Sorry conservatives, we don’t have to choose whether to support Caitlyn Jenner or veterans

Shortly following Caitlyn Jenner’s appearance on the cover of Vanity Fair, ESPN announced that she will receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at this year’s ESPYs. This prompted the claim — which went viral — that the runner up for the award was an army veteran and amputee. As it turns out, that claim is completely false.

The injured soldier meme was repeated in other forms — not without its own self-defeating irony: One viral image of a wounded soldier posted with criticism of the media’s favorable coverage of Jenner was subsequently found to have been taken by a man who was nearly beaten to death for being a “crossdresser.”

Two kinds of courage (screengrab via Twitter

Two kinds of courage (screengrab via Twitter

This injured soldier meme has been one of the strangest lines of argument in the discussion that has followed Caitlyn Jenner’s public identification as a woman. Conservatives seem to be taken aback that Jenner’s announcement is being called “courageous” for fear that we’ll forget that fighting for your country is also an act of courage. Like most of these kinds of comparisons, they create a false choice.

The idea behind all of these complaints that Jenner is undeserving of her ESPY is that there are two sides: One can either support the LGBT community (presumably by voting for Democrats — which Jenner is not) or the troops through the Republicans. There’s a line in the sand, and we have to choose.

This line does not reflect the reality of the situation.

The reality is that the same folks who support Caitlyn Jenner’s decision to publicly identify herself as a woman are also the folks fighting for our veterans. Democrats supported, and Republicans blocked, this bill, all because then-majority leader Harry Reid wouldn’t allow a vote on an amendment that would have added unrelated sanctions against Iran. Since the Republicans have taken control of the senate, they’ve pushed for this bill, which cuts benefits to 70,000 veterans (President Obama has promised to veto the bill). And then there’s this bill, sponsored by Bernie Sanders and (again) blocked by the GOP, which expands healthcare and education for veterans.

Republicans’ attempts to make life worse for veterans extend beyond Washington, too. Texas’s state senate recently passed this bill, which would no longer allow veterans to pass unused state tuition benefits on to their children.

The list goes on. On bill after bill, Democrats support helping veterans and Republicans oppose it.

This being the case, it appears as though the choice is not whether you support the LGBT community or the veterans (a particularly ridiculous suggestion since many veterans are LGBT). The choice is whether you support the LGBT community and the veterans or, like the Republicans, you support neither.

This seems like an easy choice to me.


Max Mills is a 26 year old Texan with a degree in Computer Science. Although he writes about a variety of things, his main focuses are education and political accountability. You can follow him on Twitter at @MaxFMills

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  • HeatherENowak

    [email protected]

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  • BoBelinski

    My support of war veterans is all about them being paid much more, and getting excellent, free healthcare, during and after their tours of service. It does not, and never will, include support for the useless foreign wars they are involved in. Honestly, a big part of me wonders why in hell anyone would want to join a military that is essentially abusing its members. As for Jenner, I fully support transgender rights but I could not give a rosy rat’s ass for this particular woman – a spoiled rich person who has as much in common with everyday transgender women as Kim Kardashian does with my sister.

  • The right wing doesn’t support veterans, they support war. Veterans are merely a nice propaganda mantra.

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    Famous for being famous.

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  • Ah thanks for the catch — that was an oversight on my part. Fixed now.

  • timncguy

    you’re just a bit off on your description of the wounded soldier photo. It was not taken by a man who was beaten to “death”. It was taken by a man who was beaten “nearly to death”. Here are the reported details

    “In a follow-up post
    Tuesday, Coffey said he had conducted a quick image search online and
    simply chose one that fit his words, but he decided after the post went
    viral to identify the photographer so he could credit his work.

    “In an ironic twist, I have discovered that the photo is part of a
    documentary created by a man who was beaten nearly to death outside of a
    bar in 2000,” Coffey posted.

    The photographer, Mark Hogancamp, spent nine days in a coma and suffered severe brain damage and other injuries, Coffey learned.

    Why was he nearly beaten to death by 5 strangers?” Coffey asked. “Because he was a cross-dresser.””

  • drdick52

    Ironically, one of my trans friends is a decorated veteran (and was also a pro football player) who served as a Green Beret in Vietnam.

  • MoonDragon

    The categorization and “rating” of intangible traits such as courage is infuriating. Courage is facing fear or pain with dignity. Courage is doing the difficult in spite of the difficulty. Everyone is presented with different opportunities to be courageous, and to denigrate one expression of courage by comparing it to another exhibits a total lack of understanding of the concept. Is the child who stands up to a teasing bully to be shamed because her courage is does not involve putting herself in physical danger?

    And why are our veterans only useful to the right when they can be used for fund raising or hippie bashing? Their courage on the battlefield is obvious. We also need to recognize the quite courage they exercise when dealing with underfunded services that leave them to deal with the physical and emotional horrors after the fact. But those pictures don’t make for good memes. They might require reflection on our own responsibilities . . . nah, cheap shots are so much better.

