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Transgender Historical Revisionism

Caitlyn Jenner

YahooNews directed my attention to an MSN story titled “Caitlyn: I Was ‘Mistreated’ By Kris Jenner.”

Now that Caitlyn Jenner has made her debut on the cover of Vanity Fair, she’s opening up about her 23-year marriage to Kris Jenner, momager of the Kardashian clan. “A lot of times she wasn’t very nice,” Caitlyn tells Vanity Fair. “People would see how I got mistreated. She controlled the money.” Caitlyn says for the first 15 years of their marriage, she was the breadwinner and Kris “needed me more.” And as any pop-culture observer knows, once “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” took off, the money came rolling in to Kris’ coffers.

Never having seen “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” I had for some reason thought that Jenner’s relationship with the Kardashian family was through a second marriage. But the Wikipedia entry for Kris Jenner tells me,

Jenner has been married twice. Her first husband was lawyer Robert Kardashian and her second husband was Olympic star and TV celebrity Caitlyn Jenner, then known as Bruce Jenner.

What strikes me as odd about all this is that Kris Jenner has never been married to Caitlyn Jenner, who so far as I know just came into being three days ago. She was married to Bruce Jenner, the name under which the individual then presenting as male lived for 65-plus years and during the entirety of their marriage.

While Bruce was apparently long tortured over his gender identity, he presented himself to the world—and, more to the point, his then-wife—as male. I’m perfectly comfortable with acknowledging that Bruce is now presenting as “Caitlyn” and in honoring her wish to be referred to by that name and with female pronouns. That seems the decent thing to do. But it strikes me as tortured, indeed, to retroactively put Kris into a lesbian marriage.

While not quite as big a deal, I have the same issue with retroactive application of political titles and military ranks. That is, biographies that refer to a general officer’s time as a lieutenant as “General Petraeus led an Infantry platoon in Vietnam” or a politician’s youthful history as “President Obama was a key fixture on his high school basketball team” are factually incorrect and confusing.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. C. Clavin says:

    And we shouldn’t call Gingrich Mr. Speaker because he resigned in disgrace.
    And we shouldn’t call Sarah Palin Governor because she quit.
    And on and on…

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  2. Hal_10000 says:

    @C. Clavin:

    That’s been a pet peeve of mine for a while. Former Presidents we still refer to as President Bush, etc. But I’m not aware of any former Speaker, other than Gingrich, who is still addressed by that title.

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  3. gVOR08 says:

    Confusing, isn’t it? Good thing us liberals can live with ambiguity.

    This seems to me to be kind of a conservative thing. If my school board proposes to renew an existing levy, is that a tax increase (over zero) or not a tax increase (over status quo ante)? I don’t know. And since I know what the levy renewal is, I don’t care what word you use. But I’ve watched conservatives of my acquaintance wrap themselves around the axle arguing about this, and similar issues. It’s like they have to put it in an existing mental pigeonhole and it doesn’t make any sense until they do.

    Just an observation.

    I wonder if NYT has updated their style guide to cover this.

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  4. CGHill says:

    @gVOR08:

    If the levy is collected continuously — no break — then it’s not a tax increase under any circumstances. If there’s a break, there’s some slight, but only slight, justification for calling it a tax increase.

    How this right-of-center chap sees it, anyway.

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  5. Modulo Myself says:

    What? After fifteen or twenty years of marriage your spouse transitions into a different gender and your big problem is that you were retroactively in a same-sex marriage? Seriously? This is like that scene in Slapshot where the goalie who finds out his wife has had sex with women thinks he must be gay.

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  6. Franklin says:

    I presume the Olympic records book aren’t going to be edited to say a woman won the men’s decathlon or whatever Bruce Jenner did. So I tend to agree there would be better ways to write that sentence. Why not just say her second husband was “Olympic star and TV celebrity Bruce Jenner, now known as Caitlyn Jenner?” By switching the two, it’s at least as correct, and definitely less confusing.

    I don’t have a problem with the President Obama sentence, because it is immediately obvious to almost everybody what is meant. The General Petraeus one is not quite as obvious, because some people might have to process whether a General would be leading an Infantry unit.

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  7. ptfe says:

    On the other hand, you’re picking apart the Wikipedia entry. You know you can edit that, right, and turn the sentence around so it’s more technically to your liking?

    Also, don’t forget to get rid of the part where it says Jenner married twice. Kris Houghton married once (to some Kardashian guy), but upon the creation of said union, Kris Houghton ceased to be, replaced seamlessly by Kris Kardashian. But was Kardashian ever married, or did she change to Kris Houghton as well, that discontinuous life picked up like a severed thread? In any case, the Houghton version was never married — at no time was she known by that name while married — while the Jenner version was married once and only once, to Bruce, not Caitlyn.

    Doubtless we can find more nits to pick out of these already-split hairs. But I think we have better things to do with our time.

    (OTOH, the continued use of a title after said title no longer applies still does bug me. Presidents are only presidents while they’re president; they get to keep the mug and the pens, but not the title.)

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  8. Tyrell says:

    @Hal_10000: Senator Sam Ervin was always referred to as Senator Sam after he left the senate. Generals often are still addressed as General after service, probably out of respect and honor: Haig, LeMay, Marshall, Sherman. I remember Gary Matthews (Atlanta Braves star) was often called “Sarge”, maybe a nickname.

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  9. de stijl says:

    While Bruce was apparently long tortured over his gender identity, he presented himself to the world—and, more to the point, his then-wife—as male. I’m perfectly comfortable with acknowledging that Bruce is now presenting as “Caitlyn” and in honoring her wish to be referred to by that name and with female pronouns. That seems the decent thing to do.

    You really seem to be trying to convince yourself of that. Your profession of tolerance here seems false. It’s pretty clear your not okay with this.

    But it strikes me as tortured, indeed, to retroactively put Kris into a lesbian marriage.

    Do you know what seems to be a decent thing to do? Not putting words into peoples mouth that they actually did not say. That would be the decent thing to do.

    Caitlyn Jenner, who so far as I know just came into being three days ago.

    That may be the most foolish thing I’ve ever seen you write. Wow. Holy crap! This is a statement that you may really want to revisit. If this statement was a “first draft” quick, capture my thoughts, drive-by, leave-in then it was an ignorant thing to do. If you carefully considered it and left it in your post anyway then it was a shameful thing to do.

