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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Bruce Jenner broke an Olympic world record in 1976.

Yet while that’s an accomplishment to be proud of, it doesn’t compare to how Jenner feels about the person she has become.

Caitlyn Jenner.

Caitlyn Jenner — née Bruce — was introduced to the world Monday via a Vanity Fair cover and a subsequent tweet from the woman herself:

Jenner officially came out in an interview with Diane Sawyer in April on 20/20, which was hailed as a breakthrough for transgender individuals.

The Vanity Fair story and accompanying photo shoot with iconic photographer Annie Leibovitz showcase how Bruce became Caitlyn, both physically and psychologically.

The story reveals that Jenner’s March 15 surgery for facial feminization — a process where a face is shaped to look more stereotypically feminine — was a turning point. Although he (before the Vanity Fair story, Jenner had requested that male pronouns still be used) had been dressing like a woman beforehand — in Sawyer’s interview he had noticeably longer hair — the surgery, which took 10 hours, made Bruce look more like Caitlyn.

The interview — which was seen by 20.7 million — was covered breathlessly by the media. In preparation, GLAAD put out a tip sheet for the media on how to report specifically on Jenner (they released an update after the Vanity Fair story was released).

Pronoun confusion often trips up even the most well intentioned. Even for Jenner and her interviewer, Friday Night Lights author Buzz Bissenger, it’s an issue. But Jenner — who has spent the past 65 years answering to Bruce — said it’s not something she’s hung up on.

“It’s just habit, I said, ‘Hi, Bruce here,’ and I went, Oh f**k, it ain’t Bruce, I was screwing up doing it.”

In fact, her children, according to the Vanity Fair report, have known about her feelings, some for years.

Her two oldest children, now in their mid-30s, learned from their mother, Chrystie, Jenner’s first wife, when they were teenagers.

The response to Jenner’s transition by fans, onlookers, and the media has generally been positive. (Not entirely, however.)

In an age where social issues are increasingly being brought to the forefront of discussions in American life and by activists’ demand for change, Jenner’s story has spotlighted trans issues and put a human — if not immediately recognizable — face on people who are often marginalized.

ESPN confirmed that Jenner will receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award with all 10 of her children and stepchildren on stage.

Arthur Ashe’s story makes an apt comparison to Jenner’s. Ashe was forced to go public with the news that he had contacted HIV after USA Today effectively bullied him into responding to rampant speculation about his health. Ashe was angry about the forced disclosure. At a press conference in 1992, he objected to the infringement on his privacy: “…I didn’t commit any crime. I’m not running for public office. There was certainly no compelling medical or physical necessity to go public with my medical condition.”

That type of behavior would be derided by many news outlets today as unethical, even if USA Today purported that Ashe’s illness was a matter of great public concern. Sensitivity to individuals and what constitutes breach of confidentiality — especially in reference to identity concerns — continue to be an issue when covering newsworthy people.

Despite the timing of the announcement — June is LGBT Pride Month — Jenner dismisses criticism that she’s doing this for the publicity.

“It’s not about the fanfare, it’s not about the people cheering in the stadium, it’s not about going down the street and everybody giving you an ‘Attaboy Bruce,’ pat-on-the-back OK. This is about your life. …As soon as the Vanity Fair cover comes out, I’m free.”

Image: The best way to announce a new identity: with a fancy photo shoot by a world-renowned photographer in a glossy mag. (Vanity Fair)

A Week That Was Disastrous For Trump, Miraculous For Biden

Donald Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes the year he was elected president, according to a blockbuster report published by the New York Times on Sunday.

The Times report also found that Trump is millions of dollars in debt, incurred through a series of failed business ventures — a fact that runs counter to Trump's self-made image as a successful businessman. Trump has also used his financial failings to avoid paying taxes, the report found.

The president has resisted revealing his financial information since the start of his first presidential campaign, despite promising otherwise. "I would certainly show tax returns if it was necessary," Trump told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt in 2015. Yet for five years, the president has failed to produce the documents.The president paid $750 in federal income taxes in 2016, and paid another $750 in 2017, according to the report. And in 2014, Trump paid zero dollars in taxes.

Conservatives including Trump often suggest that undocumented immigrants take advantages of government services without contributing their fair share. Throughout his first term, Trump has repeatedly cast blame on immigrants and suggested they post an economic burden to U.S. taxpayers.

"Our current immigration system costs America's taxpayers many billions of dollars a year," Trump claimed in 2017 during his first presidential address to Congress.

That claim does not hold up to scrutiny. In reality, undocumented immigrants pay billions of dollars in taxes every year. In 1996, the Internal Revenue Service created a program for non-citizens who work in the U.S. to report their income. Non-citizens who do not have a Social Security Number — including undocumented immigrants — are able to file taxes using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, or ITIN. According to the IRS, 4.4 million people paid taxes using an ITIN in 2015, totaling $23.6 billion in tax revenue.

This raises the question: why would undocumented immigrants pay U.S. taxes if they are unauthorized to live in the country? Immigrants often choose to pay taxes in order to demonstrate "good moral character" when applying for legal residence or citizenship, according to the National Immigration Law Center. Undocumented immigrants who fail to pay their taxes risk deportation.

"Immigrants, both documented and undocumented, paid an estimated $328 billion in state, federal, and local taxes in 2014 alone," Stephen Yale-Loehr, a professor of immigration law practice at Cornell Law School, told the American Independent Foundation. "It is outrageous that the average undocumented immigrant in the United States pays more in federal income taxes than the President did in 2016."

This contrast is especially ironic given Trump's tendency to deride unauthorized immigrants as irresponsible lawbreakers. Trump has a tendency to respond to criticism with projection — when accused, he accuses others of the same thing.

"Yes, undocumented immigrants are helping fund the very system that detain and deport us," journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, who is undocumented, tweeted in 2019.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.