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Democracy

You can be against Caitlyn Jenner's run for governor — just don't be transphobic about it

You can be against Caitlyn Jenner's run for governor — just don't be transphobic about it

Former star Olympic athlete and reality TV personality Caitlyn Jenner has officially announced her candidacy for governor of California, in anticipation of a potential recall election of current governor Gavin Newsom.

In a post on Twitter, Jenner wrote, "I'm in! California is worth fighting for," and shared a link to her campaign website.

Jenner is both a long-time Republican and a transgender woman who has described herself as a fiscal conservative and social liberal. She came out as trans in 2015, received considerable backlash from the LGBTQ+ community for supporting President Trump in the 2016 presidential election, and ended up revoking her support over his transgender rights policies in 2018.

"California has been my home for nearly 50 years," she wrote in a press release. "I came here because I knew that anyone, regardless of their background or station in life, could turn their dreams into reality. But for the past decade, we have seen the glimmer of the Golden State reduced by one-party rule that places politics over progress and special interests over people. Sacramento needs an honest leader with a clear vision."


Jenner is the fourth Republican to announce their candidacy, and they all have an uphill climb ahead of them. Despite opponents gathering more signatures than the 1.5 million necessary to initiate a recall election, a recent poll found that 56% of likely voters in California oppose recalling Newsom, and only 40% say they would vote to recall him. In addition, his approval rating hovers around 54%.

Support for Jenner is also a big question mark, as the Republican party isn't exactly known for supporting the rights of the transgender community of which she is a part.

Former-Trump-voter-turned-Biden-supporter David Weismann wrote to Jenner, "I am a former Republican who does not understand your decision to run for Governor, especially as a Republican. Republicans do not acknowledge the transgender community's right to exist. Why support their hateful agenda?"

Transgender activist Charlotte Clymer was more blunt. "Caitlyn Jenner has no real support," she wrote on Twitter. "I don't care about her candidacy. I do care about the ways in which her asinine views will be weaponized against trans people and the ways in which transphobia will go unchecked."

"This is purely a vanity campaign," she added, "and it's incredibly selfish."

Clymer was also quick to point out, however, that Jenner's problematic features are her views and her lack of qualifications, not her gender. Misgendering her or engaging in other transphobic language is not an appropriate response to her candidacy announcement.

If nothing else, Jenner's candidacy offers a good opportunity to talk about how to appropriately discuss transgender people using language that affirms their humanity, even if you can't stand their political stances or personalities.

Also a bit of a head scratcher: Jenner has hired former Trump campaign manager Bard Parscale as an adviser, which would seemingly create a connection between Jenner and Trump, despite Jenner renouncing her support and Trump pivoting further away from supporting transgender rights.

While Jenner is a historic candidate, as a transgender woman running for the governorship of one of the largest states in the country, the majority of responses show that the much-ranted-about concept of "identity politics" is largely overblown. After searching and searching, I found virtually no explicit support for Jenner on social media. She has not garnered the support of the broader LGBTQ+ community (in fact, California's largest LGBTQ+ civil rights organization literally said, "hard pass") and it's difficult to imagine a party that is currently pushing anti-trans legislation in states across the country rallying behind a transgender candidate.

Jenner's candidacy is newsworthy because of her fame and noteworthy because she is transgender, but at this point, simple name recognition probably outweighs both her gender identity and her policies in terms of gaining voters. Time will tell, but if this campaign gets off the ground, it will be a surprise.

Stranger things have happened, though. As recent history has taught us, just about anything at all is possible. But whatever happens, and wherever we sit on the political spectrum, let's keep criticisms of Jenner confined to her political views and not her personhood.

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