Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover has stirred up more controversy than perhaps any other in the magazine’s history. A vocal sector of the public is outraged that Caitlyn’s coming-out article is being lauded as an act of heroism, while many others are calling the moment a turning point in the struggle of trans equality.
Perhaps more interesting, however, are the public figures who have chosen to stay somewhere in the middle. Presidential hopeful and current South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham came out in tentative support of Jenner’s statement in her initial Diane Sawyer interview that she considered herself a Republican. On Sunday’s CNN State of the Union, Lindsey said that Caitlyn was, indeed, welcome in the GOP. Graham punctuated that statement about Jenner with a disclaimer that he still stood in favor of traditional marriage and against abortion.
“If Caitlyn Jenner wants to be safe and have a prosperous economy, vote for me. I’m into addition. I haven’t walked in her shoes. I don’t have all the answers to the mysteries of life. I can only imagine the torment that Bruce Jenner went through. I hope he’s—I hope she has found peace. I’m a pro-life, traditional-marriage kind of guy. But I’m running to be president of the United States. If Caitlyn Jenner wants to be a Republican, she is welcome in my party.”
Even within the Republican party, Lindsey hasn’t been the only person to give tacit support for Caitlyn. Even Rick Santorum, who was heavily scorned by LGBT groups when he ran for president in 2012, said that the public must acknowledge that Jenner is now a female.
It’s doubtful that Graham himself will go unscathed for his comments in support of Jenner — many conservatives within his base are outraged over the hero’s treatment they see Caitlyn getting in the media. Much of the conversation on social media has been diverted to comparisons between Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover and acts of valor in war.
That division shouldn’t be surprising: transgender people are still one of the least socially accepted minorities. According to survey results published by the Williams Institute in 2014, 78 percent of transgender respondents reported experiencing physical or sexual violence in school, and 60 percent said that a doctor had refused to treat them. Most of them confront these issues without the resources or notoriety of a figure like Caitlyn Jenner — transgender people also have an extremely high rate of homelessness.
[Image via Michael Buckner and Darren McCollester / Getty Images]