I’m a little bit disappointed with the world today.
It seems that despite our best efforts to understand the incredible social currency of positive role models, there will always be people waiting in the wings to clip wings, behead tall poppies and generally sprint towards the finishing line at the oppression Olympics.
Last week, a gold medallist from the 1976 summer Olympics graced the cover of Vanity Fair.
The birth of Caitlyn Jenner was a long labour. In her own words to Diane Sawyer in April it started in her youth dealing with gender dysphoria and continued throughout her life.
The big reveal of Caitlyn came just 6 weeks later in a beautiful cover story photographed by Annie Leibowitz.
But here’s the problem with Caitlyn.
She’s rich, she’s been photographed by one of the greatest portrait photographers in the world, she’s lit well and worst of all, she’s a Kardashian. Kinda.
The backlash from this ground-breaking moment in history has brought out the worst in people, with many complaining that her journey wasn’t authentic. Presumably because she doesn’t look like a bloke in a wig.
Laverne Cox, arguably the only other person on the planet with a right to critique a trans woman on the cover of a globally recognised publication was quick to Caitlyn’s defense:
“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”.
It’s a sentiment I agree with wholeheartedly.
Jenner’s announcement has come at an unprecedented time for trans visibility. The 20/20 interview had 20.7 million viewers, making it television’s highest-ever rated newsmagazine telecast among adults 18–49 and adults 25–54. People are finally talking about it. And here’s why that’s important:
Nearly half of young transgender people have seriously thought about taking their lives, and once quarter report having made a suicide attempt. – Grossman, A.H. & D’Augelli, A.R (2007)
WE NEED MORE ROLE MODELS.
I don’t care where they come from. As long as they are visible and promoting positivity about the community. That’s what saves lives.
Yesterday I did something that I haven’t done in years.
I deleted someone from Facebook. Their crime? Sharing a stupid viral of images of Jenner next to images of a soldier with a statement reading ‘This is what real heroes look like’.
It actually made my whole body tense up. How could I be connected with someone so ignorant? But what really got me is how far this soundbite-ill-informed-opinion travelled. And how quickly.
Cabaret artist Amelia Ryan stated it best when she said:
“All of this rot about people questioning the ‘true’ meaning of courage and bravery, in the wake of Caitlyn Jenner’s transition, has really left me rather flummoxed. Who are any of us to judge, or condition, what bravery is? It’s all relative. A policeman, a paramedic etc…sure, they’re brave professions and we’re all very grateful for them. But for someone, who is/was also a father and husband, to not only admit to the world that they’ve been displaced in their own body, but then take action on it- that’s incredibly brave too. There is NOTHING easy about that decision, whether you’re a celebrity or not. We can’t even begin to compare these two versions of the word ‘brave’. So best not to.
More than anything, I’m grateful that Caitlyn’s transition is encouraging us to think and reflect. It’s getting us talking about Trans people and Trans issues, hopefully, in a positive light. Yes, she’s a celebrity. Yes, it’s far more (seemingly) glamourous than the plight of other trans people. Yes, it all feels a tiny bit trite given her Kardashian influences. But who cares?! Her journey is giving trans people a voice. It’s breathing public life into an issue that has otherwise been taboo (to put it politely).
The fact that she’s on the cover of such a prolific magazine, and that her story is so widely publicized, is helping to somewhat normalize the journey of these people. Who are just that- people”.
Jenner’s first public appearance as Caitlyn will be to receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award during the 2015 ESPY Awards in July 2015. She was given the award because “she has shown the courage to embrace a truth that had been hidden for years, and to embark on a journey that may not only give comfort to those facing similar circumstances, but can also help to educate people on the challenges that the transgender community faces.
Personally, I’m delighted for her and think that you should be too.
This year, LGBTicons.com is proud to champion Trans Scripts, a groundbreaking piece of verbatim theatre by Fringe First and Herald Angel Award-winning producer Paul Lucas. Created from actual interviews, Trans Scripts provides a rare and intimate glimpse into the lives of people embracing their authentic selves, and offers testament to the resilience of the human spirit. A powerhouse international cast from Broadway, television and film includes Calpernia Addams (Beautiful Daughters), Bianca Leigh (Transamerica) and Rebecca Root (BBC2’s Boy Meets Girl). Directed by two-time Fringe First Award winner Linda Ames Key.