Heroism Doesn’t Have to Be a Competition


I hate the word “hero”.

It seems like a nice enough word with a few uses, but I have come to hate it. A quick use of a Chrome extension shows me a quick definition.


A person admired for certain virtues or feats, seems like a broad enough definition. Lately, however, the word “hero” is being used like bullets to defame and degrade someone’s accomplishments.

Caitlyn Jenner may or may not be a hero. “Hero,” like most things, is subjective. I think she shows bravery by being true to herself, and bringing the trans* movement to the front lines of society and forcing it to be acknowledged by most people. Ultimately, I don’t think it really matters whether Caitlyn Jenner is a hero or not; she has been brave and continues to do so.

Several news articles and blog posts have called Miss Jenner a hero, and that just makes some people uncomfortable. Rebuffs pop up everywhere: “He’s not a hero, he’s just an attention whore!” (If they’re transphobic, they’re almost guaranteed to be an asshole too). “Only police officers/soldiers/firefighters, etc. are heroes! Bruce Jenner is just a freak!”

Let’s get a few things straight. We are a nation of selective hero-worship and our deity of choice changes with the wind. The more conservative parts of our nation will pick a golden calf to hold up whenever they need to degrade someone’s accomplishments related to human rights and dignity. The people they pick to idolize aren’t necessarily bad people, in fact many are good, honest, hard-working people. But pretending to care about these people whenever you’re too uncomfortable with someone’s accomplishments is clueless at best, malicious at worst.

Soldiers do important things. While I am a staunch pacifist, I understand many people’s deep respect for the military, but people can’t throw them up as idols whenever the current person in the spotlight makes people uncomfortable.

Bravery isn’t a contest. You don’t have to be the bravest to be considered on the list. Heroes don’t have to fit into narrow boxes. One person’s bravery and heroism doesn’t make another person’s invalid.

Sometimes a hero can just be the person who says no. Sometimes a hero is the person who stands up when everyone demands they sit down. Sometimes a hero is the person who refuses to hide for the convenience of someone else’s worldview.

Caitlyn Jenner is still a wealthy, famous and far removed from the vast majority of most trans* people’s experience, but she has given media attention to a group that is persecuted, beaten, disenfranchised, and murdered.

If that isn’t heroic, I don’t know what is.

Image; Flickr user Davidd

2 thoughts on “Heroism Doesn’t Have to Be a Competition

  1. Hero is a role which characters take in fiction. It’s typically the morally-right person who’s out to spread some good (and maybe fail on the way and become tragic). It’s a silly think to apply it to real people. Very few people lived ‘heroic’, almost mythic-like lives. If someone describes unironically someone as a hero, I’d raise an eyebrow or two.

    Considering how much stereotypes there is against trans people, fighting for it is far, far from easy. It may not really life-risking like a soldier’s work, but if you leave that fight with a lot of mental scars.


  2. A hero is defined by the public who acclaims them. One man’s hero may be another man’s fucking asshole. Dick Cheney? I rest my case. Hero and heroism are not the same. Heroism, I believe, is the consistent behavior over time of living by your deeply held beliefs without regard to the personal repercussions. A hero very seldom anoints themselves with that nom de guerre. The acts that generate heroism are of a such a nature that usually generate fear. Those who are afraid but, face the challenge anyway are courageous Courage is being scared to death but persevering nevertheless. Bravery is not being afraid and doing something flamboyant where other would be afraid to act. There is also stupidity. Some acts in which people call a person a hero are acts of stupidity. The person had no conceptualization of the risks involved due to an intellectual deficit. Do all of them deserve the appellation hero?.


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