Caitlyn Jenner and My Reptilian Brain

Caitlyn Jenner accepts the Arthur Ashe award for courage at the ESPY Awards at the Microsoft Theater on Wednesday, July 15, 2
Caitlyn Jenner accepts the Arthur Ashe award for courage at the ESPY Awards at the Microsoft Theater on Wednesday, July 15, 2015, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Caitlyn Jenner's speech at last night's ESPY awards was great. If you haven't seen it yet, here's a link. Go ahead and watch it. I'll wait.

Simple, elegant, and eloquent. People are different. To hate and condemn merely for being different is wrong. And yet, the haters still hate. I posted a supportive image from the event on my Facebook page last night and got some snide replies.

How easy is it to throw shade online? How easy is it to dismiss what we don't like or understand with a casually hateful or even bitingly witty remark? I'll tell you how easy. It's really, really easy. I know this because I've done it plenty of times. I thought I was being clever. What I was being was lazy.

When we toss off a flip comment about something serious, we're avoiding having to do the hard work of thinking and feeling and questioning. Of course, Facebook is made for this sort of behavior. (Yes, this is both another Caitlyn Jenner post and another post about my conflicted relationship with Facebook. Deal with it.) So, people who condemn this woman, I have the following question: Are you condemning her because she makes you uncomfortable? I get it. Honestly, I do. I think Caitlyn Jenner is a beautiful woman, and when she comes out looking like a million bucks in that Atelier Versace dress, and then opens her mouth and sounds very much like a man my little reptilian brain goes That's weird. I don't like that. It wants the beautiful woman I see on TV to have a beautiful womanly voice. But my little reptilian brain also tells me that:

  • every odd noise I hear at night is a serial killer coming to get me

  • every stray image fluttering in my peripheral vision is something I must fight or flee
  • I should eat all the ice cream because I might never see it again
  • In short, my little reptilian brain is an a**hole and I don't always have to agree with it. Maybe you shouldn't always agree with yours, either. It means well. It's trying to protect you. But it's often just wrong. Maybe a beautiful woman with a man's voice isn't really a threat and maybe after you see it enough you'll realize that and your little reptilian brain can go back to more mundane things like making you jump every time you see the knot in your wood floor that still isn't a spider.

    I've also seen many people claiming they don't have a problem with Caitlyn's being transgender, but they don't think she should have been given the ESPY Arthur Ashe Courage award when "there are so many others who have done more courageous things." *  In my understanding getting an award doesn't necessarily mean you were chosen as tops among all other world contenders. It means that the award givers wish to acknowledge your particular contribution. And as far as courage, I think Caitlyn Jenner definitely shows it. Just look at the unpleasant messages being hurled her way on my tiny little Facebook page. She is doing exactly what she says in her speech, she's going out there and taking the flak so that others won't have to.

    We're living in historic times, as far as LGBTQ issues and rights go. It thrills me to see the arc of the moral universe bending toward justice. Slowly, but surely, I think we're getting to a world that is more loving and accepting of the widely and wildly diverse examples of the human experience. And I think brave people like Caitlyn Jenner are helping us get there.

    This, to be honest, makes me raise an eyebrow, because I have a strong feeling that it's just people attempting to hide their transphobia under a convenient excuse. But I acknowledge that that's not necessarily fair.

    An earlier version of this post originally appeared at