Rumors have been swirling for some time that Bruce Jenner, the former Olympian and Kardashian stepfather, may be preparing to come out as transgender. Of course, rumors are just that, and if Jenner is indeed trans, he should be allowed to make that information known (or not) on his own terms. And more important, in an ideal world, we would all meet such news not with sniggering or a snide “told you so,” but with support and acceptance.
Clearly, we do not yet live in that ideal world. This week’s issue of InTouch Weekly, a gossipy, grocery aisle mainstay, has gone full transphobic with a cruel cover story on Jenner titled, “My Life as a Woman.” The headline is accompanied, naturally, by a garish, photoshopped image of Jenner with lipstick and rouge. (According to BuzzFeed, the image is actually a superimposition of Jenner with British actress Stephanie Beacham.) The story suggests that Jenner is planning to come out on the cover of the Advocate in 2015, a claim that the venerable LGBTQ magazine has strongly denied.
Indeed, though many trans advocates and allies have come down hard on the atrocious cover, the Advocate’s response tactic of including the voices of many trans people has been the most powerful—noted trans writer and activist Kate Bornstein was livid: “ ‘Damn it,’ Bornstein wrote in all-caps. ‘Bruce Jenner is being bullied, and publicly shamed for no other reason than being trans. I’m so sorry for B.J.’”
Of course, you’d be a fool to expect much sensitivity from a trashy magazine like InTouch, but this cover is in some ways more upsetting in the context of a period in which there have been more positive representations of trans people in the media than ever before. Compared to something like Laverne Cox’s triumphant Time cover of 2014, the Jenner bullying feels not only offensive, but also played-out, a relic of a time when trans people’s lives were widely considered a punch line. To say the cover is, ironically, out-of-touch is an understatement.
Want to hang out with Outward? If you’ll be in or near New York City on Feb. 3, join June Thomas, J. Bryan Lowder, and Mark Joseph Stern—and special guest Lea DeLaria of Orange Is the New Black fame!—for a queer kiki at the first ever Outward LIVE show, hosted by City Winery. Details and tickets can be found here.