Ramon Te Wake explores the impact Caitlyn Jenner’s public transition has had on the trans community.
On May the 29th, 2014 history was made when trans actress and activist Laverne Cox was featured on the cover of Time Magazine. The cover title read – “The Transgender Tipping Point”. It was a critical moment for all trans people but more so because Time had featured a trans woman of colour as there cover girl. #blacklivesmatter #Includingblacktranswoman
On June the 1st, 2015, trans reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner was revealed to the world on the cover of Vanity Fair. The caption was simple “Call me Caitlyn”. Caitlyn’s cover didn’t just slip on by like a casual stroll through the park she god damn smashed it and broke the Internet while she was at it. #sorrynotsorryKimK
Caitlyn’s revelation held the world by the balls and demanded we all stop and pay attention. And the world did. I can’t remember a time when trans swept the globe like this. When trans was on the lips, fingertips and minds of literally everyone on social media and beyond. People had a lot to say – the good, the mostly good and the bad.
But regardless of where people stand on the Caitlyn spectrum this was a game changer for trans people. What it did was create a much, needed space for conversations to be had around the complex range of issues that impact the trans community. Not just the glamorous kind, which always tends to dominate the media.
The triumphs and tragedies, remembering those who have gone before us – paying respect to the thousands of trans individuals and organisations who fight for our rights every day … but most importantly, using the platform to talk about the work that desperately needs to be done and there’s still a lot of work to be done. Discrimination with housing, health care, transphobia, homelessness, sexual and physical violence – bullying, unreported murders, and suicide. The list is long and tragically uneven when it comes to awareness and visibility. Even in the wake of Caitlyn’s global take over people are continuing these conversations on all social media platforms. The audience is huge. The reach undeniable … and that’s what counts.
Caitlyn has fame and money, her transition swift and seemingly effortless. All carried out right before our eyes, scrutinised and criticised. TV star. Fair game. Most of us will never be able to transition with that level of financial ease and Hollywood support. #onlyforcertaintransfolk. And that alone has created a lot of backlash. It could be said that Caitlyn’s social status #whiterichprivilege is lost on the disenfranchised. How can she make a difference in the lives of trans kids who are poor and homeless and living on the streets? Maybe she can’t. But I think her story and representation is part of a much bigger picture. Despite the flash and cash, the lovers and the haters, any trans person who steps forward into their own authentic skin and reveals themselves, to their families and the world, is gutsy in my books.
It’s important to note that every trans person’s transition is different and unique according, to their own life journey and no two experiences are the same. Each should be acknowledged and valued regardless of social standing, geography and economics. The struggle is always real and the adversities affect each of us in different ways. However, the more we accept our kids and family members for being beautifully trans the more chance we have of changing minds and saving lives.
On April the 24th 2015, 17 million people tuned in to watch Caitlyn reveal her truth to Diane Sawyer … that’s a lot of eyes on a trans woman and her lifetime struggle with gender identity. I watched it. It was compelling. But what was crucial for me was how loving and supportive her children were and I thought that’s her sweet spot. That’s where she has the ability to make a real difference.
At the core of Caitlyn story it’s all about family. Sure she comes from one of the most famous family dynasties on the globe and even in their own dysfunctional, annoying and fantastical way – they love, fight, disagree and figure stuff out like any other family. I feel you rolling your eyes. #richpeoplesproblems. But a family nonetheless …
Let’s hope that Caitlyn’s star power and reachability to a mainstream TV audience is what helps bring more awareness and education to families with trans kids, siblings and parents. Lets hope we can keep the conversations alive, using the platform to push laws through that protect trans people, in particular those most vulnerable and marginalized. #alltranslivesmatter. Let’s hope that Caitlyn’s story has shown all of us that love and acceptance is not found on the cover of a magazine but in our homes and within our own families. Let’s keep working, let’s keep pushing, lets keep stepping forward and sharing our stories … let’s keep making a difference. And hopefully we can save more lives.
Article | Ramon Te Wake