I heard about Caitlyn Jenner’s transition and her TV show documenting her journey ‘I Am Cait’ last year like everyone else. But I didn’t watch the show….until a few weeks ago. Since then I have binged on both the first and second seasons and become a huge fan!
I’ve also never watched ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians’, but like most people, haven’t been able to escape hearing about Kim, Kourtney, Khloe, Kylie, Kendall, Kris – and now, Caitlyn. My initial reaction to hearing about ‘I Am Cait’ was one of concern. I was worried that the show would fall into the reality drama circus trap of KUWTK, something which would be completely unbefitting the seriousness and complexity of Caitlyn’s transition.
Thankfully, ‘I Am Cait’ is really well presented. It’s equal parts informative and educational, fun, playful and personal. I didn’t really know much about Caitlyn’s history (as Bruce Jenner) so I feel like I’m getting to know her right from the beginning on this show. Caitlyn comes across as slightly hesitant and unsure of herself at first, but fortified with a steely determination to navigate the uncertain terrain in front of her.
I didn’t know a lot about transitioning and trans people before watching the show either. I’m a classic example of a G not having much to do with the T in the rainbow LGBT family we find ourselves in. That’s for no other reason that I simply haven’t met any trans people (that I am aware of). It has nothing to do with avoidance or having any issues with it.
So from my own position of naiveté, ‘I Am Cait’ has been a huge eye opener for me. I knew trans people had it hard, but wow, I never realised just how much stuff there is to deal with. From family rejection, legal discrimination, violence and rape, sex work, even going to the friggin’ bathroom presents a myriad of problems. The show has exposed me to all of these issues and more, in a way that I have never been exposed to them.
Which is why I have a problem with two aspects of the show. Firstly, Caitlyn’s privilege. My problem isn’t with her privilege, it’s with the way people use it against her. Yes Caitlyn has resources, money, fame and power. But I don’t see why these things are thrown at her in order to undermine her experience, her journey and her transition. Sure, those aspects of her privilege make some aspects of her life easier – much easier – than other people’s. But none of those things take away from the realness of what she has, and continues to go through.
Speaking as an outsider to the trans community, if anything I’d say Caitlyn should be given props for using her privilege in the way that she has. How many millions of conversations have been started around the world because of her? When was the last time non-trans people were this engaged and interested in the trans community? I don’t think ever really. Caitlyn Jenner has brought trans issues into the mainstream, both within the gay community, as well as to broader society as well. She deserves credit for that.
The other aspect of the show I have a problem with is the fact that Caitlyn is a Republican. Again, I have no problem with her political allegiance, I have a problem with how everyone on the show makes it out to be this awful thing, especially in the second season. Why can’t a trans person be conservative? Or a Republican? That seems to be quite limiting and the exact opposite of the accepting and tolerant environment we’d all like to create for ourselves.
Caitlyn is painted as ignorant and uninformed because she’s a Republican. Maybe it’s true, maybe she is all these things. That’s not the point though. The point is that she’s allowed to be. Here is a woman who has gone through 65 years of her life conforming to what she thought others wanted or expected from her. And now, after achieving a massive change in her life towards being her authentic self, we’re going to come at her over politics?
Early in season 2 of the show, Jenny Boylan and Kate Bornstein, two of Caitlyn’s friends, come to a mutual understanding. They’re both fierce fighters for trans rights, but they come at things from completely different perspectives. They both decide for the sake of their community, as well as their own personal friendship, to find a way to overcome their differences for the greater collective good. It would be great to apply this perspective to Caitlyn Jenner as well.
How many people wold be brave enough to share with the world this most intimate, scary, exciting and confusing time of a person’s life? I really respect Caitlyn for doing this show and sharing with the world, who she really is. She’s not perfect, and she’s never said that she is. In fact, she often expresses her desire to learn more, her need to educate herself and her fears and worries about not doing well enough, of letting people in the community, her community, down.
Through ‘I Am Cait’, Caitlyn Jenner has given the world a wonderful way to access and discuss trans issues. It is definitely worth watching and hopefully in years to come, this show gets the credit it deserves for its place and its role in advancing trans rights and trans visibility around the world – putting all politics and privilege aside.