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Caitlyn Jenner
Gay Times

Caitlyn Jenner

Posted Thursday, 13 August 2015   |   8184 views   |   Men's Interest   |   Comments (0) When she revealed herself on the cover of vanity fair, Caitlyn Jenner became the most famous transgender person in the world. But what does her arrival mean for the progression of trans rights? is #callmecaitlyn truly a turning point?

So far this year we’ve seen A shocking General Election, the first country to vote en masse in favour of same-sex marriage, and Madonna get yanked down a flight of stairs. But if there’s one thing 2015 will be known for, it’s when a 65-year-old woman grabbed headlines the world over with just three simple words: “Call me Caitlyn”.

Three decades after making the decision to medically transition, the Olympic hero and reality TV star formerly known as Bruce Jenner made history by revealing her true self to the world on the cover of Vanity Fair.

She even became the fastest-person ever to reach one million followers on Twitter – faster, even, than the President of the United States – proving that you’re never to old to smash world records.
RuPaul, Janet Mock and Conchita Wurst all pledged their support for this new cultural icon, and Obama himself even tweeted her directly. “It takes courage to share your story,” he told her. To put it mildly, Caitlyn Jenner was a big deal.

In fact, her welcome party has been so big, it’s led to an inevitable debate – is Caitlyn Jenner the most important trans person to date?

After all, she might well be the most talked about member of the LGBT community in recent times. Even if it’s transphobic comments from the likes of Snoop Dogg, who compared Caitlyn to a “science project”, or Drake Bell’s insensitive tweet: “Sorry… Still calling you Bruce”. Narrow-minded bigotry aside, has Caitlyn single-handedly raised the profile of trans people?
IMAGE: Annie Leibovitz exclusively for Vanity Fair
In a word, no. According to the transgender community, she’s part of something far bigger. Jenna Talackova, the Canadian Miss Universe competitor who was initially disqualified from the 2012 competition for being a trans woman, told us: “I don’t believe there’s just one important transsexual woman in recent history. Each has contributed with their own story.”

You don’t have to look far to see what she’s talking about. Last year, Orange Is the New Black star Laverne Cox appeared on the cover of Time under the headline The Transgender Tipping Point, and more recently, Kellie Maloney, former coach of boxing legend Lennox Lewis, underwent gender reassignment surgery while the world watched. Caitlyn offers one brave chapter in a larger book, written by each and every member of the LGBT community pursuing equality.

As sexuality expert Dr Jana Funke explained to us: “It’s not possible for a single story to change social, cultural and legal attitudes. The coverage of Caitlyn Jenner’s transition has certainly brought new attention to trans issues, which is crucial, but I wouldn’t go so far as to talk of a key landmark in acceptance.”

So if Caitlyn hasn’t moved the LGBT community – specifically the T – closer to equality, what has she achieved? Well, she’s shone a light on who transsexuals actually are. A YouGov poll found that while 73% of British people felt positive or had no issue with Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover, many were simply confused by what transgenderism involved or what a transsexual actually was. And it’s within people’s lack of knowledge where the damage is done.

“I think a very harmful stereotype about trans people is that they don’t want or shouldn’t have children,” says Thomas Beatie, a trans male who became widely known as ‘The Pregnant Man’ after giving birth in 2008.

“Many believe that trans people should be forced to sterilise themselves and undergo costly procedures to live life as their proper gender. No one should have to undergo any type of surgery to live as his or her true self.”

But others have raised questions as to whether people uncomfortable with their gender should have children, pointing towards Caitlyn’s six biological kids. One of those people is transgender TV and media personality Lauren Harries.
“I have nothing against Caitlyn Jenner at all,” she told us, “I’m really pleased she’s happy and beautiful. But until you sort your own gender out, having children should be secondary. When you have a child, the first person you should think about is that children, because you made them. You brought that child into existence. It’s a little bit selfish.”

Although some personal views might clash, it’s important to appreciate that these conversations are even happening in the first place. Icons like Caitlyn have opened up discussions about the trans community, and it’s only a matter of time before words turn into action.

Isn’t it time we spoke about the violence and everyday discrimination against the trans community? About how trans people are still banned from joining the US army? Perhaps simply getting more people talking, Caitlyn and others will push us towards a new age of LGBT equality.

However, by chasing conventional female beauty, Caitlyn might also be unintentionally creating an obstacle to acceptance for others. Not everyone can afford years of hormone replacement therapy, breast implants and facial reconstruction surgery. In fact, some parts of Caitlyn’s Vanity Fair interview feel a bit out of touch with the ordinary experience of the trans community. “I was always worried,” she said to Vanity Fair. “You never wanted to look like a guy in drag, you never wanted to look like a guy in a dress, OK. If you’re going to do that, come out, you really have to look the part.”

As Alex Sharpe, professor of law and a transgender activist explained to us: “I’m happy for Caitlyn – and the way she chooses to live her life is nobody else’s business. But it’s important to remember that not all trans people can ‘pass’ as cisgender [non-trans] or want to do so.”

It’s this fascination with so-called ‘cisnormative’ standards of appearance that needs to stop. In order for the LGBT community to achieve acceptance, we must respect Caitlyn Jenner for what she is – a single case of bravery in unique circumstances. What feels right for her might not feel right for others.

We should celebrate that there’s no set standard for what a trans person may be.

As Thomas Beatie puts it: “It’s for you to define normal.”

The July issue of Vanity Fair is on newsstands now.
IMAGE: Annie Leibovitz exclusively for Vanity Fair

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