By Chelsea Prentice

We tend to categorize people in duality, and this, I think, is a great fault of ours. We don’t exist just as type A or B, young or old, conservative or liberal, and certainly not just man or woman. Yet we find ourselves constantly trying to categorize everything and everyone when, at least, categories don’t always apply, and at most, they severely limit our sense of self.

In Caitlyn Jenner’s recent interview with Diane Sawyer, she talked about how hard things had been during her transition. The constant media attention (which was mostly negative), the constant criticism of her by people that weren’t even close to the family, and of course, and most importantly, the pressure put on her and her family to let the public know what was going on. It’s a strange way we create caricatures of people, and rip them apart for fun.

We swing back and forth between being empowering and supportive and then mass public bullies for fun. Let us not forget that mere months ago Bruce was the punchline of our jokes, and now Caitlyn is the shining emblem of our empowerment. Why is this? What changed? Why is nobody talking about, or apologizing for, how we behaved prior?

For the people who take issue with it, and really, that accounts for many of us, as we laughed at the jokes and consumed the media that almost destroyed this person, let us ask ourselves this: does it really affect our lives at all that Caitlyn Jenner came out to the public as a woman? How does that change our daily routines? Can we no longer have coffee in the morning? Does it deny us the right to see the ones we love? Are we discriminated against when applying for schools because Caitlyn Jenner wants to check a box for her gender that she didn’t in elementary school? And if none of these things are affected, then why was it an issue, and now that we’re starting to get a glimpse of the other side… why did we need to ridicule and harass in the first place?

It boils down to a sobering truth: if you’re judging others, especially at times and in places where they’re most vulnerable, you’re making a profound statement about yourself. That is, of course, that you feel what you are projecting onto the character that the media, driven by mass interest, is plastering across the magazines. That character, you forget, is a person. Like you.

But when we don’t regard ourselves as people, when we let our negative thoughts feed on themselves and create a monster inside of us that will not only continue to judge and criticize others unfairly, but will turn on itself ultimately, and implode. We have to get to the point where we can acknowledge that these thoughts exist, that it’s in allowing them to thrive through ignorance that they grow. We have to get to the point where we don’t just sweep our behaviors under the rug and pretend that, because we’ve seemingly universally agreed to now support Caitlyn Jenner, that we didn’t once drive her to, as she confessed in her interview, near suicide.

The last thing we want to do in light of all the beauty that is sweeping our social networks right now is bring up the past, but we simply can’t sit around and pretend that it didn’t exist.

Do yourself and everyone else a favor – inspire greatness by being honest. Start with yourself. It’s going to be a fight and struggle every day to think positively and stay open-minded about every situation, but that’s worth fighting for. David Foster Wallace said it best, remember: “This is water.” It’s up to us to choose to ride the waves or let them pull us under.

Image: Vanity Fair

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