Bruce Jenner is not unlike every human being at this very moment all over the world.
Bruce Jenner’s interview with Diane Sawyer on Saturday night attracted the eyes and attention of millions of people all over the world. Bruce shared authentically and openly and vulnerably–sharing personal and intimate details to increase awareness about one person’s experience of being transgender. Since the interview aired, a campaign about donning glitter nail polish to show solidarity for Bruce is going viral at the moment. Before I get to the nails and the concept of solidarity, I wanted to comment on something else.
I watched the interview, taking time to really view it with my own eyes, the eyes of a transgender person. And that’s what stood out to me the most about this interview, more than anything else: their eyes.
Bruce sat there, alternately making eye contact with Diane Sawyer and blinking repeatedly, trying to find words and concepts that currently exist in the English language and culture to “explain it to her”. I noticed Bruce’s eyes filling with tears. I noticed them smiling and trying to brave. I noticed them glance off camera, searching maybe for an escape route because “why doesn’t every person have to go on camera and talk about their sexuality like this?”
Diane struggled to keep up and put Bruce’s communication into boxes and concepts and realms most familiar to her. She wanted to get it, something that is completely foreign and unfathomable to her. And her eyes conveyed her utter confusion as well as a deep desire to understand what Bruce was experiencing.
I wonder why we don’t do that for everyone. Why don’t we bring such openness and curiosity to every person we encounter, regardless of identity, and assume they are complex and dynamic creatures worthy of patience, compassion and unconditional support? Why don’t we show solidarity for what a challenging experience it is to be a human being?
Solidarity means unity. It’s concensus or agreement in thought or action. It happens between and among people in a group with a shared interest.
And if you pay attention to the comments–the hundreds and thousands of comments–on the various message boards and Facebook posts and articles about Bruce Jenner’s coming out, you see that solidarity is quite rare among the human race. In particular, it’s extremely uncommon in the LGBTQ communities, where comments of criticism and Jenner-bashing are counted equally among those of love and support. Bruce shouldn’t speak because he’s white. Bruce shouldn’t speak because he’s rich. Bruce shouldn’t thrive because of WHO HE IS at this point in his life.
This is called internalized oppression and it happens among persons who have been made to feel less than by others with more power. What do you do when you feel powerless? You take it from others in any way you can, even if it means taking the voice of someone who seemingly has everything but may feel just as lonely, vulnerable and bereft. It’s a cycle of suffering that limits the capacity of many LGBTQ individuals. It limits all beings who experience it.
It’s true that Bruce Jenner deserves love and support for striving to love and honor the body and identity that is coming into this person’s awareness. But Bruce is not unlike every human being at this very moment all over the world. Bruce deserves a viral campaign about people painting their nails in a show of support. And everyone deserves that, or whatever else they need, each and every day.
Perhaps Bruce is doing more than educating the world about what it means to be transgender, because many people have tried and failed and tried again to explain it in ways cisgender people can ever really understand or accept. Bruce’s contribution is significant, though, because it is Bruce’s unique story. Perhaps that story and interview brings something else to light, in particular how little transgender people agree on what it means to be transgender and how to be healthy and happy in communities that compete for time, energy and resources.
Perhaps Bruce’s story bring into relief how every human being struggles to be authentic and vulnerable, and that it is not something only LGBTQ people encounter. And perhaps Bruce’s story and subsequent solidarity campaign about nail polish can be a message about how we all need solidarity for the human experience. We all need support from each other to be our imperfect selves, because we are all struggling and scared and wanting acceptance. We all need people to say our desire for glitter nail polish, or whatever our version of that is, makes us valid and beautiful and precious. Hashtag #glitteryhumanbeing