Is Caitlyn Jenner Really The "Most Fascinating" Person Of 2015?

Photo: Steve Eichner/WWD/REX Shutterstock.
This week, Barbara Walters revealed her selections for the 10 most fascinating people of 2015. This list has been released annually since 1993, and — with a handful of exceptions — tends to be less about recognizing the truly fascinating than rehashing whoever made major headlines over the past 12 months. But the No. 1 spot has typically been reserved for someone effecting real change. Hillary Clinton won way back in 1993; human rights lawyer Amal Clooney took home the top honor last year. And this week, the mantle was passed once again.

"Famous and familiar, she raised awareness and acceptance of transgender people," Walters explained. "Through her own transformation, Caitlyn Jenner transformed society this year — and that for us makes her the most fascinating person of 2015."

Jenner certainly is famous and familiar (thanks in part to that now-iconic interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer). And she has absolutely raised the profile of trans issues in America by speaking so openly about her own journey. But does that make her the most fascinating person in the U.S. today? I'm not totally sold on that fact.

If Walters intended to highlight well-known trans activists, she actually had a few worthy contenders to choose from who might have made the list. Take Jazz Jennings, the California teen who has insisted on her true gender identity for most of her life, never wavering. I Am Jazz is an incredible, compelling look inside her life — and dare I say more full of heart and insight than I Am Cait, which starts strong and quickly fizzles. Laverne Cox would have made for a truly fascinating choice, too.

Or, ABC might have also considered expanding its search beyond the usual famous suspects, to others who are making compelling contributions to our culture. (Amy Schumer, Donald Trump, Tracy Morgan, Bradley Cooper, and Jeff Bezos all landed in 2015's top 10, along with Misty Copeland, Ronda Rousey, Donna Karan, and Bernie Sanders.)

Why not turn the spotlight to Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement? Why not highlight the three young American men who tackled a active gunman on a high-speed train headed to Paris? Or Ta-Nehisi Coates, who took home a MacArthur Fellowship this year and won the National Book Award for his meditative tome on the modern Black American experience, Between the World and Me?

There's something about honoring Caitlyn Jenner — who, it should be noted, has often been less than fully embraced by the trans community at large because of her conservative politics, and whose activism seems more like a byproduct of her personal journey than the result of organic conviction — that feels more like an endorsement of the status quo rather than a game-changer.

A wealthy, white woman who has lived much of her life in the limelight nabbing the top honor? That's not fascinating at all.
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