In an open letter to Bette Midler, Alexandra Billings speaks out in response to tweets from Ms. Midler regarding the cancellation of Caitlyn Jenner’s “I Am Cait”. Comments that have been called out as transphobic and insensitive.
Dear Bette Midler,
You are glorious and magnificent, and I am hoping you are busy sewing up mermaid tails and adding more sparkles to your ever growing Harlettes’ tattered hemlines. I want to thank you for your work as a singer, an actor and an advocate for a clean earth and a bright future. Recently, I read a tweet of yours concerning Caitlyn Jenner and it seemed to me you might have been a bit confused on some things. So, I grabbed my e-cig, made some tea, sat myself on the porch at 1 a.m. on a Saturday night and alongside my two kitties, I wrote you a lengthy missive. Since then, the HRC has gotten a hold of you and you have deleted the offensive tweet and apologized.
So it seems to me that the original letter I wrote, along with some updated tweaks, is still regrettably necessary, and to be honest, I would very much like to see if perhaps I can clear a few things up.
To be clear… Caitlyn Jenner is not a drag queen. She cannot change into what she was because what she was, was actually a lie. So… she never really was Bruce Jenner. Being Trans isn’t a fad, or a choice or a decision. It isn’t something we can change or discard. Being Trans is how we were born and where we come from and it is our history and our great privilege. Being Trans is steeped in revolution and sweat and rides on the backs of a bloody and battered tribe, free to finally live a life usually drowning in shame and regret. Being Trans is a right and we are Americans, just like you, and what we are, as what you are, cannot be undone.
So when you ask a question publicly, even half kidding as I know you were, that suggests that since Cailtyn’s show has been cancelled, she might:
“…Go back to being Bruce.”
… You are undoing what took us years to do and has cost us lives to finalize.
I cannot take my Transness off, Ms. Midler, and it has taken me 54 years of survival through centuries of violence and suicides, to finally make friends with my past. And I will not be the butt of your jokes simply because you cannot take the time to write from a place of truth, instead of a place of fear.
The danger of what you tweeted is your influence on public opinion and your blatant disregard for the Trans experience and a glaring lack of compassion towards a people you do not know. I am asking with as much openness as I can, to rethink what you put out in to the universe. I am forever with you in your love of nature and beauty, and in your constant quest of camp and art for art’s sake, but I will not support you in your ignorance of my brothers and sisters as we still lay at the mercy of an under educated government bureaucracy and a misguided and sometimes lethal populous.
Our Trans youth don’t live very long, Bette. And when they die, they do it with guns and ropes and pills and leaping off the edges of buildings. Giving their tormentors misinformation that already incites a sense of righteous indignation in them by suggesting they are merely in costume, is not only irresponsible, it is terribly cruel.
The LGBT community adores you. We have given you our souls in the common understanding that both of us come from both adversity and triumph. We see that in you. We recognize you. We know each other very deeply. And now, a community who has recently been in the forefront of a new revolutionary cracking needs to rely on our allies for kindness in print and education in actions.
What I am is not a choice. It is a gift.
Please know Bette that your deleting of the tweet and subsequent apology is deeply appreciated and received. However, I believe there is a difference between an apology and an amend. One requires regret and the other requires ownership. Think of it this way, if you had written that Michelle Obama was a highly intelligent and very successful woman for a black person, and the NAACP called you on it, would you apologize to them alone? Or would you take time to speak to the African-American community at large, as well as Mrs. Obama personally, and hopefully look into what would make you react this way in the first place. Joke or not. Racism and transphobia run hand in hand. Both thrive on ignorance of community. It seems to me you might have some more diligence due. Look inward, Ms. Midler that has always been where your truest self lies.
I am saying this to you both for me and for the ones who can no longer speak:
“Kindness in the center of a spirit is easily accessed through the reflection of one’s own deeds. For it does not matter that you understand us. It only matters that you honor us.”
Treat us as we have treated you, Bette. That’s all we want, really.
Sincerely, and with all the sequins I can find,
Lifelong Fan and Transgender Activist