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Is there a Caitlyn Jenner in You and Me?

July 4, 2015

Samita Nandy

You know I talk about celebrity culture and the notion of popularity. The popular is not limited to celebrities. In fact celebrities are part of popular culture, and the signs of fame shed light on the successful functioning of many other popular representations.

A recent example of popular representations is the way in which social media users displayed their affective response towards the US same-sex marriage laws. When a plethora of Facebook users applied a translucent rainbow flag on their profile pictures, I was inspired to support it. At the same time, I did not understand the hype. Canada, Iceland, and Norway passed the same-sex marriage laws earlier. I have been a supporter of gay rights regardless of these laws. Many people neither voiced their opinions nor took part in LGBT revolutions and other anti-oppressive movement. Some feminists and animal rights activists among many other social advocates supported the law, which symbolized a shared vision of anti-oppression.

However, there was a clear consensus when it came to what Dr Romit Dasgupta points out as “jumping on the US cheerleading bandwagon” in matters of homosexual love. He appropriately asks,“Why didn’t FB go into the same frenzy when it happened elsewhere – like Iceland or Norway? Also, the world has far more important issues than celebrating because a previously denied demographic has been brought within the ideological controls of the monogamous exclusively couple-focused marriage system!! I’ll be celebrating a lot more when/if some of the homophobic laws in African countries like Nigeria & Gambia are abolished. Or when LGBT/same-sex loving individuals don’t have to fear for just existing in places like Iraq, IS controlled parts of Syria, other places in the Middle East!!!”

I told myself – there must have been a condition to accepting this love. An ideological condition. What was it?

The popular, heteronormative condition for accepting gay love was marriage – the systematic ‘institutionalization’ of monogamous relations that have patriarchal and sexist roots. Susan Boyd’s feminist critique of same-sex marriage sheds further light on the heterosexual practice: https://www.academia.edu/7145825/Feminist_Critique_of_Same_Sex_Marriage. This institutionalization is not necessarily love, which can rise or fail in diverse and complex ways.

A comparison with homosexual behavior of non-human species (http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150206-are-there-any-homosexual-animals) shows how selective, simplistic, and dominant we can be when it comes to where and what we choose to popularize and celebrate.

The government did not pass the law for gaining popularity or what is largely acceptable to the mass. It was for those who were fighting for certain legal rights. “But it’s not without ambivalence. There is no Revolution. Property and identity aren’t abolished. The institution of marriage looks, to paraphrase Justice Kennedy, strengthened. Our love is recognized legally, but in that sense we love with more rules, not fewer.”
(http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2015/06/26/does_the_success_of_gay_marriage_mean_the_queer_revolution_has_failed.html).

Dr Dasgupta says, “the day Nigeria or Uganda repeal their homophobic laws, the day India re-repeals 377, the day Islamist death squads stop hunting down non-het individuals simply because they are not married, the day trans individuals can walk the streets safely in places like Turkey, will be the day I’ll celebrate with a rainbow profile.”

Caitlin
Another example of a popular expression is the representation of transgender icon Caitlyn Jenner, who became a celebrity when she was represented in a sexist and heteronormative fashion on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine. The heteronormative way in which her identity was accepted is comparable to the acceptance of homosexual practices in the US. There is a Caitlyn Jenner in many of us. It is a hybrid self that we identify and celebrate on the basis of certain normative conditions. If we really want to celebrate the freedom of love, we need to be a living example of change through our everyday words and actions for all species, sexes, colours, and classes among other socially constructed categories. We need to fearlessly shine our light even when it rains and the rainbow is gone.

Photo credit: Jeremiah Hill Photography

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One Comment
  1. Hi Samita,

    I just want to say that this is a truly brilliant blog…very interesting, informative & provocative and I agree with you in regards to flying the rainbow flag loudly & proudly when the whole world is safe for all LGBT individuals.

    The proofreader in me noticed that you spelled Caitlin Jenner’s name incorrectly though. She spells it Caitlyn as you can see on the Vanity Fair cover.

    Other than that, well done indeed!

    P.S. Your photos by Jeremiah Hill are truly gorgeous!

    xox

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