    I’m an average mid-Western heteronormative dude, and even I can figure out that Caitlyn has always been there, in Bruce, since puberty or before. Jenner has always been Bruce + Caitlyn.

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  10. Electroman says:

    @ptfe: Referring to an ex-President as “President” or an ex-Governor as “Governor” is using a courtesy title. Although they are no longer President or Governor, they keep the courtesy title for life. This is a matter of convention, not of law.

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  11. Pinky says:

    @C. Clavin: ret·ro·ac·tive: (adj.) taking effect from a date in the past

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  12. Sudo Nimgh says:

    I was wondering if the concept (defacto accusation) of transmisogyny would somehow come up here in the comments.

    And yet, I am still surprised to see it come up.

    Those looking to be offended are rarely disappointed.

    And also, I find it hard to believe that “average mid-Western … dude[s]” use the term “heteronormative”.

    It was pretty clear that James meant that the article implies (due to clumsily phrased writing) that Kris was married to Caitlyn , when she was not. Because marriage certificates do not get issued to your id, they get issued to your legal identity, it’s not true to say she was married to Caitlyn, as she was not.

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  13. Rafer Janders says:

    @Hal_10000:

    That’s been a pet peeve of mine for a while. Former Presidents we still refer to as President Bush, etc. But I’m not aware of any former Speaker, other than Gingrich, who is still addressed by that title.

    That’s right. Only former presidents should retain their title; all others (governors, speakers, senators, cabinet secretaries, etc.) should revert to plain “Mrs.” or “Mr.” It always irked me during the last presidential campaign, for example, when people referred to “Governor Romney.” We’re not a feudal aristocracy (or we shouldn’t be) and we’re not supposed to hold titles for life.

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  14. Rafer Janders says:

    @Tyrell:

    Generals often are still addressed as General after service, probably out of respect and honor

    No, generals are referred to as general not out of respect, but because they retain their commission even after active service.

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  15. michael reynolds says:

    I’m bored with the whole thing. People have a right to be what they want to be so long as they aren’t hurting anyone. Courtesy requires us to refer to them using whatever pronoun they prefer. Why are we still talking about this? Is there some issue yet to be resolved?

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  16. Franklin says:

    @de stijl: For someone complaining about putting words in other people’s mouths, you’re sure doing it a lot.

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  17. de stijl says:

    @Sudo Nimgh:

    And also, I find it hard to believe that “average mid-Western … dude[s]” use the term “heteronormative”.

    I do.

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  18. DrDaveT says:

    Had you studied the philosophy of language, you would be aware that names, titles, and other descriptors are used flexibly in English. Sometimes “President Obama” is an assertion of present occupation; sometimes it is a proper noun, serving only to identify an individual person. Sometimes it is both. Native speakers use context to disambiguate, which is why nobody ever misunderstands a sentence like “Mrs. Clinton was once a cheerleader” to be asserting that Hillary was a cheerleader while married to Bill.

    An author who wants to distinguish between Jenner’s persona as Bruce and Jenner’s persona as Caitlyn could inform the reader that she’s going to use those names to indicate those respective personae in order to make certain points. That would be fine, but it’s not necessary for a conversation that isn’t intended to compare and contrast. If you tell me that “Switched-On Bach” was recorded by Wendy Carlos, you’re only wrong if you believe that the transformation from Walter to Wendy had significant artistic consequences for Mr./Ms. Carlos, so that it’s important to recall whether she was still Walter at the time. If you don’t think it matters, then any identifier that designates the person you’re talking about will do.

    Alas, language isn’t logical or consistent; sometimes it’s even ambiguous. If there’s a risk that someone might misunderstand you — e.g. in the case of “President Washington commanded the Virginia Regiment at one point” — then feel free to rephrase in a way that removes the ambiguity.

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  19. Rafer Janders says:

    @Electroman:

    Although they are no longer President or Governor, they keep the courtesy title for life.

    No, they don’t.

    This is a matter of convention, not of law.

    Proper convention is that they don’t keep the title, actualy. This article lays it out:

    Cabinet secretaries, and even presidents, can pack up their embossed matchbooks when they depart from office, but they are they supposed to leave their titles behind. That means Cheney, Baker, and Christopher should be referred to as “Mr.” Come Jan. 20, President Clinton will turn into a pumpkin and should be called “Mr.” as well because there is only one president–whoever that may be. The founding fathers thwarted the impulse toward self-inflation when they wrote, in Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution, “No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States.” Since Americans can’t run around calling themselves viscount and marquis, it’s generated a huge hunger to hang onto that high government title. According to the State Department Office of Protocol (protocol means that’s just the way it is, so don’t blame Explainer), even ambassadors are supposed to revert to Mr. or Ms. once they return from Barbados.

    http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2000/12/who_gets_to_keep_their_government_titles.html

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  20. de stijl says:

    @Franklin:

    Granted, I was pretty provocative and judgey, but, also, I didn’t write this:

    Caitlyn Jenner, who so far as I know just came into being three days ago.

    That is the provocative statement. Joyner wrote that.

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  21. Modulo Myself says:

    @DrDaveT:

    Michael Frayn, in the hilarious Fog-like Sensations:

    This is at last the sort of situation which philosophers have always waited for–the sort of situation in which one as a philosopher can offer practical help!

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  22. ptfe says:

    @Electroman: That convention is contentious at best, simply flawed at worst. Which is, of course, the point.

    I’m certainly not alone in feeling that presidents and governors preside until their term expires, at which point they revert to their prior honorifics. This is largely due to the nature of the post carrying the title, which means it’s necessarily limited and transferred on exit. Continued use of an elected title implies (a) diminished power of the current title-holder; (b) illegitimacy of the current title-holder; (c) confusion about who the current title-holder is; or (d) confusion about whether the title was given up.

    We also have ample means of expressing that someone previously held a position they no longer hold. Use “former President” or “previous President” or “past President” or “President from X-X” or something. Don’t be lazy.

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  23. Moderate Mom says:

    @michael reynolds: I agree with everything you say, but the changes to Bruce Jenner’s Wikipedia page are just bizarre. “She” did not win that gold medal, “He” did. And “She” wasn’t awarded the Male Athlete of the Year award, “He” was. “She” wasn’t married three times to different women, “He” was. And “She” didn’t father six children, “He” did.

    I don’t have a problem with someone calling themselves any name they want, even if they don’t get it legally changed. I don’t have a problem with referring to that person with whatever pronoun they prefer. I don’t have a problem with what attire they choose, as someone else’s sartorial choices aren’t any of my business. However, I do have a problem with an attempt to rewrite history. Two days ago, everything in the past was done by Bruce Jenner, and that is not going to change. Caitlyn Jenner is free to forge her future as she sees fit, but she will always be Caitlyn (formerly known as Bruce) Jenner when referring to her past.

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  24. Tillman says:

    @de stijl: How is that provocative? Plenty of interpretations there that don’t provoke. My favorite is that Joyner doesn’t follow celebrity gossip rags which were guessing at transition for months and years before the Vanity Fair cover. (Which has the bonus of fitting in with the basic image that he doesn’t follow celebrity news all that much.)

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  25. rodney dill says:

    I would think some of the usage is situational. I think you might still say “Bruce Jenner won the 1976 Olympics Decathlon.” I think I would say that even if, as a man, she’d changed her first name to Ben instead of changing it to Caitlyn. Talking about current situations using Caitlyn becomes easier.

    I don’t think I would necessarily say something like, “Kris Kardishian was formerly married to Caitlyn Jenner,” about other individuals unless the context of a transgender switch had already been established. As public as this situation is, however, the case can be made that that context is universally understood.

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  26. Scott says:

    @michael reynolds:
    @Moderate Mom:

    My reaction is now like you all: I’m bored and I just can’t spend the energy caring. I am perfectly willing to passively wait for it all to sort out.

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  27. Gromitt Gunn says:

    Jenner has been married twice. Her first husband was lawyer Robert Kardashian and her second husband was Olympic star and TV celebrity Caitlyn Jenner, then known as Bruce Jenner.

    Those sentences seem perfectly clear to me.

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  28. Tyrell says:

    @michael reynolds: I agree. This has been over sensentionalized, emphasized, discussed, and reported. It is time to move on – to the next “crisis” of some celebrity. I don’t think the soccer scandal is going to get much interest.

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  29. This isn’t a transgender thing (note they still refer to Jenner as “her second husband”). It’s an indexing thing. There is no longer a Bruce Jenner article, so the extra verbiage is necessary to explain why a phrase about Kris Jenner’s ex-husband is linked to an article that upon first impression may appear to be a different person.

    Are you disturbed that, for example, the article on Cassius Marcellus Clay Sr. keeps referring to his son a Muhammed Ali? “But he was born Cassius Clay Jr.!”

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  30. John D'Geek says:

    @Rafer Janders: Correct.

    All retired military retain their Rank, whatever that may be. Technically, they can also be recalled to active duty, though that doesn’t happen these days.

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  31. C. Clavin says:

    @Pinky:

    Quit: verb – leave, usually permanently.

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  32. de stijl says:

    @Moderate Mom:

    However, I do have a problem with an attempt to rewrite history. Two days ago, everything in the past was done by Bruce Jenner, and that is not going to change. Caitlyn Jenner is free to forge her future as she sees fit, but she will always be Caitlyn (formerly known as Bruce) Jenner.

    Bruce was always Bruce + Caitlyn.

    When he was a youngster, he knew he wasn’t normal.

    This isn’t re-writing history, this is acknowledging history. Bruce Jenner won the the Olympic gold medal for the Decathlon. Caitlyn Jenner also won the Olympic gold medal for the Decathlon. When he won the gold medal he was struggling with gender identification. My mom changed her name during her life. She was still the same person after she got married even though her name changed. I understand there are pronoun issues – I struggle with that myself.

    I hope that if I make a good faith effort to call someone by the name that they prefer to be known as, and to see them, and to treat them, as the gender that they prefer to be seen as, then, at least, I am not being a negative force in the world. I want to welcome you into my home as the person you see yourself as.

    And I am an average mid-Western dude.

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  33. wr says:

    @michael reynolds: ” Why are we still talking about this?”

    My basic feeling is that on the whole this is a good thing — perhaps this will bring the issue into the mainstream the way Rock Hudson’s illness did AIDS (although in substantially happier circumstances).

    Beyond that, I am completely uninterested in Ms Jenner, her publicist, her stylist, Annie Leibovitz’s photographs, the entire family, and any other aspect of this non-story that is eating so much of the media’s attention.

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  34. wr says:

    @Moderate Mom: ” Caitlyn Jenner is free to forge her future as she sees fit, but she will always be Caitlyn (formerly known as Bruce) Jenner when referring to her past.”

    So if someone were to mention the time when Muhammed Ali beat Sonny Liston for the title, would you interrupt to say “no, that was Cassius Clay”?

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  35. wr says:

    @rodney dill: “I would think some of the usage is situational. I think you might still say “Bruce Jenner won the 1976 Olympics Decathlon.””

    So the whole transgender thing doesn’t interest me much… but the language issues are cool!

    And just to parse things further, I’d say that if I were writing abut the 76 Olympics, or the history of the Decathlon, or anything along those lines, I’d say Bruce Jenner.

    But if I were writing a personality piece, I wouldn’t have a problem saying something like “Among her accomplishments she won the gold medal for Decathlon in the 76 Olympics.”

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  36. Kylopod says:

    @rodney dill: How is this any different from any other celebrities or public figures who have changed their name? When it’s for reasons related to a woman adopting or discarding a maiden name due to marriage or divorce, we usually refer to her by whatever name she chooses for herself. Susan Sarandon still publicly goes by the surname of her first husband whom she divorced in 1979, and so that’s what we call her, but many other actresses have dropped their ex’s name after a divorce (e.g. Roseanne Barr, who was known as Roseanne Arnold during her marriage to Tom Arnold) or always went by their maiden name or a stage name. The operating principle is this: we respect the celebrity’s wishes on how he/she wants to be referred to. Why is that so difficult? Why do people only get stubborn about this when it comes to transgender people?

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  37. wr says:

    @Stormy Dragon: “Are you disturbed that, for example, the article on Cassius Marcellus Clay Sr. keeps referring to his son a Muhammed Ali? “But he was born Cassius Clay Jr.!””

    You beat me to it.

