The ACLU sounds like it might involve something remotely related to freedom.
It has the word “Liberties” right there in its acronym.
But when it comes to what we can and can’t say about Caitlyn Jenner, Bruce Jenner‘s ever changing female self, the ACLU has a really suffocating, preachy refrain.
In a directive by the organization’s staff attorney Chase Strangio (I’m going to try to refrain from making jokes about his weird last name, but I’m not going to try that hard and won’t be held responsible for any that slip out before the end of this story), we learn what is and is not acceptable regarding Caitlyn Jenner.
Strangio says we must call her Caitlyn. Fine. Caitlyn it is.
The freedom loving ACLU lawyer says calling Jenner by his birth name would be an “act of hatred.” He says it is indisputable — this notion that calling one by his birth name in the trans world is the equivalent of promoting brutally violent acts on that person.
Bizarrely, Strangio says from here on out we must not refer to what “her name” used to be or what sex she was “assigned” at birth. Assigned… by the universe? His fairy godmother? By the doctor in the delivery room who pulled him out of your mother’s womb?
“When we write about Caitlyn Jenner, her name and narrative will give enough context. There is no need to mention what her name used to be or what sex she was assigned at birth. And as writer and activist Janet Mock brilliantly explained to Piers Morgan, neither Janet nor Caitlyn were ‘born boys.’ They were born babies and they are women — brave and fabulous women.”
There was nothing “brilliant” about Janet Mock‘s post-show online ridicule of then-CNN’s Piers Morgan for asking questions most any journalist would have. She came on his show to promote a memoir about her life — a memoir that wouldn’t have been a memoir without her being born a boy and later becoming a woman.
Strangio may want to think about a couple of things as he’s busy inflicting rules on everyone around him. He might also steer clear of any party where people are actually trying to have a good time.
As my colleague, Education Editor Eric Owens, explained it, “Physical reality is not altered because Bruce Jenner changes his hairstyle, stuffs jelly bags in his torso and wears women’s clothes. Language mirrors physical reality. Physical reality does not mirror language.
“For example, being on ‘welfare’ or ‘food stamps’ is widely seen as a negative thing to be avoided. This is in spite of the fact that neither ‘welfare,’ nor ‘food,’ nor ‘stamps’ are negatively connoted words. The word follows the thing itself.
“I am sorry to get all philosophical. But this is why we see the ACLU guy, the WaPo lady and various other self-proclaimed instructors resorting to insisting that people must speak in a certain way if they wish to be favored. There is no logic at issue. It’s rank intimidation. There really is something at stake here beyond annoyance with assholes.”
Strangely, Strangio writes that no matter how “brave” and “fabulous” Caitlyn Jenner is — and we better damn well all think she‘s brave and fabulous, right? — we must make sure to note that Bruce’s 10-hour facial feminization operation is not the norm. After all, most trans people don’t have the money it takes for Caitlyn to resemble a member of the Kardashian clan.
So then here’s a real head scratcher: Calling Jenner “fabulous” without deep introspection also flies in the ointment of his rules. By Strangio’s reasoning, we cannot call her that since Caitlyn has reached a level of gorgeousness few regular transgenders can attain.
“We must not exclaim that Caitlyn looks ‘fabulous’ without interrogating our standards for which trans people get to grace the covers of magazines and all the while continuing to keep the health care that brings life to trans people out of reach.”
But if we are to follow Strangio’s stringent rules, we are not even allowed to mention what Caitlyn used to be.
So “highlighting” that his facial feminization surgery isn’t typical or accessible to every man who thinks he’s always been a woman in his soul, as Bruce announced in his interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer, kind of annihilates that rule.
That Caitlyn appears to be as beautiful as actress Jessica Lange might allude to the fact that Caitlyn used to be Bruce — which is a big, fat negative in Strangio’s life rulebook.