What 'Hero' Means to Me

I am not a hater. I've never cared too much what the Kardashians et al. were up to. When I read about Bruce Jenner's gender identity issues earlier this year, I was kind of "meh" about the whole thing. With most things, I'm pretty live and let live, and this has been no exception.

When Jenner made her very public "Call Me Caitlyn" announcement via Vanity Fair earlier this week, I was impressed. First of all, she looked good! Yeah, I am sure there was airbrushing and we all know Annie Liebovitz could probably make even me look good first thing in the morning, pre-coffee, but still...she looked good. I never found Bruce particularly attractive, but Caitlyn's a beautiful woman who seems to be at last comfortable in her own skin.

Good for her. I wish her well and outside of the transgender community, she'll probably have her season of fame and then...well, go on to do whatever she wants to do with her life. She's 65 and seems to be embracing life like the world is her oyster. I find that to be pretty awesome.

And while I don't usually let myself get wrapped around semantics, I have to get up on my little soapbox for a minute and object to Caitlyn Jenner being lauded as a hero. Role model? Sure. Inspiration? Yes, for some. But hero? I say no.

My husband was in the military for 26 years. My brother-in-law is an Army veteran with PTSD and TBI. There have been many people that have touched my life over the years that I call heroes. They've sacrificed their personal freedom, hung out in shitty places that no one wants to go to, away from their families, where people want to shoot them. Some of them don't come home and when they do, they are not the same. Sometimes they're missing fingers or legs. Sometimes, the brokenness is on the inside. Those are the heroes in my eyes. They are not in your newsfeed right now. They are not glamorous or controversial. They don't seek glory or notoriety. But, they are the heroes. My heroes.

Law enforcement workers and first responders. Teachers. People who are out there really making a difference every day doing their jobs because they want to and because it makes a difference. Those people are heroes.

Caitlyn Jenner is brave and I deeply admire that. I can't imagine what it's like to walk in her shoes and I think she's handled herself with dignity. I hope her willingness to be so open with her story helps others see they're not alone or to learn to accept themselves.

It is hard for me to imagine being young and confused and to feel as if I'm in the wrong body, because...well, because I've never been there. I am glad there are people like Caitlyn Jenner to stand out front and sacrifice her privacy to encourage others. But hero?

Caitlyn Jenner will receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award on July 15. While I am not on board with the Caitlyn bashing, I am shaking my head at the online comparison between Caitlyn and Noah Galloway -- rumored to have been named runner up, a rumor dispelled by The Washington Post. Still, even if Noah Galloway was never in the running, some people are outraged at the comparison.

Live and let live, I always say. Next week the internets will be talking about someone else. If I could say one thing to Caitlyn it would be, "you go girl." I'd also tell her that I'm OK with sharing my woman title with her, even though I know there's been some online brouhaha over that.

But when you've lived my life and rubbed elbows with so many true heroes who have put themselves at risk and seen so many families soldier on when a loved one is killed in the line of duty, just maybe you get wrapped around semantics a little bit when people start talking about heroes. Just maybe.

I am teaching my children to be tolerant, kind and to think for themselves. I hope I can also teach them what it really means to be a hero and that they don't have to look very far to find one.

This originally appeared on Jill's blog, Ripped Jeans and Bifocals.
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