I was 22 years old when Dr. Renee Richards caused controversy, particularly in the sports (and tennis) world, when she underwent a gender change, and then asked to shift from the men's USTA to the women's tour. I don't remember having any specific judgments around the affair, aside from I had a hard time getting my brain to understand how hard it must be for a human being to shift their sexual identity.
I bring this up because the other day, when Caitlyn Jenner offically came out on the cover of "Vanity Fair", I happened to be on SiriusXM with our friends Ray Flowers and Kyle Elfrink, and I asked why Caitlyn did not keep the more attractive and alliterative surname of Kardashian?
I was joking when I said this, but it did occur to me that the comment could be misconstrued as anti-Caitlyn, which is certainly not what I meant or how I meant it.
I do think that a lot of what Caitlyn has done is beyond courageous for again I go back to that basic thought of changing directions partway through life when simply existing, surviving, and getting a modicum of acceptance and approval from those around us is a big enough deal such that to change one's basic point of view and basic persona mid-stream just seems overwhelming.
Doing this in a public eye, however, really tears the roof off the sucker, as George Clinton would suggest, but though it is a big deal, it makes me shudder to think that Richards did all this in 1975, a year before Jenner won Olympic Gold, and 40 years before Jenner announced her change.
Still, I am not trying to diminish Jenner's act or courage, but sometimes these days I wonder just how much is truly worthy of our interest--for none of us has a right to know much of anything about the personal lives of others--how much is the same morbid curiosity that makes us stare at a highway wreck, and how much of this is Caitlyn's insecurity that her fame had dwindled and her alliteratively surnamed family's fame has exceeded his own.
I did not watch Jenner's Diane Sawyer interview, but "fortunately" Diane did and she told me the gist, and though I was not that interested in general (just the same prurient curiosity we all have, but I try to suppress it), I did again think it was brave of Jenner to "come out" like that publicly.
But then, a week later, I saw there was to be another show where Jenner wanted to talk about how she broke the news to her family, and now I understand there is an eight-parter out there where Jenner will review the whole process with an equally curious public on one of the cable channels.
And, then there was the cover of "Vanity Fair," and all that hype makes me wonder just how much of this is really for Caitlyn, how much is ego, and how much is a cash cow.
Let me be clear, though, that my bottom line is that anything anyone can do publicly to help the cause of the oppressed and/or misunderstood is a good thing, so if Caitlyn's coming out gives reassurance and acceptance for just one person, that means it is a good and valuable process.
But really, I don't care that much about the Kardashians in the first place, and the reality is that were Jenner not a well recognized member of that family, who are simply famous because they seem to have too much time and money, none of us would care that much about the whole affair.
Which really means the heroes are really the likes of Dr. Renee Richards, or within the baseball world, our friend Christina Kahrl of ESPN, who did all this brave stuff before our eyes years back at a time when being gay was not as accepted as it is now, and when making the transgender move made people's heads spin.
It is good that heads are indeed no longer spinning, in fact the whole idea of the "Vanity Fair" cover does give me some hope for our self important and somewhat silly species, but I also wish this was not such a big deal in the first place.
Not making the change, any change in life, for divorce, marriage, college, children, moving, occupation, and all the trappings that are presented to us within the arc of our lives are both challenging and full of potential lessons.
What I wish is that we really could just keep our minds on our own path and business, and not make such a huge deal about everyone else's.