Comment: Yes, John Waters, we can make fun of Caitlyn Jenner – for some things

Caitlyn Jenner

Is it OK to make fun of Caitlyn Jenner? Of course it is – it just depends what about.

John Waters asked this week whether it’s OK to poke fun at Caitlyn Jenner. Mindful of the fact he’s considered a great and legendary gay figure, I think much of what he said was wrong, and hurtful.

She is a public figure, a reality TV star at that, and therefore should be open to a bit ribbing. For what though? For being, as Waters says, a Republican, for being part of the Kardashian machine – sure, that’s fair game.

But because she is trans? Well that’s not quite so fair.

Before she was Caitlyn Jenner, reality TV star and part of the great Kardashian Empire, she was an Olympic champion and American hero.

So let’s compare her to a British sporting hero – Mo Farah. Can we make of Mo Farah? Well he’s got that silly but adorable MoBot thing going on, and those very awkward Quorn adverts he did – so yeah, of course we can make fun of him for that.

But for being black? For being from an immigrant family? For being from Somalia?

It wouldn’t be fair or right to make fun of him for those aspects of himself, because they are things he has no control over, but more than that, treating them as jokes has the potential to do more harm.

The UK and the US are free countries where we value free speech. You have the right to say almost anything you like. But if you say something that upsets people, that has the potential to hurt people, you should be prepared for the backlash.

If exercising your right to speak ends up harming people, those people have the right to tell you so.

Trans people are among the most marginalised people in society. When people mock Caitlyn Jenner for her trans status, they are mocking all trans people. They are hurting, and potentially harming, all trans people.

They can do that, if they feel they must. But is it right, or good?

Is it right to hurt people with jokes? Are jokes more important than people’s lives?

Do you want to be the sort of person who values poking fun at someone above that person’s value as a human being?

Those are the questions you have to ask yourself before you make fun of Caitlyn Jenner.