Thursday, June 04, 2015

Reflections on Caitlyn Jenner

By now, you've no doubt been introduced to Caitlyn Jenner. You've heard her begin to tell her story. You've seen her grace the cover of July's Vanity Fair. You've probably even read my Open Letter from a couple months back.

And, in the process of all this, you've seen her spark a very important conversation about identity, finally finding your voice and not shying away from using that voice.

In Jenner's 22-page Vanity Fair profile, she spoke candidly for the first time as Caitlyn, saying how liberating the photo shoot was: "This shoot was about my life and who I am as a person. It’s not about the fanfare. It’s not about people cheering in the stadium, it’s not about going down the street and everybody giving you ‘that a boy, Bruce,’ pat on the back, O.K. This is about your life."

She also spoke of a renewed desire to live a regret-free life: "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."

We've seen the Internet explode with reactions since Vanity Fair released its cover, and #CallMeCaitlyn became a trending topic on Twitter almost instantaneously. But throughout all these conversations, one in particular has stood out high above the rest for me. Laverne Cox, star of Orange Is The New Black and a transgender advocate herself who appeared on the cover of TIME magazine last year, posted these brilliant words on her Tumblr...

I am so moved by all the love and support Caitlyn is receiving. It feels like a new day, indeed, when a trans person can present her authentic self to the world for the first time and be celebrated for it so universally.

Yes, Caitlyn looks amazing and is beautiful but what I think is most beautiful about her is her heart and soul, the ways she has allowed the world into her vulnerabilities. The love and devotion she has for her family and that they have for her. Her courage to move past denial into her truth so publicly. These things are beyond beautiful to me. 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.. I hope, as I know Caitlyn does, that the love she is receiving can translate into changing hearts and minds about who all trans people are as well as shifting public policies to fully support the lives and well being of all of us.

Yes! This. Exactly.
I happened to see a post floating around Facebook earlier this week. It featured a picture of a soldier with a caption describing him as the "true hero." My stomach sunk right to the floor and my blood seethed with rage the second I spotted it. It's, quite frankly, a disgusting message in every sense of the word. Not only does it show complete ignorance and disrespect, it undermines everything that people like Caitlyn and Laverne have advocated for over the years. For someone like Caitlyn, a former Olympic champ who has lived under the microscope of the paparazzi and tabloids for so long, she could have easily taken the path of least resistance. She could have lived the rest of her life -- her public life, at least -- as a man. After all, why rock the boat and open yourself up to criticism, right?

But that's not WHO Caitlyn is, and honestly, that's the most important part. She has to be who she is, and it's all rather selfish and arrogant to expect her to hide her true self or her heart. How would you feel if someone tried to stifle your true identity and said, "No, I'm sorry, that's not who you are. You identity doesn't matter."

Caitlyn has shown an incredible amount of grace and strength, especially in the last few months. That, if you ask me, is something to be celebrated. That, if you ask me, is the truest definition of bravery and courage; it's everything that being a "true hero" is all about.
As I posted on Twitter a couple days ago: "It's SO nice to meet you, Caitlyn Jenner!! Thank you for being such an inspiration. Being yourself never looked so good!! #CallMeCaitlyn." We will call her Caitlyn, indeed. Forever. xoxo

[Photos by Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair]

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