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  38. de stijl says:

    @Tillman:

    How is that provocative?

    Are you referring to my comment or to James’?

    Are you saying that Joyner’s statement wasn’t provocative, or that my reaction wasn’t?

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  39. rodney dill says:

    @Kylopod:

    How is this any different from any other celebrities or public figures who have changed their name?

    It’s not, if you read post I don’t see it as different than a man changing his name to another mans name. The point of interest is when referring to the past. Which name do you use. I googled Lew Alcindor, which I thought would be an interesting comparison. In Wiki it uses Lew Alcindor a large amount of the time when talking about his early basketball accomplishments, but it does make sure it says, “Lew Alcindor, more famously known as Kareem Abdul Jabbar”. Of course, Kareem has been Kareem for so long now it would be easy to refer to all his accomplishments under Kareem.

    Why is that so difficult? Why do people only get stubborn about this when it comes to transgender people?

    I don’t think its that difficult and don’t think it’s just a transgender issue, as I said its somewhat situational, and I my view supports a lot of flexibility. WR made the comment

    But if I were writing a personality piece, I wouldn’t have a problem saying something like “Among her accomplishments she won the gold medal for Decathlon in the 76 Olympics.”

    which I would agree with. The only difference with celebrities is their condition is usually more widely known and understood. I could say, “Caitlyn won the 76 Decathlon” and pretty much everyone would know that she was Bruce at the time, but if I was on a Quiz show and was asked who won the 76 Decathlon, I’d still answer Bruce Jenner.

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  40. rodney dill says:

    @wr: Agreed. The language aspect is more interesting. I covered some in my response to Kylopod, so I won’t repeat it here.

    Sort of reminds me of ‘The Big Bang Theory’ episode where they discussed time travel and what verb tense to use for something done in the past, by someone that had traveled from the future to get there.

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  41. James Pearce says:

    @wr:

    Beyond that, I am completely uninterested in Ms Jenner, her publicist, her stylist, Annie Leibovitz’s photographs, the entire family, and any other aspect of this non-story that is eating so much of the media’s attention.

    It’s funny. On the way to work, I listen to a local station that brings on a guy named Mike Evans for the “Hollywood Report.” This morning he was talking about the Kardashians being offered a Vegas show, dismissively snorting, “What would they even do? I mean, who cares?”

    Well, Mike….apparently you do, because there’s a Kardashian item every day in your “Hollywood Report.” Yesterday it was the announcement that Kim was pregnant again. The day before it was about sleepovers at Kylie’s boyfriends house. Ridiculous.

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  42. Gustopher says:

    @de stijl:

    Your profession of tolerance here seems false. It’s pretty clear your not okay with this.

    I think you have a higher standard for tolerance than you ought to. I’d say someone is tolerant if they are:
    * willing to treat someone with respect
    * making a good faith effort to bumble through when they don’t understand
    * not attempting to discriminate against someone

    Beyond that… meh. Approval is not required. Gracefulness is not required. Empathy might be nice, but if it is so outside of your experiences that you can’t manage, that’s ok too so long as you can do respect.

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  43. @rodney dill:

    Sort of reminds me of ‘The Big Bang Theory’ episode where they discussed time travel and what verb tense to use for something done in the past, by someone that had traveled from the future to get there.

    Farnsworth A: You people and your slight differences disgust me. I’m going home. Where’s that blue box with our universe in it?
    Farnsworth 1: Oh, you’d like to get back to your evil universe, wouldn’t you? And destroy your box with our universe inside it.
    Farnsworth A: Nonsense! I would never do such a thing unless you were already having been going to do that!
    Farnsworth 1: Wha?
    Farnsworth A: You heard me!

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  44. @wr:

    You beat me to it.

    Coming to America was on cable last weekend.

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  45. Gustopher says:

    What strikes me as odd about all this is that Kris Jenner has never been married to Caitlyn Jenner, who so far as I know just came into being three days ago. She was married to Bruce Jenner, the name under which the individual then presenting as male lived for 65-plus years and during the entirety of their marriage.

    She wasn’t even married to Bruce Jenner, she was married to her expectation of Bruce Jenner, which could never match the actual person. In this case, somewhat spectacularly.

    I mean, really, who of us actually knows another person?

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  46. rodney dill says:

    @Stormy Dragon: I was thinking This BBT episode. I didn’t find the text yet, probably would be too long anyway.

    Sheldon: I’m going with it. Marty and Doc never had have had brought the time machine to 2015. That means 2015 Biff could also not had have had brought the Almanac to 1955 Biff. Therefore, the timeline in which 1955 Biff gets the Almanac is also the timeline in which 1955 Biff never gets the Almanac and not just never gets: never have, never hasn’t, never had have hasn’t.

    Raj: He’s right.

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  47. rodney dill says:

    @Gustopher: I don’t know why someone down voted that…. made me laugh.

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  48. michael reynolds says:

    @James P:

    There we go, there’s the full-on crazy we expect. Thanks for giving us that.

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  49. Tony W says:

    This pronouns stuff is more of an indictment of the current state of our language, which continues to evolve as needed to address changes in society. Because we’re now openly talking about transgender issues, my expectation is that somebody will come up with not only the current interim solution, but a longer term solution that works for everyone.

    I wish nothing but internal peace and contentment for Ms. Jenner.

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  50. superdestroyer says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Thank you for the comment. Who cares what Ms. Jenner is doing just as long as it is not on the television every five minutes. Ms. Jenner obviously has a plan to make a fortune off of her personal life. The question is why should the rest of us care and help Ms. Jenner make that fortune.

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  51. al-Ameda says:

    @James P:

    And we shouldn’t call Barack Hussein Soetoro president because he’s not a US citizen. He’s an Indonesian citizen because Lolo Soetoro adopted him. He travelled to Afghanistan and Pakistan in 1981 using his Indonesian passport

    Your Black Helicopter has arrived, please greet it.

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  52. Franklin says:

    @Tony W:

    This pronouns stuff is more of an indictment of the current state of our language

    I don’t think English is half the problem that other languages. Ours is mostly just pronouns, at least we don’t have verbs conjugated based on gender. Or gender-specific nouns.

