Caitlyn Jenner: A Lesson of Compassion and Tolerance

Caitlyn Jenner - SAVOIR FAIRE by enrilemoine
Photo: Annie Leibovits

When my 12-year old son Tomás Eugenio got home from school, he was surprised to find me in front of my laptop, eyes welling up with tears. He asked me what had happened, and I told him that, finally, Bruce Jenner had come out as a woman. I told him that mine were tears of joy. We spoke about the winds of change finally blowing through our country. I told him about how Bruce would now go by Caitlyn Jenner, and how good she looked on the cover of Vanity Fair that will come out on June 9th; shot by Annie Leibovitz, no less. Tomás smiled and we high-fived, our fingers interlocked in a sign of approval.

I didn’t tell him this, but when he found me crying, my tears also fell for the woman trapped in a man’s body, the little girl who could only wear her mother’s dresses at home, in secret. To think that her own inner-struggle was so arduous that it took her all the way to the Olympics, where she won the 1976 decathlon gold medal in Montreal. “One of the boys,” and trying so hard to bury the most essential part of her being with what was, ultimately, the ultimate masculine triumph.

It’s exactly because of her status as a former superstar athlete that my sons and I have followed her case so closely. As the mom of two boys, Bruce coming out as Caitlyn was a once in a lifetime opportunity to show my boys three values that I consider fundamental to their growth as young men who I hope become independent and responsible adults: compassion, respect, and tolerance.
I remembered after the fact Diane Sawyer’s interview with Jenner back in April, where she opened up about her life as a transgender person in the closet. My 13  year-old and oldest boy, Andrés Ignacio, bluntly said that “it takes balls” to do what Jenner did. Despite there being nothing but admiration and respect in his commentary, his younger brother rightfully called him out for his sexist comment. Then we started joking about “it taking ovaries,” but we concluded that the issue at hand was so much more than what genitals someone is born with.
What this is about is respect for all people. Every single human being deserves to be respected no matter the color of their skin, where they come from, what they believe, who they vote for, who they love, or what gender they are assigned at birth. And I think if Bruce was the hero who won the Olympic decathlon in 1976, 39 years later Caitlyn is the heroine who is giving a voice to a minority that now not only is heard but also, and especially, is being listened to with respect.

I celebrate that Caitlyn Jenner is finally free to be what she always was and wanted to be. I also celebrate that such influential media as Vanity Fair and ABC have served as a platform for her to  be heard. Above all, I want to thank Caitlyn Jenner for putting the struggle of transgender people on the forefront of the conversation. By doing so, she’s made clear how wrong transphobia is, and she’s taught the world a lesson of compassion, tolerance, and, above all, respect for others. 
I’ve been waiting a while to write about this issue because I did not want to mince words or say something that could be taken the wrong way. I don’t know if it’s her celebrity status, unfiltered vulnerability, her honesty or a combination of the three, but because of Caitlyn Jenner, the winds of change are whipping in the right direction.

I think that for the first time, we’re seeing her as she is. Not as a former athlete past his prime, not as the stepfather of the Kardashians, or the father of the Jenners. We’re talking about a human being: a woman who lived trapped for years in the wrong body, who had to lie to herself,  her loved ones, and the entire world and who, after 65 years, is free to be exactly who she is and wants to be.

Welcome to the world, Caitlyn. Thank you for your courage and God bless America, the land of the free and home of the brave.

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