It’s been over a month since Taylor and I packed up our Hyundai Accent and departed from Nashville. We’ve spent a scary number of hours together, and while enjoying brunch yesterday, we did not exchange many words. This isn’t uncommon for us when we’re eating alone together on tour. We spend all day with each other and experience much of the same things, which frankly doesn't leave us with a whole lot to say. But a couple young girls sat down at the table next to us, and our lack of conversation allowed me to overhear theirs.
These ladies happened to be discussing the courage award ESPN gave to Caitlyn Jenner, and how many folks are upset that it was given to her over Noah Galloway—a United States veteran/double amputee/Crossfit athlete. People are upset that Jenner received the award, while Galloway was overlooked. It has become a competition of: who is more brave? Who is more courageous? Who’s struggle is more valid? Who is more inspiring? There is a serious problem with this kind of approach. Competition can be poisonous when it leads people to discredit someone else’s bravery, achievements, or talent in order to validate the bravery, achievements, and talent of whomever they support. It becomes a 'You vs. Me' or 'Us vs. Them.'
It’s ridiculous to pit these two against each other. You're comparing apples to oranges. While following both sides of the conversation, I’ve heard:
“There are tons of transgender women who go through this everyday, what makes her so courageous?”
“Caitlyn Jenner is starting an entire movement, and this guy is just another vet...I mean, who's making the real impact here?"
“Oh great, Caitlyn Jenner came out as transgendered! Literally everyone is supporting her. How is that brave?”
“Veterans come home and have so much support, why is it such a big deal?”
These massive generalizations are entirely dangerous and absolutely false.
The truth is, in one in TWELVE transgender people are murdered.
The truth is, approximately 50% of transgender adults are survivors of violence or abuse.
The truth is, veterans are TWICE as likely to become chronically homeless than other Americans.
The truth is, 19% of Iraq veterans reported a mental health problem.
The truth is, our society isn’t great to either of these groups.
Yes, we celebrate Veteran's Day and fly American flags and have organizations working to help veterans who come home from war. But there is still a massive population of veterans who do not have support from their family, from their government or from the public. And despite all the tweets and blog posts and parades supporting the transgender community, there is also a massive population of transgender people who do not have support from their family, from their government or the public.
So again I ask: why are we trying to pit these two against each other? Why can’t we recognize that it takes serious bravery to be a member of the United States military while also recognizing the immense amount of courage it takes to live your true identity when your inner self does not match the physical body you were born into? Can we accept that they are two completely different things and stop trying to validate one by illegitimizing the other? If you want to share your admiration for the bravery of American armed men and women, by all means do so. But do it without discrediting the struggles of the transgender community and the strength it has taken them to accept and reveal their truth. And if you want to support Caitlyn Jenner and the transgender community, please do. But do it without discrediting the struggles of Noah Galloway and our armed forces, and the strength it takes to endure the hardships of war.
Whether you support the transgender community or not, there is no denying that it cannot be easy to wake up each morning in a body that does not feel like you. To reveal yourself to a society who will publicly shame you and hate you and try to hurt you requires bravery—whether you agree with the choice or not. And whether or not you support the United States military, there is no denying that it cannot be easy to wake up each morning with a body that is missing an arm and a leg and decide to keep going—to keep pushing on and not allow the hardship to take over your life.
They can both be heroes. They’re on the same team. They’re both fighting a good fight. The way they are living their lives is an inspiration for others. U2 said it best, “There’s no them, there’s only us.”
*Statistical information gathered from: