By Dana Zillgitt, Regular Contributor
I’m sure we’ve all heard about Caitlyn Jenner by now. And, we’ve probably all formed opinions-whether misguided or as informed as possible-about how we feel about it. Some have argued that it’s just a publicity stunt, something for the money and nothing more. But so many more have sung her praises from the rooftops, acknowledging how difficult it must have been to feel like you need to hide from who you really are.
I will admit that I don’t understand the turmoil she has gone through, nor will I even try to fathom what a day in her life was like before she transitioned into who she is today. But I can comment on how much respect I have for her and her family. It’s breathtaking how much support she’s getting from her internal group of people.
Reading articles and watching interviews, Caitlyn seems so much more at home in where she is in life right now. And reading up on how her family has responded is nothing short of inspirational either. But out of everyone, I’m mostly impressed with Kylie and Kendall. They have been utilizing their massive social media followings to stick up for their dad. Kylie even responded to a picture on Instagram that Chris Brown posted, referring to Caitlyn as a ‘science project.’ And do you know her response?: “not very nice to say about your friend’s [parent],” which is pretty impressive for a 17 year old who’s been in the limelight almost all her life.
But why is it so important that Caitlyn’s family is standing behind her? Laverne Cox put it best in her Tumblr post, stating that, “Yes, Caitlyn looks amazing and is beautiful but what I think is most beautiful about her is her heart and soul, the ways she has allowed the world into her vulnerabilities. The love and devotion she has for her family and that they have her, her courage to move past denial into her truth so publicly.”
She goes on to say that while Caitlyn is an amazing person to further visibility about trans issues, she-as Laverne does as well-does not represent all trans people. Jenner has been afforded several privileges that many people fighting to become their own true selves unfortunately do not have. Such privileges include a loving and supporting family, a safe place to transition comfortably, as well as financial access to medical care. But, it’s also concerning that major media seems to only be focusing on how “beautiful” she looks, instead of what underlying issues she’s trying to address on a larger scale. Because remarking solely upon her physical transformation as well as her aesthetic is not only the same way women in general are seen in the media when addressing larger issues, but it’s also brushing aside what she is trying to bring into the light.
Does all this dismiss all the good Caitlyn Jenner is contributing? No. Jenner admits she’s still learning how to correctly address her own reflection in the mirror, though it finally matches how she’s felt all along. In an article where she candidly discusses her transition with Vanity Fair, she mentions that after a 10-hour facial feminization surgery, she asked herself, “What did I just do? What did I just do to myself?” In the article itself, she goes on to discuss her upcoming reality show where she hopes to bring awareness to the insanely high suicide rates in the trans community and how to combat that. And to the ones who have questioned her true intentions, she’s just responded by saying, “You don’t go out and change your gender for a TV show”.
So what can we learn from Jenner that hasn’t already been discussed? Where do we go from here? We continue praising those like Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox who unashamedly are living their lives as their true selves and continue celebrating them while we also acknowledge so many more people are struggling to do the same in similar scenarios. We must continue to openly discuss these issues so that more and more people can say they are living just as openly and hope that Caitlyn, like Cox, in stepping out into the spotlight does not let the subject fade away easily or without a serious fight.
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Dana has her BA in International Affairs & Spanish as well as a mild obsession with rescue animals and all things caffeinated. She’s mastered the art of the selfie, fort building, and even the sass battle. Plus, she can quote 95% of Anchorman and Zoolander.
image via radaronline.com