|The Mark Hogancamp artwork|
Facebook user Terry Coffey
used in a viral post last week.
People are criticizing those who are calling Caitlyn Jenner brave for her very public transition from the former Bruce Jenner to a glamorous looking woman on the cover of Vanity Fair.
In that criticism was people pointing to heroic U.S. soldiers and calling them the brave ones, not Caitlyn Jenner.
To me, these critics missed part of the point. There are different kinds of brave. Huge numbers of U.S. soldiers are undeniably brave, and we should be forever grateful for their service.
That should go without saying, but the current state of public discourse forces me to state that obvious fact.
At the same time, Caitlyn Jenner is brave, too, for encouraging other transgender or would-be transgender people to be themselves in spite of bigots and worse.
One of the people who cited brave U.S. soldiers as being much braver than Jenner was a person named Terry Coffey of Oregon, who pointed out the bravery of soldiers as incomparably greater than U.S. soldiers.
Coffey wanted an photo to match his Facebook post regarding this, so he found what appeared to be a photo of two World War II soldiers.
It showed one soldier carrying another wounded soldier on his back. That wounded soldier is pointing a gun, presumably returning enemy fire. These me, he said, represented bravery.
According to Huffington Post, Coffey found the uncredited image online, and put it in his post. This Facebook post went totally viral, with more than 800,000 page views.
Give that, Coffey decided it would be good to find out who took the photo, so the photographer could be credited.
The two soldiers in the image Coffey used are actually toy figurines made by artist Mark Hogancamp.
It turns out Hogancamp was beaten almost to death in 2000 because he dressed like a woman. (Hogancamp was not transgender; he liked to cross dress.)
Coffey learned that information while looking up details of the figurines.
On Facebook, Coffey followed up with another post:
"In an ironic twist, I have discovered that the photo is part of a documentary created by a man who was beaten nearly to death outside a bar in 2000.
After spending 9 days in a coma, suffering severe brain damage and being unable to walk or talk for a year, he chose to deal with the pain of the tragic event by creating an imaginary world of characters and photos and stories, all set in WWII. His work is the subject of an upcoming documentary.
Why was he nearly beaten to death by 5 strangers?
Because he was a cross-dresser.
I could have chosen any one of hundreds of photos depicting bravery, but I chose this one. Do I think it was an accident?
No, I don't.
What happened to this man was cruel, wrong and unforgivable.
Hate helps nothing.
Love wounds no one.
and God heals all.
(and irony makes you think.)"
You know what?
I believe U.S. soldiers are brave. I believe Caitlyn Jenner is brave. And I believe Terry Coffey is brave.
Coffey's original post criticizing the idea that Jenner was brave probably appeals to conservatives who have an unyielding, unchanging view of what is right and wrong.
Coffey learned a good lesson and took it to heart. The fact that he broadcast that lesson probably raised the ire of people who can't stand the fact that an experience changed Coffey for the better. So Coffey is brave for admitting his mistake and noting that he changed his mind.
All kinds of media outlets want to interview Coffey, but he says he's politely turning down all media requests.
Which is good. Everything that needed to be said was said in his post.
Well done, Mr. Coffey!