If you’ve been anywhere near the internet, TV, or another member of the species homo sapiens, you’ve probably heard about Caitlyn Jenner. In any normal circumstance, I wouldn’t be writing about this subject at all. You see, this is not a veteran issue. It has nothing to do with the military.
Yet, that hasn’t stopped the usual crowd of “Angry Facebook Veterans” (as I call them) from turning it into a veteran’s issue. Over the last week, half my Facebook feed has been littered (correct word) with memes and images somehow relating Caitlyn Jenner to the struggles of Marines and service members at war.
It’s a stretch, I know, but I’m not making this up.
A few months ago there was the tragic case of the Marine that murdered the Filipina transgender woman while on shore leave in the Philippines. I never did a comic on the subject for one simple reason:
I didn’t want to read the comments.
Every time I saw the story posted on Facebook, there was nothing but the most vile, ignorant and hateful sentiments coming from people I am ashamed to say I served in the same branch with. I’m not an expert on transgender issues by any stretch of the imagination, but I do know that that woman was someone’s daughter, someone’s sister, or someone’s friend.
In my case, it could have been my brother.
My brother is a transgender male.
I’m the youngest of three, so when I was born I had two sisters. When I was in Iraq in 2007, I remember sitting in that dank little phone corner of the Camp Fallujah MWR talking with my mother. The conversation went something like this:
“So… Betty is going to become a man.”
And, so be it, over years of hormone therapy and surgery, I now have a brother. Sure, he’s a little shorter than me, as the Creator gifted me with a “Y” chromosome at birth; but he’s my brother nonetheless. I am not ashamed of this, I love my brother. The only thing I am disgusted by is the reaction of the veteran community over the last week regarding the subject of Caitlyn Jenner.
As an infantry Marine, I deployed to Iraq twice. I’ve done and seen a lot in my life; but do you know what I’ve never done? I’ve never felt so alienated by my own body that I’ve wanted to become a female. I’ve never done hormone therapy and I’ve never dealt with the judgements of the world for my gender or sexuality. I respect my brother as much as I love him for everything that he’s been through–from giving birth to a child (my niece) and transitioning into the successful person he is today, through much adversity along the way. I have no idea what that’s like.
I don’t care about Caitlyn Jenner, but I think it’s important to remember that we are not the end-all to struggles in life. Life is very relative, and while veterans and service members deserve to be recognized for their accomplishments and their sacrifices, we need to take a step back and understand that the world is much bigger than us.
I constantly see blogs and articles about the “veteran divide” in this nation. 1% protecting and serving the 99%. Veterans often feel alienated and alone when they return to the world, taking solace only around other veterans that have shared their struggles. No one understands us, but have we made an effort to understand civilians? Maybe it’s not the 99% with the problem, but the 1% that needs to come back down to earth.
War is an extraordinary thing to go through, but life is relative. Your experiences do not invalidate those of others.
Caitlyn Jenner is not my hero, but to thousands of transgender people out there, she just might be.
…And that’s okay.