After the I Am Cait star gave a speech during a luncheon in Chicago, Illinois on Thursday, she was confronted by protesters outside the venue. The 65-year-old former Olympian stopped to address one protester, who over the loudspeaker could be heard saying, “You are an insult to trans people, you are an insult to women.”
Caitlyn spoke to a group of 1,000 people at the 7th annual Speaker Series luncheon for the Chicago House, which provides social services for those impacted by HIV/AIDS and other LGBT issues.
In a video from the altercation, the reality star appears to try and diffuse the protester, before being escorted away by her security.
“The chaos outside was a great contrast to the uplifting atmosphere inside where Caitlyn had just given her speech,” B96 Chicago radio personality Showbiz Shelly, who witnessed the confrontation, tells ET. “I thought she handled the situation with poise. By confronting the protesters in the way she did, she emphasized the themes she talked about in her speech. To be respectful, be brave and stand up for what you believe in.”
The event’s MC, Christina Kahrl, says that Caitlyn was an obvious pick to headline the fundraiser. “The point was to get people to come and talk about trans issues,” Kahrl tells ET. “Because she’s been the subject of media scrutiny for decades, she’s in a unique position to take whatever criticism she gets for speaking out on behalf of trans people who need help. She owns the fact that she has a ton of privilege.”
“It’s a little frustrating,” Kahrl says, that a small group of protesters showed up at an event to benefit Chicago House’s Trans Life Center. “We’ve got to raise money to benefit trans Chicagoans, and Caitlyn Jenner’s going to be a great draw.”
A production source confirms to ET that I Am Cait cameras were rolling at the event for the show’s second season. Caitlyn’s castmates, Candis Cayne, Jenny Boylan, Kate Bornstein, were also in attendance, and Caitlyn sat next to to trans MMA fighter Fallon Fox, whom she met for the first time.
“The group was outside when we showed up with Caitlyn,” the source says. “They weren’t as aggressive when we got there like they were when we left. We’ve been rolling all day. We were rolling when we arrived, inside the luncheon while she spoke to the group and when we left to follow Caitlyn to her car.”
“We didn’t know Caitlyn was going to talk back to the protesters,” the source continues. None of it was staged.”
The group, who dubbed their protest “I Ain’t Cait” on Facebook, explained their issues with Caitlyn stem from economic inequality.
“Chicago House, a non-profit who claims to support those of us in the LGBTQ community who experience marginalization, homelessness, and economic exploitation, is holding a fundraiser this Thursday,” the event reads.
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“Who, you may ask, did they select to speak on the issues facing trans people and especially trans women in our city?” the group writes on their Facebook event page. “Caitlyn Jenner, who lives in a mansion and has a net worth of millions of dollars, while the average trans person has a 41 percent chance of experiencing homelessness and a nearly 50 percent chance of living off less than $10k per year.”
The group went on to highlight an issue Caitlyn often encounters on I Am Cait as she is sometimes accused of not doing enough to support the transgender community given her financial status. On season one of the docuseries, the show often acknowledged Caitlyn’s “1 percent” experience being starkly different from that of the transgender community at large.
“Caitlyn Jenner, who said in a segment on her hit new reality TV series I Am Cait, regarding people who rely on social services to get by: ‘You don’t want people to get totally dependent on it. That’s when they get into trouble. ‘Why should I work? You know, I’ve got a few bucks, I’ve got my room paid for,’” the event page concludes.