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  53. de stijl says:

    @Gustopher:

    I think you have a higher standard for tolerance than you ought to

    Perhaps you’re correct. I’m not sure. I’m vacillating. It’s weird because Joyner is our host and I’m commenting here under his benevolence and on his dime. He created this space and everything in my cultural background screams that you must not insult the host in their own home.

    But I’m going to do it anyway.

    And it’s hard because I’m reacting to, and criticizing, the subtext and not the text.

    You said:

    I think you have a higher standard for tolerance than you ought to. I’d say someone is tolerant if they are:
    * willing to treat someone with respect
    * making a good faith effort to bumble through when they don’t understand
    * not attempting to discriminate against someone

    Perhaps I do have a higher standard than normal. My initial perception of Joyner’s post was that it was as minimally respectful as he could get away with.

    I’m perfectly comfortable with acknowledging that Bruce is now presenting as “Caitlyn” and in honoring her wish to be referred to by that name and with female pronouns.

    I’m not a psychologist, and I don’t have the professional capacity to truly grok the subtext, but a statement like the above triggers these reactions in me:

    The person who made this statement while using those words is not “perfectly comfortable” at all.

    When you say “present as” as a verb in the same sentence as “I’m perfectly comfortable”, you’re lying.

    The person who made this statement is saying, “I’m really uncomfortable with this. I want to move past this as quickly as possible but still say the words of acceptance and tolerance for the larger audience while still signalling the opposite intent to my tribe.” (Now I am literally putting words in James’ mouth. Apparently, I have no self-awareness, @Franklin: .)

    Do you know what seems to be a decent thing to do? Not putting words into peoples mouth that they actually did not say. That would be the decent thing to do.

    I was a self-righteous little prat. In my defense I wasn’t actually drunk when I wrote that.

    To return to Gustopher’s points, the only good faith effort that Joyner made was to make a good faith effort to address the issue while still signalling disapproval.

    What I see is an unsuccessful attempt to thread the needle. The language of approval and the signifiers of disapproval.

    I wish I knew an linguistically minded anthropologist so I could get the correct word or phrase.

    The best I can come up with right now is the most cynical version of “Minnesota Nice” (See Sudo Nimgh, I actually am an average mid-Westerner!)

    The benign version of Minnesota Nice is “Hey, Nice Ta See Ya. Nice Ta Meet Ya! I don’t know you, I don’t trust you, and I’m smiling at you because my culture demands that I appear welcoming, don’t ya know” and the dark version is “I actively dislike you, but I’m going to smile in your face while I desire your demise.” Think Rachel McAdams in Mean Girls and how she treats her minions. Fetch is totally not going to happen.

    To your checklist, Joyner said the words of tolerance while signalling his tribe the opposite, but he made a good faith effort not to be a full-on dick about it. Let’s call that a win.

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  54. de stijl says:

    @rodney dill:

    Lew Alcinder was very articulate and a credit to his race.

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  55. wr says:

    @Franklin: At least our nouns aren’t inflected.

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  56. Tony W says:

    @Franklin:

    I don’t think English is half the problem that other languages

    Fair point – My intention was to call out that we just need to become accustomed to the new verbiage (in whatever language) and then it won’t seem so foreign.
    @superdestroyer:

    Ms. Jenner obviously has a plan to make a fortune off of her personal life.

    I highly doubt this is about making “a fortune” – but rather more about reaching a helping hand down to others who have lived as Caitlyn has lived all these years. Sometimes people in the spotlight use their power for good. We are now talking about transgender issues as a society in an accepting way that we have not in the past.

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  57. de stijl says:

    @Tony W:

    Sometimes people in the spotlight use their power for good.

    This is a foreign concept for some. Transactionalism a la superdestroyer cannot conceive of altruism.

    Doing the right thing for the right reason should not be grist for the sociopolitical war games.

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  58. stonetools says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Yeah, my bingo card is full now. He otherwise hit everything else on the ODS bingo card.

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  59. stonetools says:

    @Tony W:

    This pronouns stuff is more of an indictment of the current state of our language, which continues to evolve as needed to address changes in society

    First, English has to come up with a good nuetral third person pronoun. That’s way overdue. I’ve been using “they” but I’m not happy about it.

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  60. @stonetools:

    It should be noted that the “singular they” actually predates modern English (“And whoso fyndeth hym out of swich blame, / They wol come up…” — Chaucer, 1395), so English has always had a perfectly good gender neutral pronoun.

    The belief that it’s incorrect grammar to use “they” as a singular pronoun is one of a number of arbitrary rules the Victorians came up with in the 19th century that too many people treat as sancrosanct instead of the idiosyncracies of one particular time period.

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  61. de stijl says:

    @stonetools:

    “They” sucks. So false. Plus, the grammar slice of my brain goes bonkers. “They” is plural. Applying “they ” to a particular person just makes my head hurt.

    There is no good off-the-shelf option, so we need a new word. Linguistic gender neutrality would be so much easier if we did not have these mental blocks.

    But then again I misused “you’re” earlier today, so you probably shouldn’t trust me.

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  62. @de stijl:

    Free your mind from Victorian parochialism, de stijl! Use “they” to refer to just one person! Split your infinitives! End sentences with a preposition! GO FORTH AND BE EXPRESS YOURSELF FREELY!!

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  63. Kylopod says:

    @stonetools: It’s almost impossible to create a new pronoun. It isn’t like getting people to say “Congresswoman” instead of “Congressman.” English invents new nouns all the time, but it hasn’t adopted a new pronoun in at least 1,000 years! And that was when the language of the Viking invaders was getting mixed with Anglo-Saxon and we adopted their pronoun they.

    The gender-neutral problem with pronouns is therefore tricky and there really is no solution that will satisfy everyone. One trick that works at least some of the time is to turn your whole sentence plural–so instead of saying “Every president has his scandals,” you say “All presidents have their scandals.”

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  64. James Joyner says:

    @de stijl: @de stijl: I’m not understanding your argument here.

    “Caitlyn Jenner” is a construct first made public Monday. That’s simply a fact. Indeed, as recently as the Diane Sawyer interview in which Bruce confirmed the rumors, he was still “Bruce” and asked to be referred to with male pronouns. I’m fully comfortable with the fact that the person previously known as “Bruce Jenner” has long struggled with gender dysphoria and has thought of herself as a woman for a very long time. I’m not invalidating the latter by acknowledging the former.

