MONDAY, JUNE 22, 2015|
Posted by: April Siese
It was only a matter of time before the grand reveal of Vanity Fair's July cover debuting Caitlyn Jenner attracted the many multi-faceted reactions of the music industry. Those already vociferous in the LGBTQ community were vocal once more in their support of a woman who is excited to share herself with the world. Lady Gaga, Lance Bass, Miley Cyrus, and Frank Ocean all took to various social media to applaud Jenner. Azealia Banks compared the photos from Jenner's elegant shoot with the legendary Annie Leibovitz to Jessica Lange. Lange took the whole thing as a compliment. The many congratulatory messages were almost enough to overshadow a pervasive and misguided negativity that has infected the pop culture world at large, playing out on a shockingly grand scale after former kid actor, now musician Drake Bell insisted he'd call Jenner "Bruce," referring to her former identity.
Bell eventually backtracked and offered up a weak mea culpa by explaining he'd worried Jenner would forget her Olympic legacy. How it's possible to embrace your true self and cast off something as momentous as winning two gold medals in the most grueling of events, the decathlon, has yet to be fully explained to me. Then again, to many, it's hard to imagine calling a person by any other name than the one you'd grown accustomed to. Timbaland took to Facebook to post a quick meme truly the best way to approach serious issues that echoed Bell's statement. "His momma named him Bruce, Imma call him Bruce [sic]" it reads above and below a still from the Eddie Murphy classic Coming to America, which Timbaland says he found funny. His weak explanation was that the meme has nothing to do with how he actually feels about Jenner, though Timbaland failed to clarify whether he supports her or not.
In her short-lived advice column for Noisey, Against Me!'s Laura Jane Grace tackled the same subject of addressing someone who is trans by the proper pronouns and names. Grace likens the sheer disrespect of being overly addressed by gender as psychically draining. Though generally patient, she says the matter of pronouns does make for a fantastic "litmus test letting you know who is worthwhile in your life and who isn't." The Bells and the Timbalands of the world who lack the courage to own up to mistakes or truly make an effort to understand their own transphobia feel like the exact inverse of Jenner's proud announcement, owning up to every thought, feeling, and consideration as she embarks on this major physiological and emotional journey. Bell went so far as to delete his incriminating tweet before offering his feeble rationale, rather than opening up a dialog to those having trouble understanding just what is going on with one of the world's greatest athletes. "I don't expect everyone to automatically know my name and what pronouns I want used," Grace explains to a plaintive reader. "There will be an adjustment period. That doesn't mean they aren't trying. But you and I can both tell the difference between someone trying and making a mistake and someone disregarding how you feel and not giving a damn."
Lower Dens' Jana Hunter, who identifies as genderfluid, explains that even crossing that bridge of labeling is its own difficult path. Hunter's essay on the music industry's misogyny lobbed at her despite the genderfluid designation points to a glacial societal change in attitudes, to say nothing of the supposedly liberal world of entertainment. From not being heard to only being seen for physical attributes rather than musical acumen, it's as if Hunter is fighting a passive battle with the most mana-draining of psychic monsters slowly slicing into her core when she least expects it. Even mainstream media's applauding of Jenner's revelation points to those same sexist attitudes that diminish women to little more than a kitschy "you go girl!" and a creeping, dismissive eye towards aesthetics over substance. While Vanity Fair's July issue has yet to hit newstands [Ed. Note: It has since been released since this post was written], it's my deepest hope that those supporting Jenner pass the magazine's profile to someone still trying to wrap their head around what it must feel like to live trapped in an inescapable other of a physical form for the majority of their existence before taking the steps towards self-actualization and happiness. If anyone's got Bell and Timbaland's address, I'd send them the magazine myself.