Caitlyn Jenner bravely revealed her true self to the world this week, with a stunning feature in Vanity Fair magazine. Whilst it’s reasonable to say that her public unveiling has been met with deafening support shown by accruing millions of Twitter followers on the back of three tweets. However, it was also depressingly yet predictably met with ludicrous condemnations.
Since her ‘coming out’ this week, Jenner has frequently been misgendered in the news and on social media. Fox News mockingly covered her story, repeatedly referring to Jenner by her previous identity, ‘Bruce’, and as a ‘he’. The BBC’s Radio Four has too come under fire after one presenter labelled her a ‘he/she’ – disgustingly inappropriate language from a bygone era. Even former child star Drake Bell has dissented that he will still be referring to Jenner as ‘Bruce’ in some bizarrely desperate act of defiance. And to be honest, the only real question I can muster to all of these people who take issue with Jenner’s transition is why? Why does this trouble you?
I am a fiercely proud liberal, and wishing to preside over the choices a person makes with their own body and life in general is to me a preposterous injustice. It really makes no difference to anybody else what gender Caitlyn Jenner wishes to lead her life as. It seems that people forget that gender is intangible; it’s a human creation, a concept made by man. While sex exists, gender is an entirely different spectrum that isn’t determined by genitalia. Ultimately, her livelihood is no business of ours, nor should it be. Who on earth are we to tell anyone not to make themselves look on the outside how they have always felt on the inside due to the inconvenience it may cause us by forcing us to switch a few pronouns?
Then there are those who have accused Jenner of concocting her gender identity struggle for publicity, which is in my mind a cynical and obscene comment that undermines the struggle faced by many transgender people all around the world.
On top of all of this has come the presumably well-intentioned offence caused by cisgender women who have intimated a sense of shock or grief that Jenner looks better than they do. Notably popstar Demi Lovato tweeted that Jenner now has better boobs than her, and, in the same aforementioned Fox News segment, one anchor was met with disapproval from her co-host for praising Jenner’s appearance and then exclaimed “what? He’s hot!” – Not only deliberately misgendering her but also reinforcing the stereotype that transgender people are unattractive or shouldn’t be. I don’t want to be too hard on those girls and guys, who have made similar comments, but undermining her womanhood in such a way is a hindrance to the movement for equal rights and respect for transgender people which is already lagging so desperately far behind.
The only criticism of this story I can get on board with is that Jenner isn’t necessarily a deity of the transgender community for her ‘coming out’, I have no issue with her personally but it’s fair to argue that she isn’t necessarily a ‘hero’. But make no mistake; her story is courageous, enlightening and needed. We won’t see how many young transgender people are touched by this story and inspired to live their lives as their true selves just off the back of this one woman. That is an invaluable legacy her fame will leave behind.
If anything, the lasting example to take from this story is the need for society to reach out to the transgender community and let them know it’s okay for them to be themselves. It’s easy for us cisgender people to judge something we don’t understand – but it’s just as easy to empathise and show compassion to a struggle that causes so much sadness to so many people who haven’t done anything wrong. It’s time we told the transgender people of the world that it’s okay for them to simply be who they are. If you haven’t worked it out yet, gender identity is an internal journey, it’s not something that necessarily reflects physically on the outside and we need to abolish that myth and start to save the lives of those who feel they were born in to the wrong sex.
There really is only one thing to be irritated about Caitlyn Jenner’s story. It’s not the fact she was born with male genitalia, or the fact she might be the latest on a long list of Kardashian publicity stunts. It’s the fact she decided to break the ‘K’ tradition that will irk my OCD for years to come.