Trans awareness is on the rise, especially now that a member of the Kardashian clan has publicly come out to the world as transgender.
This heightened exposure of transgender individuals brings attention to the trans community, and since mainstream media is known to portray topics so accurately, we can be assured that the media’s representation of what it means to be trans isn’t misconstrued!
It’s great to see how “supportive” and “accepting” the media has been of Caitlyn’s identity as a woman by critiquing or admiring her new looks and outfits unlike ever before! Video clips in the Diane Sawyer interview or in the new “I am Cait” trailer show her constantly tearing up because, as a woman, she is now allowed to be emotional and openly vulnerable.
It’s also wonderful to see the diversity of trans individuals given visibility in the media: Caitlyn Jenner, Andreja Pejic, Laverne Cox… With all of these transgender women who not only are socially accepted, but also choose to embody traditional feminine beauty ideals as part of their identity, we don’t need to focus on deeper issues of genderqueerness or question our binary view of gender and the stereotypes that come along with it!
Identity vs. Expression
In Caitlyn’s interview with Diane Sawyer, Sawyer openly acknowledges that cross-dressing and trans identity are different and not necessarily related, yet she repeatedly references Caitlyn’s past of cross-dressing as if it is a defining piece of transgender identity in general. Fortunately, everyone who watched that interview is well aware of trans issues and won’t mistakenly conflate the two, thinking that all children who cross-dress are transgender and that all transgender folks have a synonymous gender identity and gender expression.
Here Come the Body Police
Vanity Fair’s extensive focus on Caitlyn’s various medical procedures certainly doesn’t insinuate that medical treatments are necessary for transition, nor does it reinforce the idea that sex and gender are synonymous and need to “match”. It also doesn’t subtly make it seem like transgender people are trying to “become” the other gender. And it’s not like a vast majority of trans folks can’t afford these treatments or — gasp! — are content with their bodies and don’t feel they need to alter them to feel valid with their gender.
Cait the Great?
Trailers for Caitlyn’s new show, I Am Cait, present Caitlyn as a mentor for transgender youth, reminding us that transgender folks should surround themselves with people who “love and respect them” in order to live happier lives.
Wow, I didn’t realize life was so easy — especially for an adolescent who has no control over peers who bully them or parents who might not accept them for who they truly are. Let alone all the other prejudices they may encounter when they become adults in the completely accepting, non-stigmatizing world that we live in today!
I just love how the media’s portrayal of Caitlyn’s story is not trivializing the hardships of trans folks who don’t have the privilege and wealth Caitlyn has!
The Future is… Bright
I have faith that E!’s debut of I Am Cait will continue to follow in these footsteps because I fully believe the sentiments of Jeff Olde (head of programming) and Jeff Jenkly (executive vice president of development and programming to the company producing I Am Cait) that they don’t care about ratings, number of viewers, or money and that they genuinely care and are doing this to help bring further awareness to trans issues!
Alessandra Lichtenfeld is currently pursuing her dreams of becoming a writer and filmmaker for social justice. She is particularly interested in media’s portrayal of women and the effect media has on a culture’s values.
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