A Hero By Any Other Name

What makes a hero? A two second Google search reveals there are two definitions: 1.) a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities. 2.) a person who, in the opinion of others has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal. Both are true but both mean very different things.

To a child, a heroic act could be rescuing their cat from a tree. To an elderly woman, it could be helping her cross the street safely. Others have religious heroes like Buddah and Jesus, who tell us to love one another unconditionally, even if you don't fully understand or agree with another person's choices or religion. To many, heroes come in the form of pop-culture celebrities like Tyler Oakley and Katy Perry who are not afraid to be their crazy and colorful selves regardless of what people think of them, or athletes like Robbie Rogers or Michael Sam who are proving that sexuality has nothing to do with ability.

I grew up with all kinds of heroes. My cousin Lucas was one, because he came to my rescue when I lost control of the horse I was riding and he took off towards the hills, and my grandmother, who always made me feel like it was okay to be myself. Another was the singer Tiffany, because I loved her music and she, like me, didn't have the most amazing home-life as a child. There was also Rainbow Brite, because she was bright and colorful and happy, the list goes on. But the truth is, you, as a reader, don't really care about my heroes. You may if you're one of them or know them, but the vast majority of you wont and that's okay. You have your own heroes, men and women who you look up to for reasons that are known only to you and you have no obligation to explain yourself.

When Caitlyn Jenner won Glamor's woman of the year award I, like many, went "Hmmm, I'm not sure I agree with that," but I also thought "Good for her." Believe it or not and like it or not, the fact is that when Bruce Jenner came out and told the world who he really was was a woman, it was a pivotal moment in history. As a man, Mr. Jenner was (at one time) the epitome of what it meant to be a red-blooded All-American man. He was tough and gruff and strong and it didn't hurt that he was also incredibly handsome. So, for this perfect specimen of masculinity to say "Yeah, I did that, it was awesome, but all my life I've felt like a woman" (my words, not hers) was HUGE for the transgender community. To them, women like Caitlyn Jenner and Lana Wachowski or men like Aydian Dowling and Chaz Bono who have the courage to step out and be themselves in a time where being transgender can still be very scary is a heroic act. Whether you agree with it or not doesn't matter.

Caitlyn Jenner may not be one of my personal heroes, but she doesn't have to be. Her heroics and the recognition she receives for them do not make those of my heroes any less important to me, nor do they take away from the heroic actions of a soldier fighting over seas or a police officer in New York. It just means that she, like so many others, are doing the best that they can to be something to someone and show them that no matter how bad things are, there's always a light- somewhere and if you find it and hold onto it, it can illuminate your entire world. Why is that a bad thing?