MTV News hasn't written about the Bruce Jenner story because other than some speculation, Bruce Jenner has not publicly confirmed or denied the gender identity rumors, and therefore, out of respect, we’ve left the whole thing alone. It’s not our story to tell, and we’re firm believers that gossiping about very personal issues often does more harm than good.
We've been trying to follow this rule, as well as a few others that we set (with the help of GLAAD's very useful guide) on how to talk about/not talk about trans folks because we know that these rules matter. We care about the information we provide our readers, and we respect the very real people whose stories we choose to tell. But now it seems like we've reached a point of mass chatter, and we need to say something.
But instead of weighing in on whether Bruce is or is not transitioning, or even what Bruce's alleged transition means for the transgender community, we decided to just arm you, our readers, with some some info for when you have that inevitable "Bruce Jenner" convo with your friends.
Don't Buy The Gossip.
The gossip magazines and talk shows are not known for being particularly respectful of privacy. Many are even saying that because of who Bruce Jenner is (part of the Kardashian enterprise), everything about the story is fair game. But it's not that easy for transgender people.
There is such a long history of violence against members of the transgender community - at least three transgender women have already been murdered in 2015, including Yazmin Payne of Los Angeles just this week - that hiding this key part of their identity isn't just about keeping a secret, but sometimes literally about staying alive. And when we publicly push them to share with us, we are being the worst type of bullies.
"On a daily basis, transgender people face unwelcome and often hostile scrutiny at school, at work, or even when just walking down the street," says Nick Adams, a transgender staff member at GLAAD. "Creating an atmosphere in which people who may or may not be transgender are stalked and hounded sends a poisonous message that being transgender is something strange and shameful, a dirty secret to be uncovered. Real transgender people are harmed by this behavior."
When you're hanging out with friends and goofing around, it is easy to feel like whatever jokes you make are harmless, since there is no one transgender around to hear you. But can you really be sure of that? Blogger Christopher Keetley recently wrote, “That little joke you make at the expense of a millionaire celebrity might get some laughs from your friends, but it also just might contribute to the death of a trans kid, be it suicide or murder at the hands of those who choose to 'express their transphobia” through homicide.'
It's important to consider who is in earshot, how well you know your friends, or whether or not what you're saying is worth the risk of really hurting someone. Your words matter, even when you think they don't. And if you don't know how to tell your friends that you don't like their jokes, try being honest with them.
"Just let the person know that you don't support making fun of people - that it's bullying to joke about someone simply because they are transgender," says Nick from GLAAD. "When you become an ally of transgender people, your actions will help make society a better, safer place for transgender people - and for non-transgender people who violate gender expectations."
School Your Friends.
It sucks to be the P.C. police, but sometimes people just need to be set straight. "People still confuse gender identity and sexual orientation," says Nick. "Many people think that being transgender is just like being 'extra gay,' but the two are very different. Gender identity is about a person's own internal sense of self." You can learn all about what being transgender actually is HERE.
Remember, this is an opportunity for all of us to get better at talking about gender identity, and to start working on the vocabulary that will put us on the right side of history. Because whether Bruce Jenner is transitioning or not, the transgender community as a whole has never been more public about who they are, and how they want their stories told.