Dear Caitlyn Jenner

caitylin jenner

Dear Caitlyn (Ms. Jenner if ya nasty):

As an occasional follower of the Kardashian clan (klan?) and its antics, my contact with you has been largely sympathetic. As a man, overrun and underrepresented in a household full of outspoken women; as a father, often the only dissenter in an indulgent family; and as the lone conservative in an empire built on excess. When the tabloids began to whisper, and then yell, in that bright yellow font, about your alleged transition to womanhood, I was insulted and outraged—that the media would possibly belittle true transition stories by creating a false scandal about a man who happened to wear his hair long simply to take a new angle on an over-publicized family. The other option, much sadder, was that they would out you, sharing your most sensitive secret before you were ready to acknowledge it in private or in public.

While your new identity ultimately proved to have been dragged out of you by the vicious insistence of those who wield their cameras and keyboards as weapons, I wholeheartedly applaud the beauty and grace with which you have sustained and ultimately superseded the situation. Seeing you this week, wreathed in white and glowing in your new selfhood, on the cover of Vanity Fair, my heart swelled with joy and relief that this was more than merely a media circus, that it was an authentic moment of metamorphosis for you. I was more than surprised with your family’s reactions; I expected your daughters, as self-involved and fame-hungry as they may appear and are often accused of being, to make little or no public mention of your moment. But they loved and embraced you so openly and so firmly, circling around you protectively, as did most of the rest of Hollywood, pouring their love out to you in 140 characters or less. Allow me to join them in saying that I am so happy to meet you, Caitlyn.

 

As you step into the world as your true self, I could not be happier for you, knowing that you do so bravely. As you begin to produce your own docuseries (due out  July 26 on E!), know that you are joining a small and powerful community. The trans community has recently edged into the spotlight; Hollywood is dipping its toe into a wealth of trans narratives, from Amazon’s “Transparent” to the upcoming drama “The Danish Girl” to ABC Family’s “Becoming Us” and TLC’s “All That Jazz.” Important work in bringing light to trans and non-binary and genderqueer identities has been done by the likes of Laverne Cox, who, in her activist work for the trans cause and in her role as Sophia Burset on “Orange Is the New Black,” has become a household name. Cox could be called the president of this club you’re about to join, Caitlyn, as she is one of the only truly trans actors to play a transgender role. Trans narratives have become more prevalent in Hollywood works, but there is still work to be done as long as trans roles are given to cis actors, as was done with Jeffrey Tambor (“Transparent”), Elle Fanning (“Three Generations”) and Eddie Redmayne (“The Danish Girl”). These draw on a minor legacy of trans roles given to cis actors on the silver screen, including Hilary Swank in “Boys Don’t Cry,” Felicity Huffman in “TransAmerica,” and Jared Leto in “Dallas Buyer’s Club.” Subsequently, these actors have been heaped with accolades and awards, profiting off their ability to masquerade as oppressed, leaving trans communities misrepresented and underappreciated. This is the task you take on with your newly established and most challenging role yet: your real self.

Your external beauty has been well-documented and yes, SLAY, CAITLYN, SLAY, but as Our Lady Laverne Cox writes so poignantly on the anniversary of her TIME cover, “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.” As you play yourself in your own series, you create more space in the media and in the public consciousness for authentic experiences. Your highly publicized position has been and should continue to be used as a platform to celebrate authentic selfhood without threat of persecution, and merely by speaking from that place, you contribute to a new era in Hollywood; one where trans narratives may safely be expressed and shared by those who have lived them, as in the upcoming festival darling “Tangerine,” and in Netflix’s most recent release, “Sense8.” The work you do onscreen and in all media spheres, as a member of one of America’s most known families, will gradually translate to the world outside the protective shield lent by affluence and renown, and truly change lives. While we await an official confirmation of your pronouns, and gently correct those who would erroneously call you Bruce, you have one job, Caitlyn: keep doing you.

Natalie
Holla at me
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