Courage is an understatement. More like it – refusal to accept anything less than freedom to finally be who Caitlyn Jenner is. I can’t help thinking about Marlo Thomas’ 1972 Ms. Women’s Foundation project (and catchy song) – Free To Be You And Me. Originally, it was meant to teach her then-young niece to refute gender stereotypes in books. But, her farther-reaching idea was lending support for individuality, tolerance, and comfort with our personal identities.
It’s 43 years later. Caitlyn Jenner proves we’ve come a long way. Yet, we still have a long way to go. Take Fox News’ bungling and transgender phobia (calling Caitlyn “he or him,” not her). Or police discrimination towards young black men, and the continued fights for women’s rights and marriage equality. Those are examples of still too-pervasive intolerance of differences. On the other hand, there are people like Jose Diaz-Balart, MSNBC’s morning show The Rundown host. He commented that Caitlyn’s public transformation helps not only understanding and acceptance for the transgender community, but that many of us can relate to the need for support to freely be who we are.
That’s exactly what we need more of: relating to the feelings of people who are different but also very much the same. The capacity to reach inside and find that sameness is what bridges outer differences. It’s called empathy. Empathy creates understanding. Tolerance of differences grows out of this kind of seeing ourselves in others. Without it – too many people continue to be misunderstood and hurt. This is the message Caitlyn Jenner sends to us all.