What Caitlyn Jenner’s story has taught us about the Trans communityBy Ella Downing
Caitlyn Jenner’s story is one that has generated mixed reactions. There are vast amounts of people that applaud its bravery; others believe it is some crazy, Kardashian publicity stunt. Some, sadly, are appalled by the whole notion of the Trans community. Finally there are members inside the Trans community that disagree with the way Jenner has failed to represent the group until now. Whatever your opinion, it has certainly raised important issues within the LGBT community.
I’ll begin with the positives. Jenner’s family and friends have completely supported her journey. I’m not one to sing Kim Kardashian’s praises but she spoke candidly about the case in a recent interview stating:
“I know it’s not something that you and I can fully understand, but I don’t think we have to, I think as long as he is happy, that just makes me happy and I support him 100%.”
Barack Obama has expressed his support, sharing Caitlyn’s Vanity Fair tweet with the comment “It takes courage to share your story” and Trans actress Laverne Cox has also applauded Jenner. A general feeling among most, me included, is that Jenner has the power to make a big, positive impact on the Trans community. But not everyone feels that way.
Then there are people that disagree with the whole notion of Trans. Religious believers, feminist groups, some gay rights movements and many others believe that being transgender fails to recognise what it is to be a man or a woman, that it is impossible to believe you’ve been born into the wrong gender for how would you know? Some of this caution is understandable as although transgender has been an issue around for many years it has taken longer to come to the forefront than other civil rights movements. However it is estimated about 2 to 5% of the world’s population is transgender and there are around 700,000 Trans Americans, hardly a small number. My opinion is similar to that of Kim K’s (a sentence I never thought I’d say) that even though we cannot understand how it feels, it doesn’t really matter. Jenner, and other transsexual people, should have the freedom to pursue who they want to be.
I must admit after watching Jenner’s Diane Sawyer interview and the Keeping up with the Kardashians: About Bruce Special the publicity stunt bells started ringing slightly, because of the dramatic, fame-hungry tendencies of the family. But I suppose it’s always going to be difficult to believe that family that has their whole life under the spotlight has kept this secret. Many people have asked why would someone who has been “confused by my gender identity since I was this big” hide for so long. But again, I don't claim to understand how transexual feelings work and this is obviously far too big of an ordeal to be a publicity stunt.
Perhaps the most concerning thing we’ve learnt from the Jenner case is how much the wider Trans community struggles. Jenner has been criticised by certain members within the Trans community for not coming forward sooner and use her power to help the Trans community. Caitlyn’s Vanity Fair cover was a glamorous portrayal of hope for the trans community. But in reality 41% of Trans people have attempted suicide and things are particularly hard for black trans women in America. 27% are HIV positive 29% are unemployed and many end up homeless. Not to mention on-going hate and prejudice towards Trans people.
Caitlyn Jenner’s story has been a pivotal moment for the Trans community. But for me what it has taught us is that there is still much more to be done, I just hope that she can help to do this.