Caitlyn Jenner, one of the most famous athletes and transgender women in history, does does not support trans girls competing in girls’ sports in schools.
“This is a question of fairness,” the decorated Olympian, who recently announced she’s running for California governor, told TMZ on Saturday. “It just isn’t fair. And we have to protect girls’ sports in our schools.”
Jenner’s position is deeply out of step with LGBTQ+ advocates and with experts, who have repeatedly explained bills to exclude trans athletes from playing sports that match their gender identity are not based in science. But it’s also not terribly surprising from Jenner. In the years since she first came out as trans, Jenner—a wildly wealthy woman who’s been internationally famous for most of her life—has held fast to her conservative values.
Now, her remarks this weekend dredge up a question that’s sure to dog her campaign to be governor: Who, exactly, is Jenner’s constituency supposed to be? She’s a conservative trans woman, operating at the outskirts of the Kardashian empire and running in a liberal state. And she’s presumably hoping to win voters from a party that, historically, has not embraced LGBTQ+ people or their rights.
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To be sure, Republicans’ disregard for LGBTQ+ rights hasn’t stopped Jenner from throwing her celebrity behind them: In a 2016 speech at the Republican National Convention, she joked that it had been “harder to come out as a Republican” than to come out as trans. The following year, Jenner defended her support for then-President Donald Trump on Late Night with Seth Meyers in 2017, telling the host, “I’m not a one-issue voter.”
“Obviously, I know, I’m not stupid. The Republican Party does not do a good job when it comes to equality and the entire LGBT community. The Democrats are better there,” Jenner said. But, she added, “I believe in little things like the Constitution and freedom. I believe in minimal government.”
By 2018, she’d started to walk back her support for Trump, culminating in an October Washington Post column where she declared, “I was wrong.” But Jenner’s mea culpa was widely seen as too little, too late.
“You supported him at a time when the entire LGBT community was telling you he was a danger to our human rights,” one person wrote on Twitter.
“Now Caitlyn wants credit for finally figuring out what everyone in the LGBT community repeatedly warned her about: that Trump would set LGBT rights back by decades,” another wrote.
Jenner had given Trump and the GOP legitimacy, leasing out her status as a trans icon to give them the patina of caring about LGBTQ+ rights, and they’d used it to launch a massive broadside against trans rights.
Although apparently, Jenner didn’t really vote for Trump—because she didn’t vote at all in either the 2016 primary or general election, Politico reported late last month. She also skipped the election that handed her now-opponent, Gavin Newsom, the California governor’s mansion.
Now that Jenner is hoping to win Newsom’s seat in a recall election, an adviser told Axios that the 71-year-old is branding herself as a candidate who is “socially liberal and fiscally conservative.”
It’s not really clear what those buzzwords mean, because Jenner hasn’t explained it: Her campaign website, rather than including policy positions, only functions to let people to shop her merch, donate, and sign up for campaign updates, as Vox pointed out last week. So Jenner’s comments to TMZ about trans athletes might just be her only policy so far.
And it is, ironically, a policy that not even Jenner’s cherished Republican Party is particularly supportive of. In an April poll, only 29 percent of Republicans said they “support a bill that prohibits transgender student athletes from joining sports teams that match their gender identity.”