While she doesn’t see herself as a spokesperson, Caitlyn Jenner is committed to the fight.
Wednesday night, in an event co-sponsored by the Social Planning and Events Committee and QPenn’s week of LGBTQ awareness, Jenner spoke to a packed audience in Irvine Auditorium. In a discussion moderated by Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and author Buzz Bissinger, Jenner opened up to the audience about her career and lifelong struggles with gender dysphoria.
“I’m ready to talk about an issue most people don’t understand,” Jenner said.
For Jenner, that issue — the question of gender identity — has been a constant presence in her mind throughout her life.
“For somebody in my community, that question goes through your head 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” Jenner said. “Who am I?”
Donning a white blouse and yellow pants, Jenner relaxed on stage in her armchair, set intimately next to Bissinger, a Penn alumnus. The conversation, while dominated by Jenner, showed hints of the established and well-known friendship between the two.
Bissinger was first connected to Jenner when he published his story “Call me Caitlyn,” officially announcing Jenner’s female identity to the world, in Vanity Fair over the summer. The two have remained friends ever since.
During the discussion, Jenner referred to Bissinger as “my buddy Buzz,” with clear affection in her voice.
Jenner frequently got caught up in speaking to the audience, leaving little time for Bissinger to ask questions. At one point, she even cut him off, saying “one second Buzz, I’ll get right with you.”
Bissinger’s questions focused on Jenner’s family, her transition and her role in the transgender community. He even asked her about a recent article in The Daily Pennsylvanian, which, like many other sources, was critical of her role as a spokesperson in the community. Jenner acknowledged that she did not have the background of a typical LGBTQ individual.
“I am not a spokesman,” Jenner said. “I am a spokesman for my story.”
The discussion then allowed pre-selected students to ask Jenner questions of their own.
Perhaps the most provocative of these focused on Jenner’s support of the Republican party. While she was quick to acknowledge that she believed Democrats were better at addressing LGBTQ issues, she articulated her support for the GOP, especially what she termed the “Reagan conservative approach.”
“The bigger issue is what our country is going through right now,” said Jenner, referring to the national debt and other economic issues.
While Jenner received much applause on stage, many audience members seated on the first floor left early and various students expressed their disappointment in the event.
According to College senior and exchange student Kristine Andersen, Jenner seemed “self-absorbed” and could have addressed a wider range of issues facing the LGBTQ community.
Others, however, said it was interesting to learn more about a highly publicized story. Having watched Jenner’s transition through the reality TV show “Keeping up with the Kardashians,” College sophomore Cami Potter was eager to see Jenner in person. “It’s nice to see it come full circle,” Potter said.
Despite some negative reactions to the event, it was highly anticipated on campus in the weeks leading up to the discussion. Tickets cost $5 for Penn students and $30 for non-Penn students. Tickets went on sale, both online and on Locust walk, two weeks ago. They sold out almost immediately.
Whatever the reactions, Jenner was able to tell her story and assured everyone that Caitlyn is here to stay. “Girls, I’m on the team, and I’m staying on the team,” Jenner said.
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