After emerging as an icon of the trans community last year, Caitlyn Jenner has become increasingly vocal about the 2016 presidential race, although her political allegiances may come as a surprise to some LGBT rights advocates.
On the premiere episode of the second season of her reality TV series, “I Am Cait,” Jenner unloaded on Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton during a heated argument with one of her peers. “If we’re unfortunate enough get Hillary as our next president, we need her on our side,” the 66-year-old said, before adding that “she won’t be.”
“She couldn’t care less about women, she only cares about herself,” she added.
Ironically, Jenner has expressed an affinity for the candidacy of Sen. Ted Cruz who has shown very public, stubborn resistance to the notion of equal rights for trans citizens. Last fall he described making schools more accommodating to trans students “lunacy” and accused the Justice Department of “trying to force [school districts] to let boys shower with little girls.” And in January he harped on the restroom issue again, arguing that when it comes to a male transgender students they should use faculty facilities because “inflicting him on the teachers is probably better than sticking him in the shower with the teenage girls.”
“You know, the funny thing is, my 5-year-old knows there’s a difference between boys and girls,” Cruz said on a conservative radio show last November. “And yet modern leftists can’t figure that out.”
In 2014, the LGBT publication The Advocate named Cruz the “Phobie of the Year” for his vociferous opposition to same-sex marriage rights and for introducing a bill that February that would amount to essentially “unmarrying any couple who set foot in a state without marriage equality.”
Nevertheless, Jenner has said Cruz is “a great constitutionalist, and a very articulate man,” although she concedes that is “probably one of the worst ones when it comes to trans issues.” She went on to volunteer herself to be a “trans ambassador” for the Cruz campaign.
Jenner’s transition made her a bit of cause célèbre in some left-wing circles, which appears to make the reality star, who identified herself as a longtime Republican during a high profile interview with Diane Sawyer last April, uncomfortable.
“We’re 18 and 1/2 trillion dollars in debt, our economy’s going to collapse,” she said on her show. “Sometimes these girls think that now that I have transitioned that everything has to change. You can’t be conservative anymore, you have to be a liberal. No, I don’t believe that. I think I can keep all of my views the same because I feel in my heart that’s the way to go.”
Jenner echoed similar sentiments when defending Cruz in a separate interview with The Advocate. “Number one, if we don’t have a country, we don’t have trans issues,” she said, adding later: “Socialism did not build this country. Capitalism did. Free enterprise. The people built it. And they need to be given the opportunity to build it back up.” She has acknowledged that Democrats have been the better party when it comes to addressing the rights of the LGBT community, but argues that Republicans are “just worried about much bigger issues than the trans issues.”
Some critics have argued that Jenner has long benefited from her considerable wealth and white privilege, and that dichotomy has continued since she transitioned, while trans women of color and those who live in impoverished circumstances are still subject to disproportionate discrimination and violence in their communities.
“I’m white. I make a good living. And I get all that. I’ve heard that right from the beginning. I’m not going to make excuses for myself. I’m very happy that I’ve worked very hard in my life and I’m successful. It’s kind of the American dream,” Jenner told TIME last December. “We’re fortunate to live in a country where we can do that. I’m very proud of what I was able to accomplish in my life. But I’m also smart in the sense that I know how to use that to make everything better.”
However, not everyone is impressed. Last month, Jenner got a mixed reception from an audience of University of Pennsylvania students when she reportedly claimed, “I have gotten more flak for being a conservative Republican than I have for being trans.”
“The fact that she equated two completely different issues, invalidating one by doing so, is a problem in itself,” College freshman Kenneth Lac reportedly told The Daily Pennsylvanian after the event.
Meanwhile, she has also expressed some ambivalence about same-sex marriage, telling talk show host Ellen DeGeneres last September: “I’m a traditionalist. I’m older than most people in the audience. I kind of like tradition, and it’s always been a man and a woman. I’m thinking, ‘I don’t quite get it.’”
Later, Jenner clarified her opinion in a blog post. “Like many people, there was a time when I didn’t realize how important it is for gay couples to have the right to get married. But after hearing from my gay friends and learning more about the hardships they faced because of discrimination, it became clear to me that everyone should be able to marry the person they love,” she wrote. “I can only hope that by sharing my story, there’s someone out there whose mind has been changed about trans people.”