I sure got my feels in a twist this week over something, so after tweeting about it for a couple of days, and it still not feeling right or complete, I decided to go ahead and blog about it.
I’m talking about fallen icons here. About true apologies. About championing the downtrodden. About mean girls. About people revealing their true nature. And about just doing the right thing.
I wouldn’t say she’s been a hero of mine but she has been someone who’s words I deeply admired. I’m talking about the writer Anne Lamott. She’s written a whole lot about being real, telling your stories, recovery, speaking your truth–things like that. She also looks the “real” part with her 60-something white lady dreadlocks. I thought of her as a hippie, a person with some life experience, a person with a unique voice.
Well she used that voice this week to cause real harm. And apparently she’s standing by it. I usually don’t want to repeat terrible words to propogate them even further but in this case, this post only makes sense if you read them. So here is what “real progressive” Anne Lamott had to say about recently revealed (as in just barely recently like she’s just been born recently) Caitlyn Jenner:
Yeah, I felt like I’d been hit with a spear right in the gut and sat there saying “WHAT THE FUCK?” to myself. I may have even said it out loud. It was the very last thing I expected to hear from Anne Lamott about someone so new, so vulnerable, so real.
Anne Lamott called her a mannequin. And she is continuing to do so as, even with thousands of “calling out” type tweets, even with her removing the second offensive tweet, she stands by the mannequin words. Her words, the ones that popped in to her head, traveled down her arm and through her very own fingers in to the twittersphere.
Even with all of that, she stands by her “mannequin” slur. It’s astounding. And it leaves me with only one conclusion: it’s how she really thinks about Caitlyn Jenner.
Why does this bother me so much? I’m not even sure I can answer that question to myself. Maybe through writing this I will. I’m a middle aged white heterosexual woman without even one transgender friend (yet). I have a transgender client who I really admire. I have a gay brother so there’s that. It’s not like this world is super personal to me.
But, I can say this. I was deeply moved by Bruce Jenner’s interview with Diane Sawyer. I kept it on my DVR to watch again when I need a good cry. I sat on my white living room feather sofa bawling my eyes out, stopping occasionally to process. It really hit me in the feels in a deep way. I don’t know why but it did. I just know I’m not alone.
He was identifying as Bruce in that interview so I will refer to him in the male pronoun for that purpose. He talked about a lifelong struggle with his gender identity. He shared about this prevailing in his childhood trying to manage it. He revealed how he actually started transitioning in the 80’s, taking hormones then, but stopped due to the extreme pressure he knew he was under.
How incredibly sad! We as a culture did that to him–not blaming you or me just saying, our ignorance forced him to sublimate something so basic to his own human nature for DECADES.
I guess I can relate in a very very small way to this having suppressed some of my own stories for decades. I was terribly abused in childhood by my stepmother–physically and emotionally. She stopped attacking me physically after I kicked her back down a staircase at age 19 when she came after me with a kitchen spatula about my head and upper back chasing me up the stairs. All because I intervened with her vicious attack, with that weapon, on my brother for no reason. I was in college when that happened. It had been going on for nearly 10 years at that time.
Yet I didn’t start talking about this, even in my own family, until I was 50 years old. I suffered major anxiety problems in my early adulthood, depression, relationship failures all while being highly successful in other areas. I identified this abuse in therapy and it’s impact on me. The fact my father brought her in to our home and did not protect us–yes all of those things I dealt with behind closed doors and still didn’t discuss it in my own family. For decades.
And I’m a regular person, not an Olympian, no one would ever put me on a cereal box for anything. Yet I hid a secret that shaped so much of my life from everyone for most of my life. Maybe that’s a tiny bit of why I cried so hard when I saw Bruce coming out with his struggle. It’s a brave act and not for the faint hearted. Yet when he said something like “I just couldn’t hold it back anymore” I related to that.
So would the Anne Lamott I’ve known and admired. She talks about telling your stories. In fact this quote has guided me in terms of revealing awful family truths in my own memoir I’m writing right now:
And she judged this vulnerable woman, who has just cracked out of that egg and still sitting in a nest, over her looks. Rather over her choice of how she wants to present herself.
How fucking shallow.
And might I add, this is from a 60 something white woman who chooses to present herself to the world with dread locks native to countries I guarantee she has no biological roots to. How ironic.
How ironic also that Lamott was tweeting about fearing falling off a high place right before she tossed herself right off her own long earned mountaintop. (I do believe great teachers deserve reverence and being looked up to).
At first I thought she had relapsed. She was doing this random tweeting with a friend on a road trip. It was so out of character and frankly, just so mean.
I’ve now drawn the conclusion this was just like a couple of mean girls tooling down the road in their car on an adventure bitching about someone they don’t like “oh did you see her stupid sunglasses? OMG!”.
Yet they did it out loud. For the world to see.
People want to rush to judgment calling it a “mistake”, something she’s “learning from”, something she should be given a pass on.
I can’t go there, at least not yet.
After a day of glib tweets about the Grand Canyon (while she was sitting in her own as chaos erupted and she ignored it), she finally issued a lukewarm apology. To the parents of transgender children. Again, WHAT THE FUCK? Where was/is the apology to the people/person she actually offended?
Those wanting to see her as they always have glue their rose colored glasses tight to their faces claiming “whew! she apologized!”.
Yet the “mannequin” tweet remains, out and proud. She kept it up there because she believes it.
She believes this person who was globally culturally identified as a HE – MAN gracing cereal boxes due to his PHYSIQUE and PHYSICAL PROWESS facing down a lifelong struggle and presenting to the world who she really is, is reduced to how she did it in a magazine shoot.
That my friends is Anne Lamott to me now.
I’m thinking a lot about mistakes and forgiveness right now because of another relationship in my life.
I land on this.
I’m just mad at you because now when I look at you, what you just did clouds my vision of who I used to know you to be.
For me right now it’s less about what Anne Lamott did but more about who she is. And now I need to be proven wrong. One window has already passed and the sands are slipping through the hourglass of the next one as it opens.
I will get over this. She’s not that important to me. Yet when I feel a need to champion a person who is being marginalized whether it’s Caitlyn Jenner or Travis Alexander in the grave, I will use my voice. Right up until the time I feel I need to stop using it.
I will add that I’ve read some truly inspired words out there dealing with this soul twist debacle and here is one of them.
One final shoutout to Caitlyn from another Glamarama who I find totally real even with her extreme boobs and makeup, the incomparable Dolly Parton.