  • I’ve known a number of Trans folks over the years, and yes the one common characteristic among all of them has been courage and bravery. (Same also with gays, lesbians, and bisexuals…)

    While I absolutely applaud what Caitlyn has done and the courage it took to do a transition so publicly, it’s not nearly as hard when you have as much money, fame, and the family and social support Caitlyn currently enjoys.

    Y’know what’s truly courageous? Coming out as Trans to your fundamentalist parents who you know will immediately kick you out of their home. Sadly, that is the reality for far too many T* youths in this country — yet they still do it because they feel they have to.

    Courage has often been defined as doing what you have to do even though you are afraid, and even though there is tremendous risk and potential for losses. The worst Caitlyn Jenner risked was her fame, and of course the ridicule and slurs from the conservatives and Christianists we all knew was inevitable. But she still would have her inner circle support and her money, and that’s something way too many Trans folks never have.

    When you have little or nothing, and know you may lose your job, your friends, and possibly even your family, yet you still persevere and be true to yourself, that’s real courage.

    That all said: The hagiography of soldiers and veterans — who get lots of “thanks for your service” but never enough “oh, and here’s the medical and mental health treatment we all OWE you for your sacrifices” — it smacks of pseudo-patriotic jingoism. Then again, maybe that’s why the conservatives are all freaked out: If meaningless courage and bravery awards aren’t reserved solely for disabled yet still photogenic veterans, people might realize there are more ways of displaying courage and being a hero than being sent off to meaningless wars in foreign lands for the enrichment of the plutocrats.

    Oh, and about that image, the one of a soldier carrying another one, which was used in an attempt to insult Jenner? The man who created it wasn’t beaten to death. He was nearly beaten to death (for being a crossdresser, yes), and as a result of his injuries (physical and psychological, including brain damage), he took to creating artistic tableaus with a WW2 theme. The photo in question is actually constructed from miniatures. Here’s the post explaining the backstory:

    http://www.addictinginfo.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/terrycoffey2.jpg

  • Bill_Perdue

    The best way to support veterans is to end all US wars, bring all the troops home, including mercenaries and CIA employees and to investigate, with a view to indict the Clintons, the Bushes and Obama and their cabinets and Chiefs of Staff.

  • Butch1

    I only wish they could translate their support to their politicians in Washington DC regarding Veterans and their issues. When they are all spent from these wars the chicken-hawks send them to, they turn their backs on them and try and cut their benefits. (along with a number of democrats as well) This president tried to pass the Chained-CPI budget and Pelosi along with Reid were supportive of it. You will recall that it consisted of robbing Senior citizens and Disabled Veterans of their money and benefits to bring down the debt.

  • Butch1

    Conservatives seem to look at issues in black and white and have always had a problem with the gray scale.

  • Indigo

    My impression is that number$ mean more to her than the alphabet.

  • 2karmanot

    So I’ve heard

  • 2karmanot

    But can she read?

  • 2karmanot

    Because amoebas retired from the celebrity game.

  • Indigo

    They attract attention. That’s all I know about them.

  • Indigo

    Speaking of courageous gay men, the bio-pic ‘Saint Laurent’ is a work of art. As was he.

  • emjayay

    Why are the Jennerdashians famous anyway? Anyone?

  • Indigo

    Conservatives fearlessly ignore the facts, whatever they are, wherever they are.

  • Indigo

    But as cougars go, she’s lovely.

  • 2karmanot

    Couldn’t agree more! ” just about every gay man I know is also courageous.” Now that is the absolute truth!

  • 2karmanot

    Excellent article Max. You have pointed out and destroyed the myth-meme that Republicans are patriotic supporters of soldiers and veterans. Not only are the ongoing and needless colonizing American wars losing adventures but the much deferred non-serving Republican cowards who started these wars are still devoting their influence to despoiling justly earned benefits for their service.
    “The list goes on. On bill after bill, Democrats support helping veterans and Republicans oppose it.” BINGO!

  • GarySFBCN

    This is what I posted on Facebook: It’s hardly a tough road for someone who is filthy stinking rich with no risk of becoming impoverished, whose despicable decade of famewhoredom – that helped to establish new lows for cultural norms – is working in her favor and who has access to the best surgeons, fashion consultants and media experts to make a big transition splash. This isn’t courage. She didn’t face getting beat up when her boyfriend found out that she is trans. She didn’t face selling her ass on the street because she is poor because of trans rejection. She didn’t try to kill herself after being kicked out of her parents home at age 13 because she is trans. The only negative thing she faced was rejection and her media people helped to alleviate rejection and make her transition easier and marketable. If facing rejection is the standard for courage, just about every gay man I know is also courageous. As for conservatives, I’m tired of pundits trying to paint me into a corner, using high school debate team tactics. I do recognize the overall good that comes from the media acceptance of a famous person transitioning and I appreciate that. But I still think that Caitlyn is a despicable human being with no morals, and that has nothing to do with her gender identity, before or after.

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