Former Olympic gold-medalist decathlete Caitlyn Jenner is well known for coming out as transgender and transitioning in 2015. But she's gotten nearly as much attention for being both trans and Republican. In a speech at the "Big Tent" brunch during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on Wednesday, Jenner spoke in depth about the political struggles facing trans individuals, as well as her own identification as Republican. One quote from Jenner's RNC speech embodies how she is able to have such a clear perspective on the anti-LGBTQ policies of the Republican Party, but still be a part of it.
When asked if she is a "real Republican," Jenner responded:
I get it, the Democratic Party does a better job when it comes to [the] LGBT community, the trans community, and Obama has been very good from that standpoint ... But I think the Republican Party needs to understand, they need to know people who are trans. ... I'm here today so you — since most people don't know somebody who's trans — get to know somebody.
Jenner believes that visibility is the key to ending discriminatory attitudes and the policies that correspond with them. And she hopes her presence within the Republican Party will help it improve on social issues.
Jenner didn't get very much into why the Republican Party appeals to her in Wednesday's speech; in an interview with The Advocate in March, she mentioned concern with the national debt and government spending, as well as support for free enterprise.
But Wednesday's speech was focused on acknowledging the shortcomings of the party concerning trans issues. Jenner laid out the history of bathroom politics, going back to the first gender-segregated bathroom law in 1877 when women began entering the workforce, through racial segregation, and up to today's trans-discriminatory bathroom bills. Just how critical she is of the bathroom bills being pushed by Republican lawmakers recently was clear when she connected such bills to suicide attempt rates among trans youth:
We have a terrible suicide rate of young kids. ... Why did they do this? ... They get bullied in school, now we have the internet out there. ... Now they're being bullied internationally. ... And now you're telling me that the state of North Carolina is going to come in and bully you, too, and say, "You can't live your authentic life, and you have to go in this other bathroom"? ... It's even more depression for these kids.
Jenner caught a lot of flack when she became vocal about her Republican views earlier in 2016, given the party's positions on LGBTQ issues. But on Wednesday, she made it clear that she's not blind to the party's failings; rather, she believes that her presence within it can help it improve on social issues.