Keeping up with Governor Caitlyn Jenner? The former gold medal Olympian turned motivational speaker turned reality star turned aspiring GOP politician recently announced her bid for Governor of California, as the state gears up for its upcoming recall election slated to take place this fall. Her aspiration to become California’s chief executive comes at a time when waves of anti-trans bills, including those that would limit access to health care among the trans community, are being considered for passage.
Jenner, a lifelong Republican with no background in policy, public health or public office, is already making waves in California and around the nation thanks to her stance on transgender youth sports. In a brief interview with TMZ, she openly opposed transgender girls participating in girl’s sports, even though she is a high-profile member of the LGBTQ community.
“This is a question of fairness,” Jenner told the TMZ reporter. “That’s why I oppose biological boys who are trans competing in girls’ sports in school. It just isn’t fair. And we have to protect girls’ sports in our schools.’
The comments come as a new wave of anti-transgender legislation has swept the U.S., with several bills taking aim specifically at school-age trans girls participating in competitive sports.
However, Jenner, winner of the men's Olympic decathlon in 1976, participated in the women's Pro-Am golf ANA Inspiration tournament in 2016, multiple news sources have pointed out. The tournament is one of the five major championships of professional women's golf hosted at the Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California.
Jenner’s jump into the race also comes as a major effort to recall Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom is underway and gaining steam in the Golden State. It is likely California will face a recall election sometime this fall, giving voters the choice to keep Newsom or pick a new governor. There are at least 10 announced contenders so far, and among them are candidates who have local- and state-level government experience.
Transgender rights and representation
Jenner’s announcement of her bid for governor was not met with much fanfare from LGBTQ activists around the country. And her comments don’t come at a good time for trans rights.
At present, half of states are considering various anti-LGBTQ bills, many of them ban transgender girls participating in girl’s sports. Other anti-LGBTQ bills across state legislatures include prohibiting gender affirming surgeries to transgender youths and “bathroom bills,” which prohibit trans individuals from using the bathroom of the gender with which they identify.
Jenner’s views on youth transgender sports align with other GOP opinions, but she publicly chided former President Donald Trump for revoking Obama-era federal guidelines that allowed trans students to use public school restrooms that aligned with their gender identity. Jenner, who was an avid Trump supporter during his time in office, called the move “a disaster.”
Her flip-flopping on trans rights––she previously supported trans athletes publicly in 2015––has not led to many supporters from LGBTQ activists.
“Make no mistake: we can’t wait to elect a #trans governor of California,” tweeted Equality California, the largest statewide LGBT organization in the U.S. “But @Caitlyn_Jenner spent years telling the #LGBTQ+ community to trust Donald Trump. We saw how that turned out. Now she wants us to trust her? Hard pass.”
Among Trump’s other harmful policies to LGBTQ persons, he banned transgender people from serving in the military, attacked transgender children and attempted to bar transgender people from entering homeless shelters, Equality California stated.
“Californians—and #trans Californians, in particular—understand all too well the risk of electing another reality TV star who cares more about fame and money than civil rights, healthcare and the safety of our communities,” Equality California tweeted.
Jenner’s bid is of course noteworthy because of her status as a transgender woman. 2020 and 2021 are significant milestones for the transgender community in public office, with “Sarah McBride of Maryland became the first openly trans person elected to a state Senate seat and Stephanie Byers of Kansas became the first openly trans Native American elected to a state legislature,” NBC News stated. Rachel Levine, MD, also became the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the Senate when she was affirmed as assistant secretary for health in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Representation for transgender people is highly important as these bills are being considered, as it provides awareness into the reality of trans lives.
However, Jenner’s policy viewpoints could actually be harmful to transgender health, particularly as she aims to align herself with a party pushing legislation to prohibit transgender people from accessing necessary health care. For many voters, representation simply isn’t enough––it needs to be backed with ideals.
Amy Baxter, editor at The Whipp, contributed to this story.