It was hard to miss Ms. Caitlyn Jenner’s debut upon the world stage yesterday. She appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair as part of an article teaser that generated high associated media pickup and debuted a new Twitter handle, @caitlyn_jenner that created its own mini news cycle by setting a new Twitter record of reaching one million followers faster than anyone before.
In true Rorschach test fashion, people saw what they wanted to see.
Laverne Cox, herself no stranger to magazine covers, wrote an essay about Caitlin’s debut that you should go read, in which she rightfully points out that there is still much work to do to support trans people’s struggles.
Many trans women go through and sometimes live in a type of hell for their transition. For some, seeing the cis reaction Ms. Jenner and seeing her as she presented herself was triggering, and the messy and sometimes angry emotions elicited by and directed at her were on full display on the Internet.
From lack of funds to transition or afford surgeries, to social isolation and shunning by family, friends and strangers, or privilege imbalances, or any of the other myriad reasons that make living life as a trans woman hard, there are always some who will vociferously tear down others or be negative when encountering someone with more luck or privilege during transition.
I’ve watched this reflex ever since I discovered the trans community in the mid-1990’s.
While there are several things about Ms. Jenner’s public transition I find problematic and hope she publicly addresses in the future, she is, whether we all like it or not, now a part of the sisterhood and deserves our support in her transition. To do otherwise places a burden of legitimacy upon all of us to meet undefined criteria for transition.
Transition is often when we are at our most emotionally vulnerable and impressionable, and while privilege can help mitigate some of the more burdensome effects, it does not remove them. Crapping all over someone just because they’ve been lucky is churlish. It is possible to be both supportive and critical at the same time.
I wish more saw that.