    Maybe “present as” isn’t the terminology currently en vogue? All I’m expressing is the outward persona that the individual in question presents to the world. If, for example, I somehow suspected that Bruce Jenner were really a woman in terms of self-identity, it would be not only bizarre but profoundly disrespectful to refer to him as a “she” while he was still maintaining the male persona of “Bruce Jenner.” Now that she’s “Caitlyn,” it would be similarly disrespectful to deny her the identity she’s presenting.

    I’ve expressed the same issue with Chelsea (nee Bradley) Manning. We ought treat her with the appropriate dignity in custody. But it still strikes me as odd to speak of Chelsea Manning’s acts of espionage, since Chelsea Manning did not exist as a public persona until after Bradley’s conviction. Chelsea Manning never had access to classified information.

    In most news accounts, this isn’t really a problem since it can be established early in the story that the transition occurred and subsequent references would simply be to “Manning” or “Jenner.” But the oddness is less avoidable in a story featuring Kris and Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner, since first names are required.

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  65. michael reynolds says:

    For what it’s worth I read James’ post as sort of tongue-in-cheek irritation over language, but your mileage may vary.

    I like to reward progress. I think James Joyner has come a long way to being able as an ex-Army, Virginia Republican, to be able to switch almost blithely between masculine and feminine pronouns in this case.

    Most of us have evolved in one way or another, hopefully from a less perfect to a more perfect state, and I strongly suspect that if we scrolled back through the lives of everyone here we’d find at least a few overtly nasty remarks about cross-dressers and transgender folks. We have arrived at the leading edge of liberal tolerance, the frontier, and I consider it kind of amazing that a self-described conservative is pretty much keeping pace.

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  66. James Joyner says:

    @michael reynolds: It’s a challenging issue both intellectually and in terms of the verbiage.

    While society has come a long way, it’s nonetheless an amazing thing for a public persona such as Bruce Jenner–who’s been in the spotlight in some form since at least 1976—to become the new face of transgender issues. Caitlyn Jenner has endured a decades-long struggle and now is going to have lots of scorn heaped on her. I don’t want to add to that.

    At the same time, it has to be a weird thing, to say the least, for Kris Jenner that the man she married has declared that she’s actually a woman and always has been. We needn’t add to that by speaking of her marriage to “Caitlyn Jenner.”

    Upthread, people have used examples like Lew Alcindor/Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali and the much more common case of women who change their name upon marriage. In the first two cases, they’ve used their new names so long that that’s their sole identity—although there’s still need in some case for their old names in historical context. In the case of married women, it’s only rarely confusing and we’ve adopted conventions for dealing with that. We really haven’t done that yet for transgender name changes. And the implications are certainly different than a simple name change.

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  67. @James Joyner:

    “Caitlyn Jenner” is a construct first made public Monday. That’s simply a fact.

    You’re making a “use-mention” error here. The designator “Caitlyn Jenner” was made public Monday. The entity it designates has existed for 65 years. It is the exact same entity previously designated by the designator “Bruce Jenner”. Updating the designators to the current one doesn’t change the nature of the entity being designated.

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  68. Tyrell says:

    @Tony W: Some states are passing laws that will require gender “nuetral” vocabulary: hand writing instead of penmanship, salesperson instead of salesman, first year students instead of freshmen. Bizarre, weird, mental ! Another misguided attempt to avoid offending someone ! It is so ridiculous.

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  69. @Tyrell:

    Some states are passing laws that will require gender “nuetral” vocabulary:

    Name one.

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  70. de stijl says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’m not understanding your argument here.

    Good. It’s not a well articulated argument because it a sub-textual, tonal, “feeling” argument.

    You see your language as neutral and perhaps even affirming.

    “Caitlyn Jenner” is a construct first made public Monday.

    The fact that you see that statement as non-controversial is illuminating and may very well mean that we’re never going to come to a consensus.

    That word, “construct,” why did you you choose it? You may not see it, but I see it as, frankly, chilling – almost repulsive,. That word choice alienates me.

    (By the way, don’t trust me on the text or the proper words to use. I’m not trans, I’m just a rando straight guy – I’m not an expert.)

    This sentence is probably the best evidence of that tonal problem that I perceive with your statements about Jenner. You see your statements as as factual and neutral. Can you see that some see the use of “construct” as prickly bordering on offensive?

    This sucks, because it sounds like I’m psychoanalyzing you. But in for a penny, in for a pound. Here’s my impression: you think you are okay with Jenner / trans Americans. But your writing gives the impression that you are not okay. You seem uncomfortable or perhaps have a major case of Really Not Getting It. Perhaps profoundly so. You obviously don’t seem to be negative towards Jenner, but the words you think are neutral to affirming strike my ear as if you are markedly uncomfortable.

    Maybe it’s the legalisms. Just from a style perspective, you may want to steer clear of “construct” unless you’re describing an AI.

    Sorry that I’m making a tonal objection. It’s basically impossible to respond to.

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  71. CB says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    The state of Delusion.

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  72. Gustopher says:

    @James Joyner:

    But it still strikes me as odd to speak of Chelsea Manning’s acts of espionage, since Chelsea Manning did not exist as a public persona until after Bradley’s conviction

    So, Pope Benedict XVI was never a member of the Hitler Youth, but Joseph Ratzinger was? And Yusef Islam did not write “Father and Son”, that was Cat Stevens?

    It seems to be splitting hairs, and I would probably go with the time-appropriate name, adding the qualifier to their current name where needed (for instance “In 1992, The Artist Formerly Known As Prince (now known as Prince) released his album ‘Love Symbol Album'”). But, I would not say that Prince did not exist between 1992 and 2000.

    And, in the case of Caitlyn Jenner, it sounds like weird transgender denialism to claim that she didn’t exist before two days ago, even if the name didn’t exist then.

    Also, I am very proud of my Prince example.

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  73. Tyrell says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Glad to. State of Washington, 2013. See Reuters, also Huffington Post.

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  74. de stijl says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    End sentences with a preposition!

    Up with which, why should I indulge your foolishness?

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  75. de stijl says:

    When I was 25 I had to figure out a way to tell my grandmother that “Oriental” wasn’t a proper way to refer to my Korean – American girlfriend construct. That was 25 years ago.

