It’s as bad as you’re probably thinking.
The Senate Pub in Cincinnati, Ohio decided to call their daily special the “Bruce Jenner 2.0” in anticipation of Jenner’s interview last night with Diane Sawyer. There’s no possible way this story ends well, so let’s just rip the band-aid off right now: it was a hot dog cut in half, with cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, and sauce, wrapped in a soft-shell tortilla. They were calling it “Part hot dog, part taco.” That feeling you just felt is the world tilting slightly on its axis from the force of all the simultaneous wincing.
Senate has a history of naming hot dogs after celebrities and using that to make jokes, such as the “Lindsay Lohan,” a beef hot dog with “goat cheese, caramelized onions, bacon, arugula, balsamic & tons of drama.” But there’s definitely a line where that sort of thing is OK and where it isn’t, and it’s pretty clear on which side of that line this example sits.
Senate wasn’t actively trying to be hateful—they’re donating proceeds from the sale of the item to a charity on Leelah Alcorn’s behalf (though it’s unclear whether this was the plan all along, or whether it was in response to the backlash). They appear, in fact, to have originally thought this special was in support of Jenner: the initial Facebook post announcing it described it as “pure awesomeness.” The fact that they thought something like this would be helpful (and that they didn’t seem to comprehend why it was an issue/didn’t really apologize after being confronted with it), however, is ultimately the problem.
We’ve had several false starts in having a a public conversation about how to treat transgender issues, and the hope is that the Bruce Jenner situation will help to further that dialogue. But just as we hope to have a conversation about how to treat trans issues, we also need to have a conversation about how not to treat them. This is a very good example of the latter. We’ve danced on the periphery of this dialogue for a while now, and hopefully, we’re finally reaching the point where we can have an honest, adult discussion about it. And look, I get the fact that cis people often don’t go into this conversation knowing how to have it. If you’re not familiar with transgender issues, the subject can seem confusing—which is exactly why it’s so important we have this conversation now. Common sense would seem to dictate that “don’t joke about a trans person’s genitals” is a really simple Rule 1A in that guidebook. Doing so is as reductive as it is rude as hell.
Image via AP.