Now that Caitlyn Jenner is photographed and followed in a way that reminds me of the late Princess Diana, I keep seeing something that feels off in the way mainstream media are discussing her. In particular entertainment media, which are mostly prone to elevating celebrities.
But first, it’s important to me that you understand I am awe-struck and inspired by Caitlyn. I watched her accept the Arthur Ashe award at the ESPYs and teared up during her speech. I have many trans friends, and am among the first writers to have written about trans people, back when even some gay people didn’t know that a man could have a vagina. My respect for all trans people runs deep.
Which is why when I see or read or hear entertainment reporters gushing about Caitlyn Jenner – for example, in New York City recently she was said to be “taking over where Carrie Bradshaw left off”; I keep hearing “she’s a fashion icon”, too – much of it makes me want to punch someone.
Caitlyn Jenner looks like a man in a dress. Aside from professionally posed and edited photos, when you see Caitlyn in everyday shots getting in and out of cars or walking down the street, she looks like I would in women’s clothing. Her walk in heels is clunky, the hand-bags are not yet carried skillfully, and a lot of the movements on the whole made by the former muscular Olympic athelete are less than feminine and nowhere near that of the graceful supermodel she is being touted as – that would be her teenage daughter, Kendall.
Caitlyn Jenner often looks like a man in a dress because it is hard work being a woman: I have a pair of boots that have a four-inch heel on them and when I have worn them I felt like I was going to fall over the whole time. Besides footwear, womenswear is way more varied than a man’s and so there always something new to manage as trends change – you never get completely used to everything you own in your closet the way men with mostly jeans and shirts and flats do.
Being a woman is an entirely new skillset for Caitlyn Jenner to learn, so it should be awkward and ungainly this early in her game. And that is big part of her journey transitioning into a woman. It doesn’t just end by coming out publicly. So for those in media who would have swallow crap that she’s a sudden swan – like Cinderella and not the story of a real, sixty-something person reborn – is pandering at best and at worst negates a chapter in the story that we should all be allowed to read.
I admire trans people most of all because I can’t think of anything more authentic than the pursuit of who you are in such a drastic dramatic way. To not talk truthfully about Caitlyn is to miss out on educating people and negates an important, fascinating part of the journey – and not just for her, but for trans people everywhere.
Reporting on trans people – especially celebrities – might be new for a lot of media, but rather than overcompensating because they don’t know what else to say, media could choose to be responsible to their audience by discussing Caitlyn – and others to come – for real, and to highlight that Caitlyn’s brightest beauty can be seen as she learns to walk.
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