Here’s a dispatch from the world of well-meaning publicity stunts that are actually both really stupid and also very offensive: Jose Canseco, radio host and former paramour of Janice Dickinson, will support Caitlyn Jenner’s transition by walking a mile in her shoes and dressing like a woman for a week. What’s Canseco hoping to accomplish? He doesn’t seem to know.
The New York Daily News reports that Canseco will live as Caitlyn Jenner for a week, although what that means for Canseco aside from appearing as a woman in public is unclear. In fact, there wasn’t much that he could tell media outlets about the project (certainly not what he was hoping to get out of it) except that it was happening, it would last at least a week, and that it was not at all a pathetic ploy to weasel the public into paying attention to him, if only for a day or two. Just kidding, he totally didn’t say the last part. You know why? Because Canseco’s taking on the project for his internet show Spend a Day With Jose.
Canseco says he’s got good intentions, though. Like many others, he told NYDN, he didn’t understand Jenner’s transition.
“In the very beginning, I didn’t understand it, so I was kind of like, against it,” said Canseco. “Once I watched it more and more, and realized what it really entailed, what he was going through, I started supporting him.”
Here are some reasons we can immediately call bullshit on Canseco’s disingenuous reasoning:
1. He refers to Caitlyn Jenner as “he” even though it’s been made clear that Jenner goes by “she” and would prefer that people not refer to her as anything else. People who respect her and the transgender community would honor that. Even Siri honors it at this point. Canseco did not.
2. Anyone genuinely trying to understand the transgender community and those who belong to it would have done some preliminary research that would have immediately made it painfully obvious that people who identify as transgender don’t just “dress as women” and that to even imagine that one would understand what being trans is like by only wearing cross-gender clothing and makeup is reductive and insulting. And then to just think “man, that’s a good idea! I’ll put it on the internet!” is just so...so...no.
3. Coming out at transgender is a struggle for many. It took a lifetime for Jenner to not only decide to begin the transition process but also to come out publicly. In a world where transgender individuals are often treated with scorn and derision, that is courage. Canseco believing that he can understand even an iota of that struggle by donning a pair of leggings and wandering around in public to see how people react is once again making trans individuals spectacles instead of respecting them. Why, instead of doing this “project,” did Canseco not send Jenner a nice email expressing his respect? If he truly wanted to show respect for the trans community, why didn’t he at least speak to someone who identifies as trans before doing something like this? Or better yet, if he really wanted to do a segment on the transition process on his show in order to educate the public, why not work with someone who is transgender to do so and put them on camera?
These are just the things I came up with right off the top of my head, but I’m sure the reality—if it happens—will be an even bigger and more offensive mess than anyone can imagine. No one’s knocking Canseco’s support for Jenner or (if he’s being genuine) his desire for wanting to be an ally for transgender people everywhere. But the way he’s going about it, reducing the transgender experience to clothes and makeup is not only idiotic, it’s dehumanizing.
You want to honor Caitlyn Jenner, Jose Canseco? Do anything but this. Literally anything. (But nothing is probably best.)
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