive opinions and championing of rights, but solely because she’s transgender and for no other reason. And that’s the problem.

What respect and diversity demands is that we as trans people are heard for our opinions, and judged for our opinions, not seen solely as trans and not recognised beyond that identity. That is what has happened with Caitlyn Jenner, because she is no diversity champion. And while no one person can represent an entire community, there are hundreds of trans people – activists, artists, just everyday people – who could have represented us better than her.

I say this because at the heart of our community lies fairness, equality, respect for all people. I’m not disputing that Jenner should support Trump, although I think it’s very weird and wrong of her. But she’s entitled to her opinion just like anyone. All I’m saying is that no cis person who supported Trump would ever be asked to go before the British parliament to talk about “diversity”. Trump by his nature is anti LGBTQ+ rights, anti-immigrant, anti-disability, anti-women…the list goes on.

Don’t mock those groups by putting a Trump supporter onstage to “represent” us. Many LGBTQ+ people openly dislike Caitlyn Jenner, and she is no spokesperson for diverse communities. Channel 4 ought to stop tokenising her and give that platform to someone who champions the rights of minorities instead.

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