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Here's What Bugs Me About Caitlyn Jenner's Vanity Fair Cover

Here's What Bugs Me About Caitlyn Jenner's Vanity Fair Cover

First let me say congratulations. Congratulations to Caitlyn Jenner for her transition and for creating a larger platform for the general public to engage in conversations about the transgender experience. I am also excited that she has decided to use her celebrity status to continue the discussion and become a social advocate for this issue. While in no way do I take away from Caitlyn’s journey and ultimate triumph over social pressure to contain herself, as she indicated how hard this process was especially due to her celebrity status, there was something that bugged me. As the media storm hit yesterday about Caitlyn’s new identity, and cover on Vanity Fair, I began to think about the narratives I have been privileged to hear, and thought about the stories that are untold, and the continuing struggle of what we hold as a “valid” transition. Below I present three main topics I thought about in relation to the images and conversations I saw yesterday.

Passing: While Caitlyn Jenner has gone through extensive surgeries to create her look, there are many individuals who the public perceives as “not passing as a woman.” While many who transition are starting younger and younger, which will help in the look of their chosen gender, there are many who have started their physical transformation much later in life. These individuals continue to face struggles on how the public interprets and ultimately engages with them. “Is it just a man in a dress?” “He doesn’t look like a woman.” These are some comments I have personally heard said in reference to women who have transitioned, but aren’t as privileged (or simply have no interest) to change their physical appearance in the way Caitlyn has.

Furthermore there are a growing number of individuals who do not elect to have surgery to live as a different gender, and some who reject gender altogether as a concept. With Caitlyn’s public transformation, my hope that these more nuanced conversations can start to happen in a more public way.

Financial Barriers: Caitlyn has openly admitted that not everyone has the financial resources she had to create the transformation she underwent. Facial reconstruction, breast implants, and vaginoplasty take an incredible amount of money to do. Women have been known to have silicon directly injected into their body to create their desired physical traits, and do so at a tremendous amount of health risk.

Value Based on Beauty: While Caitlyn definitely has some innate beauty characteristics (and Bruce was a pretty handsome guy himself), my concern is what value we place on a woman’s worth. Would Caitlyn be the subject of a Vanity Fair cover, if she didn’t look quite as striking as she is? Feminists have long complained about the amount of importance our society dictates on a woman’s physical beauty. Men are not held to the same standard or accountability to their looks as women are. As many of the fashion magazines remain fixated on one version of often unreachable (and Photoshopped) form of beauty, women’s image will continue to be a central characteristic in how we judge them.

Post Script: I decided to focus this blog entry on the M2F experience because of 1) the Caitlyn Jenner story and 2) the amount of narratives I have personally heard. The F2M experience shares many of these challenges, and have unique struggles of their own that I have not highlighted. I encourage us to remember that the trans experience is different for each individual, but also each gender transition.

1 comment (Add your own)

1. Cemelli de Aztlan wrote:
Insightful! Impactful! Important!

Tue, June 2, 2015 @ 1:11 PM

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