No, I wasn’t surprised by Caitlyn Jenner’s expression of support for Ted Cruz. I heard her say as much hour after hour this fall as I worked on her show. Everyone needs to get their mind around the fact that politically she is, like half the country, a conservative, and the sooner you get your mind around this, the angrier you can be.
The fact that she’s swooning over Ted Cruz–a bigot, a hater, and an all around dunderhead–is galling, but no more galling, to me, than a political philosophy that exclusively benefits the wealthy and leaves the rest of us to struggle. Cruz’s policies on trans rights are horrific, but not a whole lot more horrific than those of anyone else in the GOP currently running for office.
Here’s a different question to consider, however. How shall we talk to each other in this country? How is it even possible to open people’s hearts and change their minds when we hold each other in utter contempt?
In the first episode of I Am Cait viewers will see me taking one approach: I yell at her, shouting that the idea of conservatives supporting the rights of minorities, “is a lie! That is never going to happen! You’re living in a dream world!” At the end of this exchange I strike her with a rolled-up newspaper and not ironically either. I smack her like she is a basset hound that just took a dump on the carpet.
I think it is fair to say that this strategy failed to turn her into a Democrat.
In fact, I don’t think there’s any such strategy that would have this result. And so, yeah: hanging out with her was infuriating. On the second day of filming, I tried to quit the show. I had a lengthy conversation with the show-runner saying, “I just can’t do this. I want to go home.” There is footage of this somewhere.
But I stayed in there. In part, because on Survivor, (my favorite show), I always get angry when people “quit the game,” as if they really didn’t understand what they were signing on for when they agreed to spend 39 days boiling rice and eating tarantulas.
But more importantly: the questions facing me– and my other friends on the show, including Candis Cayne and Chandi Moore and Kate Bornstein– were the very questions facing the entire country right now. How do we learn to live with people whom we disagree? How do we learn to love each other? How is it possible to communicate with people whom we want to smack with a newspaper?
The question, for me, is not, will Cait become a liberal? There is no operation for that, alas. But she CAN become someone who listens, who opens her heart, who has compassion. And so can I.