Man mocks Caitlyn Jenner on Facebook, gets beautiful lesson

Technically Incorrect: A man posts a photo of soldiers in battle to counteract the notion that the transgendered Caitlyn Jenner is heroic. Then he discovers the photographer was beaten nearly to death for being a cross-dresser.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read

A journalist looks at Vanity Fair's Twitter site with the Tweet about Caitlyn Jenner, who will be featured on the July cover of the magazine. Getty Images

Caitlyn Jenner's arrival into the scorching limelight has incited much admiration.

It has also, of course, attracted the typical trolls trawling for attention.

You'll find them on Twitter and you'll find them on Facebook. I dare say you'll find them on every site that featured Jenner's Vanity Fair cover.

However, one tale has emerged of an Oregon man who resented the notion that the former Bruce Jenner's emergence as a woman was courageous.

Terry Coffey of Salem, Ore., posted a photo to his Facebook page of one soldier carrying another. The one being carried is still shooting his gun.

Coffey accompanied it with these words: "As I see post after post about Bruce Jenner's transition to a woman, and I hear words like bravery, heroism, and courage, just thought I'd remind all of us what real American courage, heroism, and bravery looks like!"

American courage is apparently different from, say, Indian courage. Perhaps it's exceptional.

This post spread across the Web. So much so that more than 775,000 people have shared it. However, as Raw Story reports, Coffey ended up realizing that the photo he posted contained a story of courage all its own.

Indeed, Coffey returned to his Facebook page to explain. He said he found the photo through a quick image search. But he wanted to know who had shot it.

The Cinema Guild

He said (I've added the links): "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 of 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 the photographer, Mark Hogancamp, beaten nearly to death? Because he'd told his attackers he was a cross-dresser. (Coffey gets certain facts wrong: the documentary, Marwencol, is about Hogancamp, not by him. Released in 2010, it won a number of awards.)

How peculiar that Coffey wound up using Hogancamp's photo to cast aspersions on Jenner. The question, though, was whether the discovery made a difference to Coffey.

In his words: "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."

Now there's American courage for you.

Coffey could have shut up. He could have quietly changed the photo or deleted the post. At least he spoke.

Perhaps the most poignant of his words were the last of his subsequent post: "Irony makes you think."

Sometimes, reality (or its cousin irony) needs to smack us in the face and shout: "Hullo! My name is reality!" before we allow ourselves to think beyond our prejudices.

Coffey mentioned on his Facebook page that people are now even trying to contact his wife. "Luckily, they are the nice ones, so far," he wrote.

The nasty ones can be vicious. Cowardly, too.

To all those who go online to besmirch people whose personal lifestyle is not of some quaint 1950s TV model, Coffey's story is just a tiny reminder. Your prejudices sometimes get in the way of something far more lasting: real, human truth.