(Caitlyn Jenner, who graced the cover of Vanity Fair in July 2015, was supposed to speak in Vancouver on Feb 23, 2016 as part of a five-city speaking tour./Vanity Fair)
They used to call him Bruce. Now they call her Cait. I call her a hero.
The first time I saw the image of Caitlyn Jenner staring at me from the cover of Vanity Fair I couldn’t get enough. Here was someone I could understand; here was a true storybook hero that wanted to help.
Then all hell broke loose.
Just a few hours after the Vanity Fair story hit the internet in July 2015, I saw the first post by a transgender activist trashing Caitlyn for being all the things we as trans people are supposed to hate: white, rich and pretty.
I wonder why we hate that ideal so much? I’m sure it varies, but I think we feel removed from those traits and the people who tend to possess them. As if people who are white, rich and pretty could never understand our trans culture of working day to day and struggling to transition without the aid of unlimited funds with which to transform ourselves.
That may be true, but it doesn’t mean some rich, white, pretty people can’t be a vital source of help for our community.
It also doesn’t mean we’re allowed to tear at and protest fellow community members until they cancel speaking tours that some people, including myself, might have actually gained something from seeing.
To say I was disappointed by the tour’s cancellation — and its catalysts — would not begin capture the sheer rage I felt at the havoc my community has caused.
I know Caitlyn Jenner is not all sunshine and daisies. I see her mistakes, her reluctance to personalize statements, her failures to acknowledge the trans community in all its myriad differences. What I don’t understand is why a person can’t be different, yet still be relevant to our community.
In Caitlyn Jenner’s case, one toe out of line sets us to frothing at the mouth and completely denouncing her.
When I look at her I don’t see all the hype, the judgments, and the mistakes. I see a new trans person struggling to make sense of the world she now finds herself in, and the community she has been thrust into somehow representing.
Yes, she’s had a lot of years on this planet. A lot of years of lying and hiding. Now she’s out and finally herself — and the first thing she does is what she has always done: use the media and her prominence to further her cause.
While people all around call her out as a “publicity whore” and a “selfish bitch,” I see things a little differently. I see an inexperienced trans woman trying to do anything she can to shed light on this struggle we all share, and trying to be as honest as she can be about how she views the world.
No, she hasn’t gotten it all down pat yet. She needs to learn more about her community and the struggles faced by those persons not transitioning in her tax bracket.
But how is she to learn when the community she’s representing blasts her left, right, and centre with no attempt whatsoever at polite education — and then yells about how she’s not listening?
Caitlyn Jenner could be a positive force for our community — and we do need someone to help us demand more mainstream acceptance. Trans people are perishing around the world at astonishing rates while we bicker with each other and hold endless discussions about which words are politically correct.
Language is important but so are people like Caitlyn, who have enough recognition in mainstream society to truly change the tide of public opinion.
In a recent conversation with Daily Xtra columnist Amy Fox (who’s already writing her response to my column), we both agreed that Caitlyn Jenner seems like a little sibling trying to run the family business. Amy thinks Caitlyn stepped into the public spotlight prematurely and should go take some classes before assuming a leadership role. But I commend Caitlyn for desperately leaping in feet first, after years of minimal progress, to try to set things right — something many of our community’s pioneers have also been willing to do in the last few decades.
Is Caitlyn totally right in her approach? Maybe not, but I think it’s an understandable act of love.