There are not many people who have not yet heard about Caitlyn Jenner and her amazing transition into womanhood. She is quite amazing and her story is captivating and perhaps a little polarizing as advocates and the non-advocates set their opinions against each other. Even in the transgender collective there are some who see Caitlyn’s public transition as not a great thing for the community in whole. Personally, I believe it is a good thing for us but perhaps not for the reasons other advocates embrace.
Caitlyn very much deserves respect and she is to be commended on making a huge and painful transition in the public eye. Transitioning is not an easy thing to do and I know when I transitioned it was not in public nor did I have the courage then to let the world know that I was transgender. It takes courage to live in the open and there can be many trials that come with such a decision. The public as a whole is learning to respect us but there are still some that need to learn how to be respectful. Caitlyn deserves to be respected which includes be properly referred to with the feminine pronouns that she has requested us to use. It is never okay to disrespect someone with using incorrect pronouns on purpose.
Here is where my opinion waivers from the overall pro Caitlyn camp. Caitlyn is only one woman in the transgender collective and the real story is not Caitlyn, but it is all of us. She was not the first celebrity to transition, nor will she be the last. Christine Jorgensen began her transition in 1951 and the media gobbled it up much like what is happening today with Caitlyn. Mind you, Christine did not seek out the publicity as Caitlyn does and for the most part just wanted to live a normal life. Before Christine, there were less public transitions but she was really one of the first big ones that made a public impact. Many of the big names that followed were inspired by Christine just as the current trans girls may have been inspired by some of the many girls that would follow.
There have been huge names along the way such as Reneé Richards and Caroline Cossey; and more recently; Lana Wachowsi, Chaz Bono, and Laverne Cox. They all have a special spot in bringing awareness and compassion to the transgender collective and this is definitely a very good thing. However, we cannot simply expect the celebrities to effect real change without any help from us. It is the responsibility of all of us in the transgender collective to keep the awareness in the public eye. One voice is but a whisper, a multitude of voices is a collective and that is where real change is.
The danger that the transgender collective faces right now with Caitlyn is expecting her to change the world all by herself. It doesn’t work that way and in reality Caitlyn’s only value for the movement is that she has got the light focused on us. She will keep the light on us for as long as she can but the real work needs to be done by each of us. It is time to come out of the shadows and let the world see that we are normal people. It is time to let them see that we are not something to be feared and ridiculed but are a unique resource of people to embrace and include. Many of us are creative and many of us are not, We come in all flavors and one thing we all do have is a unique view on the world that is invaluable to society.
It is already happening with people like Jazz Jennings and Michelle Hendley as they continue to raise the bar for us. Jazz is simply an amazing young woman who is transforming the landscape for trans children and really helping to educate them as well as their parents. Michelle is an up and coming actress who has recently played a trans woman in a movie, Boy Meets Girl, that depicts us as very normal and will go down as one of those movies that really does set the stage for acceptance. If you have not watched this movie I do recommend you check it out, it is available on Netflix. This is a great start and I am proud of their efforts, as well as many others, thus far.
For me, going public was a very scary thing and with the courage I found from the media’s attention on Laverne, Caitlyn, and other trans girls taking the same plunge it was an easy choice. Amazingly, I feel a lot more free without the weight of hiding a secret from everyone I know. I am finally living in my truth and it feels great. I am a writer and now a transgender rights advocate/educator/inspirational focal point. I have a lot to say and I can finally say it, a muzzled writer is never a good thing. I am also taking to YouTube to add an extra dimension to my message. I actually broke stealth on YouTube. The point is that none of this would have been possible without the public spotlight on people like Laverne and Caitlyn. The media says that we have reached a transgender tipping point and I do not think we are there yet but we are getting darn close.
The true tipping point will be when the everyday transgender people stand up and start living their lives openly. The real tipping point can be here, the time is now. Caitlyn has a light shinning on the public collective. Today, right now, is the right time to band together and let our harmonious voices call attention to the transgender collective. Together we can show the public that we really aren’t any different from them.