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  76. DrDaveT says:

    @de stijl: FWIW, that’s almost exactly the reaction I had to James’s word choice. I’m still hoping that it’s just a simple confusion between things, definite descriptions of things, and names for things, but the more James says the less likely that becomes.

    My wife existed long before she had the same last name as me. Any statement that is true about my wife is equally true whether you refer to her by her maiden name or her current name, because the important thing is the act of referring, not the label used to refer.

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  77. @Tyrell:

    Setting standards for how the government writes in its own documents != “laws requiring gender neutral language”. The Seattle PD is not running around arresting people for saying “penmanship”.

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  78. Yolo Contendere says:

    @James Joyner: FWIW, “presents as” is absolutely the terminology I’ve heard used by members of various orientation and gender groups when discussing this type of thing. Wondered how you got so hip and with it.

    The sentence I have a problem with is when you say Caitlyn just came into being three days ago. Caitlyn has been around awhile, even if you weren’t aware of her. Calling Caitlyn a “construct” also kind of jars.

    Finally, I’m not sure what the problem is with “her husband… Caitlyn Jenner”, and how that sentence makes a lesbian marriage. Setting aside the use of the word “husband”, which should be the end of it, the problem is predicated on using a “feminine” name. But what makes the name feminine? What if instead of Caitlyn, it was Robin? Or Leslie? Would that be a problem?

    ETA: I also have a male friend named Kris. Does that make the Kris & Bruce Jenner marriage a gay one?

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  79. de stijl says:

    @Gustopher:

    A long time back a friend of mine who was fairly decent on keyboards, not great, not even all that technically good, but decent, ended up as a New Power Generation guy. (Do I sound jealous?) He was the on-stage tour keyboard guy for a few years. A few hilariously inept videos. It was back when they were trying to make NPG happen. Costumes. I distinctly remember some silly ER doctor gear. It was actually kind of laughable in hindsight. Right before Diamonds And Pearls – that era.

    I never “asked-asked” what the money was like ’cause that would be awkward and rude but my impression was that the money wasn’t *that* great, but he lived like a god when Unpronounceable was touring. Well, maybe not like God-god, but God adjacent. Upper middle-class money (which, to us, back then, was a damned fortune) and a God adjacent lifestyle (for a few months or the year.) The man did alright for himself and gave us all hope.

    BTW, He (you know who I mean) is tiny and, I’m still not really sure how to describe his demeanor – still? serene? quiet? Can someone be intense and serene at the same time? I got to see him on stage at his Lake place working on things, but never creating new stuff. How cool would that have been? “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man” was a great piece of song – writing and getting to see the tour version come together was a great experience.

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  80. Tyrell says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Maybe no arrests, but the articles read “Governor signs into law”, “new requirements”, “mandates”. Maybe no one goes to jail, but if there is a state law, requirements, or mandates then there have to be consequences: somebody losing their job or something. Evidently some of these state governments have nothing else to do except rewrite a bunch of text just in case somebody might get offended ! Bizarre, weird ! Someone’s tax money at work.

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  81. de stijl says:

    @DrDaveT:

    I’m still hoping that it’s just a simple confusion between things, definite descriptions of things, and names for things, but the more James says the less likely that becomes.

    I think we’ll be hoping for a while. Those word choices were deliberate. The intentionality is debatable only if you ignore every non-verbal signal.

    Joyner is as comfortable with transgenderism as I am with tarantulas.

    The pretense of acceptance is actually a very positive sign, though.

    I know, a pretense ain’t the real thing, you’re thinking. But here’s why the pretense of acceptance is important – it means that the previous default position will no longer be unchallenged. In the marketplace of ideas, it now has shelfspace. It has legs.

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  82. Tony W says:

    @Tyrell: Yeah, it sure ain’t 1974 anymore…

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  83. rodney dill says:

    @de stijl: Kareem Abdul Jabbar is only pertinent to this thread as an example of someone who changed his name, had significant accomplishments under either name, and has been referred to by both his old and new name to various degrees by the media or Wikipedia. Mohammad Ali is another good example used somewhere above. Adding statements about race or implications of racism are only sort of…. stupid.

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  84. James Joyner says:

    @Gustopher:

    So, Pope Benedict XVI was never a member of the Hitler Youth, but Joseph Ratzinger was? And Yusef Islam did not write “Father and Son”, that was Cat Stevens?

    Yes. The former, especially, is downright confusing, implying that the head of the Roman Catholic church was part of the organization. Now, obviously, the meaning can be made clear in writing the piece. But I actually prefer “Ratzinger” in a biographical piece about the former pope as a boy.

    @Yolo Contendere: My problem isn’t that “Caitlyn Jenner” is a woman’s name but rather that it names a woman. Kris Jenner was married to “Bruce Jenner,” a trans woman presenting as a man.

    @DrDaveT: I haven’t followed the Jenner story closely to know at exactly what point Bruce began to think of himself as Caitlyn or at what point he fully came to terms with the idea that she was a woman. But, as recently as the Dianne Sawyer interview, he wanted to be called “Bruce” and referred to using male pronouns.

    For what it’s worth, I’m very comfortable with the version now at Wikipedia: “her second husband was Olympic star and TV celebrity Bruce Jenner, now known as Caitlyn Jenner.”

    As to your wife not being a different person using your last name versus her maiden name, that’s true. In a biographical piece, I’d expect the old name to be included but it wouldn’t be necessary in many forms of writing. But that’s the simple naming of a person, a very different sort of transition than changing one’s gender presentation.

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  85. wr says:

    @de stijl: “That word, “construct,” why did you you choose it? You may not see it, but I see it as, frankly, chilling – almost repulsive,. That word choice alienates me.”

    I took his use of the word in the sense of “idea” rather than “construction project,” which I kind of understand — the public conception of this person as Caitlin rather than Bruce did first appear then, no matter what had gone on inside the person for 65 years.

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  86. wr says:

    @Gustopher: “Also, I am very proud of my Prince example.”

    Half points. Full score would have required using the glyph.

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  87. de stijl says:

    @rodney dill:

    I was trying to be ironic. Apparently, I failed.

    Lew Alcindor becoming Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was a very big deal back in the day. Cassius Clay becoming Muhammad Ali and declaring in his inimitable way that we must call him Muhammad Ali was a very, very big deal. Muhammad Ali refusing to join the US Army and instead joining the Nation of Islam and going to jail as a result and losing his title, was a really big freaking deal and white America dealt with it poorly. The era of Stepin Fetchit died then. It was a messy death.

