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Am I Obligated to Applaud Caitlyn Jenner?

Everywhere you looked these past few week, Caitlyn Jenner dominated the headlines. From the New York Times to Vanity Fair to Buzzfeed - Caitlyn is clearly the media darling. I'm sure a lot of this attention has to do with the context surrounding Caitlyn: A masculine background (former Olympian), celebrity connection (Kardashians), and cultural hot topic (same-sex marriage).

The Caitlyn story seemed to reach its peak at the ESPYs where Caitlyn received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. If you saw the promo, the whole hype of the ESPYs centered around this moment that recognized Caitlyn's courage of sexual expression.

Unless they supported Caitlyn, most people stayed quiet - and I don't blame them (here here). But I'm sure a lot of us had some thoughts on this topic. Here are a few of mine:

People Who Struggle With Sexual Orientation Need to Be Understood
There are some who harshly criticized Caitlyn's merit for receiving an award for courage, but I'm beginning to understand the logic behind it. I think a lot of the harshness stems from our presuppositions about sexual orientation.

If I went to a restaurant with a friend and, after ordering a salad, he proceeds to eat it with his bare hands, I wouldn't say, "Oh, you should use a fork." I'd more likely say, "Dude, what's wrong with you?" Reason: It's a "given" for me that you eat salad with a fork. Hence the harshness.

Our problem is we presume figuring out your sexual orientation should be a "given" for everyone. However, this is clearly not the case. Therefore rather than being harsh towards people processing their sexual identities, we should listen, empathize and try to understand more. 

I Feel Really Pressured to Applaud - But Why?
It's one thing to announce something and making me acknowledge it. It's another thing to demand me to applaud it. Yet I couldn't help but feel this pressure that I need to kneel down my opinions and applaud Caitlyn at the ESPYs - and that's strange.

To me, it feels like every media outlet is trying to proselytize me by forcing me to adopt their opinion on this matter. This is ironic since Christians are criticized for this very issue. After all, if the ESPYs awarded Tim Tebow with the Arthur Ashe of Courage Award for speaking about his faith, do we really think people wouldn't bash ESPN for shoving religion against their faces?

There's a Difference Between Philosophy & Reality
While people use twitter and facebook to praise Caitlyn's act of courage, I couldn't help but wonder how they'd feel if it was their own father. It's easy to publicly praise a worldview when it's publicly lauded; but when it involves people you love, I'm sure it'd cause people to think twice before jumping so quickly on this cultural bandwagon.

If my father had a sex-change, I'd obviously have a lot of thoughts. But I think I'd primarily be really confused. Is he still my father? What do I do on Father's Day? How do I now relate to him? Ideas often seem great from afar, but they often look different when they hit close to home.

Self-Expression Can Be Potentially Selfish

If you read why people are praising Caitlyn, you'll see them say something like this: "He's being true to himself." This of course is the meta-narrative that our culture has completely bought into & the reason why this story is so widely lauded. 

But I guess I keep wondering: Isn't it possible that our self-expression can be potentially selfish? When your actions are justified by "self-expression," it seems like you're demanding everyone to change for you while you change for nobody. I'm not saying self-expression is wrong - we should be true to ourselves. What I am saying is using self-expression as the ultimate narrative to drive our lives may turn to a rhetorical device to simply justify ourselves.

Again these are not philosophical arguments - they're initial thoughts I had because I know other people have them too. I just want to help give a voice to those uncertain how to speak on this issue..

thomas hwangComment