On Saturday, the Trans Chorus of Los Angeles performed at the L.A. LGBT Center. But it wasn’t the show everyone was talking about Sunday morning—it was the encounter between trans activist Ashlee Marie Preston and Caitlyn Jenner.
Preston, editor of Wear Your Voice, was stunned to see the Republican Jenner at the event, just one day after Donald Trump issued guidance on barring trans personnel from the U.S. military. And, in a showdown that was captured on video, she let Jenner know how she felt—in no uncertain terms.
“My first words to Caitlyn were, ’You have some fucking nerve showing up here!'” Preston tells NewNowNext. “I let her know that she was salt on an open wound and that atrocities like the transgender military ban, which just happened, were all in part to her funding anti-trans legislation and voting against our interests.”
Preston has shamed Tomi Lahren and Charlamange the God over apparent transphobia, but her takedown of the Olympian-turned-reality star went viral overnight. (It’s been viewed nearly half-a-million times and was even picked up by TMZ.)
Preston was at the concert because she had friends in the chorus. She had no intentions of going just to confront Jenner, who had reportedly made a sizable donation to help the production.
Thank you, Caitlyn! It is our honor. https://t.co/oxtbCT7MAi
— Trans Chorus LA (@TransChorusLA) August 24, 2017
But once she saw her there, she felt she had to say something.
“I believe the Trans Chorus of Los Angeles found value in having Caitlyn Jenner at the concert for the same reasons many wanted her around in the beginning ,” says Preston, who waited till the performance was over to confront Jenner.
“It’s the belief that Caitlyn Jenner would use her privilege and influence to advocate for the wellbeing of transgender people. But giving money to the transgender community while also funding anti-trans conservative groups is like feeding mice that you intend to feed to a snake. What Caitlyn doesn’t realize is that when there’s no more mice, she will be eaten as well.”
A registered Republican, Jenner and told Diane Sawyer earlier this year she voted for Donald Trump.
“Yes, I did vote for Trump, but here’s the deal-breaker,” Jenner said. “You mess with my community, you do the wrong thing with our community, you don’t give us equality and a fair shot, I’m coming after you. .. When it comes to all equality issues for the entire LGBT community, what we need is federal guidance. Just like the previous administration said that it was okay to serve as a trans person in the military—I’m trying to get, especially the Republican party, to make a change.”
After Trump issued his tweets banning trans people in the military, Jenner called on the President “to reverse his position immediately.” But, just weeks later, she was spotted wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat. (Jenner apologized, and insisted she was “getting rid of the hat.”)
Preston believes these latest actions are because Jenner is “undergoing withdrawals from privilege.”
“She’s realizing that her wealthy white male politico peers don’t want her in their cohort,” she adds. “Her admonishment of Trump’s actions had nothing to do with the treatment of transgender people at large. Her disappointment was in Trump’s rejection of her residual white male privilege and his refusal to offer her a seat within his administration.”
Although there has been support for Preston’s sentiments—and her confronting of Jenner—others say she unfairly ambushed Jenner, and is encouraging in-fighting within the trans community. In a Facebook video, Transparent actress Alexandra Billings said she didn’t agree with how Preston addressed the situation. (Preston responded with her own video reply.)
“The people challenging my approach are those who seek to benefit from Caitlyn Jenner—who hang around her pocketbook hoping money falls out,” Preston says. “I confronted Caitlyn Jenner head-on because that’s what grassroots activism looks like. She needed to be just as uncomfortable as those of us who stood by as she co-opted our movement and used us as capitalistic social experiments.”
Preston says she’s glad the altercation was caught on camera. “It’s sparked conversation around what community accountability can look like. We can’t address external threats while letting it go unchecked within our very own community.”
And, she adds, she’s been flooded with support.
“There were so many LGBTQ+ people and allies who commended me on my courage to confront her and wished they were in my position. I have resources that many disenfranchised transgender people don’t have. If it weren’t for my wealthy white ally friends, putting their money where their mouths are and looking around the room and making sure there’s always black and brown trans people in their affluent spaces, I don’t know that I would have had the ability to address Caitlyn and other problematic public figures of her caliber. When I’m in those spaces I know what I am there to do—I’m not distracted by the enticement of privilege. As an activist I know that I have a responsibility to my community to speak up for them when they can’t.”
Preston maintains she doesn’t disapprove of Caitlyn Jenner—or any trans person—voting Republican. Her issue is Jenner’s capitalization of “the pain and oppression of our community.”
“She keeps pretending she is the Christopher Columbus of the transgender rights movement,” she says. “Not only is she a humanitarian fraud, but her colonization of our community is erasing the narratives of those who continue to be impacted by the current administration.”