Caitlyn Jenner, “The Jungle” & The Transgender Community

It is safe to say that the Kardashian/Jenner family are among the most famous people in the world and pretty much everyone from the age of 12-35 knows who they are. So, it’s come as quite a shock to the UK public that one of Kylie and Kendall Jenner’s parents is taking on the Australian Jungle in ITV show – “I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here”.

Caitlyn Jenner (birth given name Bruce) is a transgender woman, Olympic gold medallist and American reality TV star. Caitlyn came out to the world as a transgender woman in April 2015 in an interview with American TV journalist Diane Sawyer. A cover shoot with fashion and popular culture publication ‘Vanity Fair’ followed in June (this can be seen below). Caitlyn’s tweet revealing the cover shoot was announced as the 10th most retweeted tweet of 2015.She has a reported net worth of $100 million (£74 million) and holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest person to gain 1 million followers on Twitter.

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Known for its brutal bushtucker trials that have celebrities eating animal genitalia amongst other gruesomeness; “I’m a Celebrity” is not an environment one would imagine a member of the Kardashian empire immersing themselves into.

So it poses the question why? Why is someone with Jenner’s wealth and fame taking on not only everything the ITV producers will throw at her in terms of bushtucker trials; but also, the notoriously critical UK public? It’s a question many people have tried to answer since the announcement that she was heading for “the jungle” but at this stage it’s all just speculation.

My guess is that she wants to reinvent herself after a lot of bad press over the last few years. You may argue that she’s not from the UK so she should try this so-called reinvention in the US, but the last series launch episode of “I’m a Celebrity” garnered over 14 million viewers. Only 4 more US series garnered more viewers last year – NFL Sunday Night Football, The Big Bang Theory, NCIS and Game of Thrones. With those viewing figures and the added benefit of social media publicity, the life of Caitlyn Jenner in “the jungle” is surely about to become a viral sensation around the globe.

After it was announced that Jenner was going to be a part of “I’m a Celebrity” this year, I like the true millennial I am delved headfirst into the chaotic social media uproar that occurred. The content that I saw on this social media sleuthing was horrific. The amount of transphobic and downright shameful language that people all over the internet were using in relation to Caitlyn Jenner, was truly shocking. I didn’t expect in 2019 for there to be so much hate directed towards a transgender person. Below are two examples of transphobic rhetoric being used on Twitter.

 

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One of the most surprising things to me was that all this hate was not coming from the typical people you would expect. The usual Twitter trolls and Instagram haters that we have come to expect this type of behaviour off were of course contributing to the chaos, but they were not the only source. I saw countless social media accounts with pride flags and empowering ‘bio’ messages slander Caitlyn Jenner and ‘like’ and ‘retweet’ posts making fun of her gender reassignment surgery and her life as Bruce. It was truly disheartening.

I completely understand the backlash that Caitlyn Jenner has received over the past few years, through publicly supporting Donald Trump and Ted Cruz she has rightfully disillusioned herself from the LGBTQ+ community. However, that is a judgement of her character and it should not encourage people to attack her as a trans person. If someone has a negative opinion of Caitlyn Jenner it should be about her as a person, not her transgender identity. A twitter user touches on this point, as seen below.

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The sad fact about this is that with Caitlyn Jenner entering “the jungle” she is opening herself up to the ridicule, slander and transphobia that will no doubt become a main stay on social media in the next three weeks. However it’s not only her that is affected, whilst she will be oblivious to the happenings of the outside world – the transgender members of the public will have to deal with it.

I have seen a lot of tweets detailing peoples’ concern about Caitlyn Jenner being a representative of sorts for the transgender community within the UK – one can be seen below. Bringing Caitlyn Jenner onto over 14 million screens around the UK will start conversations within households that a lot of young transgender people may not be ready to face. With the amount of transphobia present on social media right now when “I’m a Celebrity” hasn’t even started yet, it is a frightening prospect to think about what transgender people of all ages will have to see online as the show progresses.

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One Twitter user shares their interest in finding out how transphobic the UK public really are now that Caitlyn Jenner will be center stage for everyone to ridicule. Don’t get me wrong I personally don’t agree with many of Caitlyn Jenners’ choice in the past and I do not think she is a good representative for the transgender community, but as I stated earlier if you really feel the need to attack her, do just that don’t attack her identity.GD26

So over the next three weeks that “I’m a Celebrity” is viewable over every possible screen in the country – I want to encourage people not to enable transphobia. By liking a tweet or facebook post, you are supporting hatred that can cause detrimental effects to a whole community of people. By laughing at someone misgendering Caitlyn Jenner or making fun of her appearance remember that there is a whole community of people out there that this affects – Stonewall.org reports the damning fact that 89 percent of young trans people have contemplated suicide. Remember that somewhere in the UK a young transgender person is reading tweets and hearing comments in school that invalidates who they are; just remember that one word directed at one person can affect millions across the world.

 

Gareth Donnelly is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on LinkedIn at http://linkedin.com/in/gareth-donnelly-1a6161196 , Twitter – @GarethDonnelly4 and Instagram – @garethd__

 

 

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