Bruce Jenner won the Olympic Gold Medal in the decathlon at the 1976 Summer Olympics. He also starred in some made for TV movies and replaced Erik Estrada on CHiPs for a short time. Most people don’t know Jenner for these accomplishments. Instead, many only know him for his connection to the Kardashians. Jenner was married for some 24 years to Kris Jenner.
Following a public and nasty divorce earlier this year in 2015, Jenner came out as transgender. Jenner is currently transitioning from male to female. In a brave move, Jenner spoke with Diane Sawyer on 20/20. The interview was emotional and raw. Jenner bared all for the American public.
In response to Jenner’s interview, conservative pundits, national media, and even Jenner’s own ex-son-in-law Kris Humphries had opinions on the issue of his transition. Humphries tweeted about Jenner, “Man, I’m glad I got out when I did. #Gottadoyou.” The tweet, while tactless and crude, reveals a disturbing trend in American society today.
At its core, Humphries’ tweet stems from the idea that we have some inherent right to comment on what another human being decides to do with his or her body or life. Why do we all feel like we should have an opinion about Jenner’s transition, about anyone’s transition, about a gay marriage or a straight marriage, about a divorce or a reconciliation? Perhaps this is human nature—to need desperately to be heard even when what we are commenting about has nothing to do with us.
After Humphries’ tweet garnered some much deserved negativity, he apologized for his vagueness and added #FullySupportBruce. His apology, while perhaps sincere, does little to remedy the problem. Instead of speaking without thinking and then apologizing, wouldn’t it be better if we all simply let go of things that don’t concern us?
The Jenner transgender interview comes on the heels of the Supreme Court hearing the oral arguments in the gay marriage case. The decision of the Supreme Court could effectively legalize gay marriage in all 50 states. Despite a majority of the American public being for the legalization of gay marriage (58 percent according to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll), conservative politicians and the religious right continue to preach the man-woman model which has proven to be relatively unstable given that the divorce rate is only slowly declining from 50 percent.
The reality is that the American media is far too likely to comment on issues that have absolutely nothing to do with them. The need to have negative attitudes about Jenner’s transgender identification or a loving gay couple’s decision to marry validated is outdated and openly hateful.
By continuing to give attention to people who disparage the rights of individuals to live their lives as they see fit, the media cripple us, forcing us into a cycle of partisanship and hate. Instead of broadcasting people who spout hate about who should or should not be able to wear a dress or have long hair or have a marriage recognized by the government, the media should focus our collective attention on things that will affect our daily lives, like pollution, higher taxes, income inequality, the rising cost of higher education, institutional racism, sexism, rape culture, or a variety of other issues it would take much too long to list here.