In April of this year, Bruce Jenner came out as transgender, after a lengthy interview that was broadcasted across the United States on several stations, during which she made the statement that she had always felt like a woman. Towards the end of May, less than a month later, Jenner made a debut on Vanity Fair with the headline “Call Me Caitlyn”. From the time of the initial interview and the cover of Vanity Fair, Caitlyn Jenner had over $70,000 in reconstructive surgery to soften her features, and spent an estimated $4 million on her overall transition.
While it is always wonderful to see a member of the transgender community have such support upon coming out, it’s disheartening to think that someone who spent more on their face than most Americans make in a year is being hoisted up on a pedestal and glorified. Jenner’s transition is the exception to the rule when it comes to the average life of being transgender. While every transgender individual’s life is drastically different and our transitions are as unique as each of us are, it is usually a struggle just to make it through the day, let alone be able to transition.
On average, we face discrimination ranging from housing and employment to something as simple as medical care. Most insurance companies don’t cover transitioning related costs so we are left to pay for our transitioning costs out of pocket. Due to the high rate of discrimination we face, finding a place of employment that will not only allow us to keep our jobs while we transition but also after our transition is nearly impossible. Most transgender people don’t have thousands of dollars in cash lying around to throw at plastic surgeons for our surgeries let alone four million dollars. So why is it that someone who’s completed their transition publically in less than 60 days is being hailed as a hero and given awards?
In 1977, Jenner won a gold medal during the Olympics for a male classed sport. While that in itself is a fantastic accomplishment for anyone, let alone a transgender woman, she was still competing in a men’s class while knowing that she was a woman. (Her own admittance of “I’ve always felt like a woman” shows this.) It is my opinion that Jenner should return the medals because she should not have been competing in the wrong gender class in the first place. I realize that 2015 and 1977 are two very different times and the attitude towards the LGBT community then was hostile and anything but accepting. Yet, during the same year in New York, a professional tennis player, Renee Richards who also happens to be a transgender woman, fought for and won a case that allowed her to play in tournaments as a woman.
A huge argument I’ve heard is that Jenner, at the time, qualified as being male. This, if I’m going to be brutally honest, pisses me off. This is the same argument that countless people across the United States use to prevent transgender individuals that have not been able to transition (a lack of finances is one of the most common reasons) from using the bathroom that matches their gender. By arguing that Jenner could compete against men because she was physically a man, means that a transwoman should use the men’s restroom if she hasn’t developed breasts and had SRS. It also means that a transman should use the women’s restroom, so long as he has a vagina. Anyone that’s researched bottom surgery for transmen would quickly realize that not only is it expensive; but it’s also extremely lacking and many transmen opt out of having it, meaning they would never be allowed to use the men’s room.
By stating that anyone should be excused from following the rules set in place because of what they do or do not have between their legs is damaging to the transgender community. This is especially true because we all seek to be accepted as our correct gender regardless of whether or not we have had “the surgery”.
Also, the glorifying of one transwoman who was rich enough to complete her transition in months rather than the years that everyone else is subjected could reinforce the erroneous idea that being transgender is a choice.
While the transgender community needs media attention to work towards a state of acceptance, we do not need reality TV shows that show a woman that worships the Kardashian lifestyle and has little in common with the rest of community other than the fact she is a woman that was born in the body of a man; where her biggest worry is what color nail polish she should wear. We need to focus on the true reality of the average transgender person, the trials that we face pertaining to employment, housing, healthcare and the loss of our families when we do come out.
Countless insurance companies across the United States specifically ban transgender related services, and the number of doctors that either will see or know how to handle our unique medical cases are slim to none. In right to work states, such as Virginia, you can be fired without an employer having to give a reason, so coming out in a state like ours could mean the end of your job. I personally know several transgender women who cannot transition until after they retire. If they were to come out to their employer they would be fired and lose everything.
So once more I ask why is it that a transgender woman is being given awards for sportsmanship when she is long retired from sports? Why is a woman that publically made her transition in a fraction of the time that is normal for other transgender people being fan-worshipped and hailed as a hero? What makes her better than each and every transwoman or transman that has come before her?
Is it because she competed in the Olympics? What has she done since 1977 that would further prove actions that could be considered heroic? Balian Buschbaum was a German Olympic pole-vaulter, yet no one is idolizing and worshipping him for transitioning. He left sports to quietly pursue his transition and only came back afterward to coach others.
In the end, I feel the reason she’s being idolized is not to bring attention to the transgender community and work towards acceptance, but rather because being transgender has become the trendy thing to be and giving her a show would increase ratings. It has nothing to do with the community itself and everything to do with profits for corporate greed and the rich’s need to be richer.