If you’re a transmisogynist, there’s nothing I can do for you. If you’re refusing to recognize Caitlyn’s transition, this article is not for you. And yes – that includes you guys using “he/she,” because she has formally come out with both a new name and a request for female pronouns.
Using gender neutral pronouns for someone who has stated their preferred pronouns is, in fact, an act of ignorance.
What I love about her story is the timing in her life. She expresses finally being free after hiding how she felt for so long, and it’s very rare that we see this narrative. It’s important to see older trans women, and it’s even more important to expose people to women who choose to transition later in life. It reminds us that trans women live on into old age. The narrative around trans women usually involves someone in their 20s or younger, and I think it’s an amazing thing to see someone come to terms with herself after so long.
In her own words, “If I was lying on my deathbed and I had kept this secret and never ever did anything about it, I would be lying there saying, ‘You just blew your entire life. You never dealt with yourself,’ and I don’t want that to happen.”
Her story inspires hope in people who have missed the early transition mark, and who may feel helpless in regards to a successful transition. Trans women survive, no matter how late they transition.
But there are things we also have to consider in light of Caitlyn’s exposure. If you stand behind Caitlyn Jenner, you have to stand behind the multitude of trans people who are not cis-passing or may not want to be cis-passing. We have to accept and care for sisters that are perfectly happy not emulating traditional modes of femininity, and we must watch out for those that want to achieve a cisnormative ideal but can’t.
Caitlyn Jenner is beautiful, but she shouldn’t have to be beautiful to be appreciated and respected. She is lucky to be white, famous, and wealthy enough to afford transitioning into what she aspires to. Cis people need to start thinking on how they think about trans beauty, and how we’ve restricted the importance and legitimacy of trans women to how much their bodies fit the traditional female body. It’s vital that everyone remembers this: Caitlyn Jenner is not “becoming a trans woman,” she’s been a woman all along. It doesn’t matter that she presented as male, because her own telling of her story confirms that she’s been aware of her trans identity for awhile now. She’s a woman when she wears a dress, and she was a woman way back when she was an athlete as well.
I see graphics going around saying she looks better than her ex-wife, or better than the poster, and I can’t help but feel uncomfortable. Even using “she’s prettier than me” has a transphobic vibe. It implies that you have a stronger claim on the title of woman, and that it’s shocking and something to be praised when she outdoes you (because in your mind, she’s woman with an apostrophe and subtext trans).
I applaud Caitlyn for letting us into such a private time in her life, and for creating exposure for trans women in media, but I’m ready for all these allies to go beyond her glamour shoot. It’s nearly impossible for most trans women to afford to transition like Caitlyn has, and often leads a lot of girls into sex work–an occupation often more dangerous for trans women than their cis-ters.
Don’t let her beauty be the only thing you support.
As Laverne Cox herself says, in this beautiful post she made on the matter, “We must lift up the stories of those most at risk, statistically trans people of color who are poor and working class. I have hoped over the past few years that the incredible love I have received from the public can translate to the lives of all trans folks. Trans folks of all races, gender expressions, ability, sexual orientations, classes, immigration status, employment status, transition status, genital status etc..”
All my love to you, Caitlyn, and I wish you the best in combating all the good and the bad to come.