The biggest surprise in the Bruce Jenner interview wasn't when he announced that "I'm a woman," confirming months of rumors and speculation, or that he (Jennerʻs currently preferred pronoun) hopes going public with his story will help others. It was his declaration of being a conservative Republican.
"Neither party has a monopoly on understanding," said Jenner in explaining his position.
Perhaps not, but there certainly is a large difference between how the two political parties act on that understanding. Not a single piece of transgender-inclusive legislation has been proposed by the GOP at the national, state or local level anywhere in the country. And it's difficult to forget the Republican Party Chair who said transgender people "should be put in camps," the Republican legislator who proposed a $2500 fine for "a person of the wrong biological sex" using a public bathroom and the countless Republicans who have opposed each and every attempt to grant transgender people the equal rights and protection of the law deserved by all Americans, including an effort just this past week to include specific protections for trans youth in renewal of the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act.
Then Jenner gave transgender advocates a ray of hope. Asked if he would speak about the issues with House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, he said "I would do that in a heartbeat, yes, and I think they would be very receptive."
We hope he'll carry through. There certainly is a lot for him to talk about with Boehner and McConnell, not to mention Bush, Cruz, Rubio, Walker and all the other potential Republican candidates for President in 2016.
Employment Discrimination - Federal ENDA legislation is urgently needed to protect people in the 32 states that have no legal prohibition against transgender discrimination.
Quality Health Care - Congress should pass a Health Equity and Accountability bill and clarify the Affordable Care Act to reduce the widespread discrimination against transgender people in the health care system.
Safe Schools - Gender diverse youth are often denied an education because they don't feel safe at school. The Safe Schools Improvement Act would help protect them from bullying, harassment and violence.
Identification Documents - Changing gender designation on official documents like social security cards and passports is a challenge for transgender people. The Social Security Administration, State Department and other agencies could help by revising their forms and regulations.
Open Military Service - A simple revision of the Department of Defense medical regulations would allow the estimated 15,000 transgender people in the U.S. military to serve openly.
Transgender Violence - There is an epidemic of anti-trans violence, especially against trans women of color. The Department of Justice should make this issue a priority for law enforcement and crime prevention.
Transgender Seniors - As a 65-year-old, Jenner should be especially sensitive to the vulnerabilities of transgender seniors, and support efforts by the Administration on Aging and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to provide services free of discrimination.
Participation in Sports - the one-time "best athlete in the world" is in an especially strong position to advocate for full inclusion of transgender people in all levels of athletics.
Conservative Republicans might think these issues have nothing to do with them because they don't even know any transgender people. But now they do -- and he's one of them.
Mr. Jenner identified himself as a conservative Republican. Can the future Ms. Jenner use her fame, visibility, incredible courage and Republican credentials to bring her political party to a more welcoming and inclusive point of view?
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