    The least significant

    White America wanted Black America to be grateful and compliant. The Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act means that we are officially excused from the the last 300 years of blatant depravity. Lew Alcindor was grateful and compliant. Lew Alcindor was articulate and a credit to his race. Cassius Clay was a puckish rogue. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was not grateful and he was mad as hell. Muhammed Ali was defiant and he knew exactly what he wanted to say and it wasn’t tipping his cap and saying “Thankya, Suh.”

    Becoming Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and becoming Muhammad Ali was a virtual declaration of war. Bold and daring don’t even begin to describe it. It was the rejection of all that had gone before. It was telling us that we cannot sleep easily, that we cannot wash away our sins legislatively.

    Becoming Caitlyn Jenner is not nearly as socially provocative. Bruce Jenner is utterly incapable of being socially provocative. He just knows that Caitlyn needs to be.

    Civil rights are civil rights and not understanding that race and gender and orientation are related in how, we as a society, deal with unpopular or challenging beliefs is foolish.

    Adding statements about race or implications of racism are only sort of…. stupid.

    Wow. I think I gonna go with “no comment” and not say something rude.

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  88. de stijl says:

    Sorry, my browser died and I had to reboot.

    The least significant

    was meant to be the intro to a new paragraph.

    Kareem Abdul Jabbar is only pertinent to this thread as an example of someone who changed his name

    The least significant, and the least important thing, about Kareem’s journey was the name change.

    Also, I want to address another thing: making me the bad guy in the thread when it comes to racial issues – that I have a problem with Lew Alcindor becoming Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Accusing me of reverse-backward completion principle racism (thanks, Fee Waybill!) will not stand unacknowledged.

    Adding statements about race or implications of racism are only sort of…. stupid.

    My grandmother said those things. Praising black people by calling them “articulate”. My mother nodded along as always. My father was a get -along, go-along guy – he wouldn’t say “Boo” if he saw a ghost. My dear nana was a nice, first-generation, Swedish-American lady who was also a bone-deep racist. She had no way of coping with a nice black boy sassing his betters. Giving yourself a new name? Converting to a new religion? It was utterly incompatible with how she saw how the world worked. Nice boys don’t sass, and black boys should know not to rock the boat.

    Caitlyn Jenner – nee Bruce, and all that implies – how she lives her life and how we react to her – is a social issue. The civil rights issue is equal treatment under the law. I see this as deeply connected to the previous civil rights issue we tried to address in the mid 60’s.

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  89. Tillman says:

    @de stijl: I was saying James’s wasn’t provocative. Probably because it didn’t provoke me. :)

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  90. de stijl says:

    @Tillman:

    Works for me.

    Actually, it didn’t work for me, hence, my objection to what James said. James thing didn’t work for me, but your thing does, if you get me.

    BTW, was I provocative? Trying to accomplish something and then failing is kinda sucky (Thanks, stupid can-do American school system that gave me a false confidence in how awesome I am. I was supposed to be a special snowflake, but I am not.. I am not an animal; I am a human being. Stupid taxes!)

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  91. DrDaveT says:

    @James Joyner:

    But that’s the simple naming of a person, a very different sort of transition than changing one’s gender presentation.

    If you choose to say to my wife that changing from being Miss ___ to Mrs. DrDaveT was a simple naming of a person, and not a radical transformation, I advise you to stand back quickly after saying it.

    Better yet, see de stijl’s excellent discussion of Lew Alcindor and Cassius Clay versus Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Muhammad Ali.

    …but more importantly, you’re still not getting the fact that the same name is sometimes used as a descriptor and sometimes merely to refer to an individual. No matter how much you want people to always say “Lew Alcindor” when they’re talking about things that happened to that particular person when he was young, and to say “Kareem Abdul-Jabbar” when they’re talking about things that happened to that same person when he was older, that’s not how the language works. It is perfectly valid to talk about things that happened to Malcolm X or Annie Oakley when they were 3 years old without needing to go look up what their respective names were at that point.

    You would have just as much luck (and just as much reason on your side) to insist that everyone always say “Amn’t I clever?” instead of “Aren’t I clever?” on the grounds that if we say “I am clever” we must also use “am” in the negative. That would be logical — but it would not be American English.

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  92. James Joyner says:

    @DrDaveT:

    If you choose to say to my wife that changing from being Miss ___ to Mrs. DrDaveT was a simple naming of a person, and not a radical transformation, I advise you to stand back quickly after saying it.

    But men undergo a similar transformation, generally without a concomitant name change. But going from being engaged to DrDaveT to married to DrDaveT is a significantly less radical transformation than going from DrDaveT to DrSusieT.

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  93. James Joyner says:

    @de stijl:

    Maybe it’s the legalisms. Just from a style perspective, you may want to steer clear of “construct” unless you’re describing an AI.

    Ah….

    I’m using “construct” in the sense of “social construct.” While sex is a real, biological thing, gender is socially constructed. Similarly, “Caitlyn Jenner” is a construct in that it’s a signaling mechanism to indicate that the person formerly known as “Bruce Jenner,” who presented and was universally perceived as not only male but an alpha male, now wished to be regarded as a woman.

    Somewhere over the course of the previous 65 years—if Jenner is typical, probably quite early—Bruce realized he wasn’t comfortable fully identifying as male and, presumably much more recently, decided that she mostly viewed herself as a woman. That perception, while intangible, is a real thing and there’s plenty of medical science to support that idea that there are tangible, biological differences in addition to psychological ones at work in these cases. Thus, Jenner’s transgender idea is a real thing. “Caitlyn” vice “Bruce” is a construct to signal that thing.

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  94. James Joyner says:

    @de stijl: I’ve actually written a lot about transgender issues over the years. Even my earliest posting, written eleven years ago, is reasonably respectful.

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  95. grumpy realist says:

    Eh, how about referring to “Bruce Jenner” for all events in history before officially changing his/her name, and then “Caitlyn Jenner” for after? Or if you think the interview with (I forget who) got the info out even further, use that date?

    It really isn’t all that difficult and we have enough practice in the other areas of changing of names to feel comfortable with it.

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