Caitlyn Jenner is on my mind today. She and I have something in common. While much of America has been concerned about how she looks in a dress or how the Kardashians feel about her coming out, I’ve been following her for a different reason.
In February 2015, Caitlyn was the at-fault driver in a fatal car crash. I don’t know what it’s like to be an Olympic athlete or a reality TV star or transgender. But that, being the at-fault driver in a fatal car crash, I know what that’s like.
The comments on the news reports of a settlement in one of the civil suits were familiar. When the accident occurred, comments focused on Jenner’s sense of entitlement, celebrity status, wealth, the Kardashians, gender and sexuality (Jenner was still known as Bruce at the time, but it was already a much-discussed topic), and accusations that Jenner purposely caused the accident. When no criminal charges were filed, it was postulated that it was only because of Jenner’s celebrity and wealth and not because perhaps there was not enough evidence to indicate wrongdoing on Jenner’s part. When motions were filed in the civil suits, commenters accused Jenner of not caring about the victims and trying to avoid taking responsibility and again focused on her gender and sexuality. Reading them makes cringe.
I don’t know Caitlyn Jenner. My guess, based on my own experience, is that she would do whatever she could to change the events of that day last year. My guess is that all of the motions and settlements have been negotiated almost entirely by her attorneys and insurance company. My guess is that she blames herself every day for injuring others and causing the loss of another’s life. The accident and legal outcomes are not a result of her gender, her sexuality, her celebrity status, her family, her past relationships, or her wealth. They are a result of her being a normal person, like you and me.
Reading news articles about Jenner’s accident has brought to mind many memories of my accident, the charges filed against me, the civil lawsuit that resulted. It was a difficult enough time that seemed impossible to me then. While my picture was on the local evening news, it wasn’t plastered all over the internet and the national news. I can’t imagine walking that road in the spotlight. I hope Caitlyn has people who are walking this road with her because I know it can be a lonely road.
Sometimes we forget that celebrities are humans. Sometimes we forget that people who live differently than us are humans. Sometimes we forget that people who make choices we don’t understand are humans. Sometimes we forget that people who struggle with different aspects of life than us are humans.
Sometimes we forget that we have a lot in common with Caitlyn Jenner.
Sometimes we forget that we have more in common with people whose names are plastered all over the news than we have differences.
Maybe before we comment on a news article or to a friend or co-worker or neighbor, we can take a few minutes to notice all that we have in common.