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Jenny Boylan on Caitlyn Jenner: The Big Dress Theory

Jenny Boylan on Caitlyn Jenner: The Big Dress Theory
August 14, 2015 Jennifer Boylan

Caitlyn Jenner and Jennifer Finney Boylan

Belgrade Lakes, Maine
August 14, 2015

I’ve avoided commenting on Caitlyn Jenner in a public way thus far, in part because I’m a consultant on her series I AM CAIT, not to mention an occasional member of the cast. More importantly, though, I see Caitlyn, like lots of trans-people in early transition,  as a work in progress. What most trans people need, especially in the early days, is time to figure out how they want to live in the world. Caitlyn Jenner deserves the benefit of the doubt no less than anyone else.

That said, I suppose there are a few things I would like to share. So here are a few thoughts. They represent my own feelings, not that of the show’s producers; not that of GLAAD or Kinsey or any of the other institutions I’m involved with.

• I too was skeptical about the prospect of her show at first, and her clear plan for world media domination. The transgender community has had many people in it who have arrived on the scene determined to be famous, and it’s almost always been a mess, not least because so many of us don’t know the full community before we start talking into microphones. Many of us barely know how to talk about ourselves, let alone others. I can tell you that there are things I said in 2003, when I first published my memoir, “She’s Not There,” that I wish I had phrased differently. It takes a long time to understand the many, many ways of being trans–other than our own–and to recognize that other people’s take on being trans is as valid as our own.  If you find yourself telling someone, “You’re doing it wrong,” you’re probably doing it wrong.

She was crying, so I said, "Everybody on Jenner." And soon enough, everybody was.

So from the beginning, I feared the worst. But in short order, to my surprise, Caitlyn Jenner won me over. There are a lot of things I can say about her, but I can say this above all: she is a good soul, with an earnest, heartfelt desire to help the world. She is doing this by using her own celebrity to shine a light on the experiences of transgender people, including plenty of people whose stories are very different from her own.   So far in her show (as of mid-August), we’ve seen her visit the parents of a young trans boy who committed suicide; spent some time at HRC talking to a trans man and woman about that organization’s work; spent a couple of days hanging out with a diverse gang of trans women (including me) that includes a Latina woman, several women of color, other women who’ve done sex work; a woman who was stabbed in an all-too-typical case of violence for our community, and others as well.

She will visit other parts of our community in the future, I am sure.

To those who suggest that she is too privileged, or too white, or too wealthy, to be typical, I say, you are right. She has lived in a world that I can barely comprehend. But here’s the bargain: her family’s fame brings visibility to the lives of all our people, and CJ is dedicated to using that visibility for good. And by “fame,” I mean that, for instance, her daughter Kim has the largest number of Twitter followers in the world, period. You can argue all you like about whether this fame is deserved, or just plain weird, or what.   But CJ’s transition was going to be world news, whether we like it or not. The Kardashian show is watched by people in 125 countries in 24 different languages. It’s ridiculous. And onto this stage walks Catilyn Jenner, whom I believe truly wants to use that fame to help educate people. I think it’s done immeasurable good so far. It’s amazing.

A group of trans people at HRC in San Francisco. I love how Cait, front row left, is reaching out for me (third from right.)

Meanwhile: there are more important issues facing transgender men and women in the world than what happens on Caitlyn Jenner’s docu-series. We have had at least twelve or thirteen murders this year of trans women, almost all of them trans women of color and/or Latinas. It’s important to keep focus, and remember that the fight for trans equality takes place on many fronts: legal, social, and political. I know that the Jenner program has brought trans issues a visibility and a publicity they have never had before. But our success as a community will be measured by lives saved, and jobs created, and not by ratings.  The same might be said of the other shows that have aired over the last few years, including I AM JAZZ, and BECOMING US, and ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, and TRANSPARENT, and all the other many shows that have highlighted transgender experience in many different ways.  I am grateful for all these shows.  But I am even more grateful if one person decides not to take his or her life; if one more law is passed guaranteeing freedom from violence, or homelessness, or any of the other indignities reserved for our people.

• There’s been some criticism of CJ for being too feminine, that she defines her womanhood in terms of hair and makeup, and look, let’s face it: she is a little glamorpuss. There was a particularly idiotic column in the New York Times early this summer by a TERFy writer who felt that Caitlyn Jenner isn’t “really” a woman because she’s too girly, because she hasn’t suffered enough, because she doesn’t have a woman’s history, and so on. To this I can only say, poppycock. The world is full of women a thousand times girlier than Caitlyn Jenner whose womanhood no one doubts; full of women like, for instance, my aunt Gertrude who never got a period and who never had a baby; full of women whose experience exists along a broad, broad spectrum. The world contains Janet Reno and Dolly Parton; Mother Teresa and Lady Gaga, and newborn baby girls who have been “women” less than a couple of hours. Surely, if there is room in this world for all these different ways of being female, there is room enough for Caitlyn; room enough for you, and room enough for me.

Anyway, anyone who feels that somehow Caitlyn Jenner–or any transgender person– doesn’t fit into their special “theory” of the world might want to spend a little less time working on their special theory and instead ask, How can I ease other people’s suffering?  How can I make the world a little more of a loving place? If your special theory of gender–or anything for that matter– doesn’t reduce suffering or create a world more full of love, it might be worth asking whether what you really need is a new theory.

And if you’re still all angry about the fact that CJ likes to spend the morning wearing hot rollers, you also ought to also note that so far, in her show, we’ve seen her riding a motocross dirt bike, pumping her own gas, and flying a radio-controlled helicopter. Surely THAT’S feminine enough for you?

• I think there is a fair amount of exhaustion in the trans community about the attention paid to Caitlyn, and quite properly so: many of the things Cait is saying are things that the rest of us have been saying for decades now, and it is more than a little weird that it is only when a member of the Kardashian family says them that mainstream media pays any attention. But I also suspect that that trans community is really not the target audience for I AM CAIT. I think is a cis audience, especially of people who have never given our humanity a second thought, that is the primary audience. And I can tell you, based on what I have seen, that hearts are opening.

Cait Jenner and her transformative action squad.

I do suspect that sometimes our community has more than a little amount of what the Irish call “begrudgement,” regarding trans people who wind up in the media spotlight. Many of us feel like, well god dammit, WE are the ones who deserve to have our own show; WE are the ones whose stories ought to be told; WE are the ones who ought to have purty pictures of ourselves taken by Annie Leibowitz. And of course, we are right. We do deserve all these things, and many of us might well be more articulate than Cait has been able to be so far– although I think she deserves a tremendous amount of credit for her speech at the ESPYs, which was generous, thoughtful, and humble.

Caitlyn Jenner has been able to reach people the rest of us might not have been able to reach. She is not the perfect “spokesperson,” assuming that such a person could ever exist– given the contentiousness of our community, and its vast diversity. I am not sure she wants to be a “spokesperson” at all. What she wants is to try to do good in the world, and I think she is succeeding. In the meantime, all the rest of us continue to do our own work, in whatever way we can.  There is a lot to do.

This dress is big enough for all of us.

63 Comments

  1. Sandra Horne 3 years ago

    BINGO!

  2. Tami Cash 3 years ago

    Hi Jenny,

    I just wanted to say that you are one of the most interesting people I have followed in a long time and I would not have gotten to see you had it not been for I am Cait – -so for that and for Miss Jenners desire to be herself before she dies, may I say KUDOS.

    I takes a Village this world we live in and I am happy to know you are on one of the front lines. I wish you the best always.

    Tami Vash

  3. Tami Cash 3 years ago

    Hi Jenny,

    I just wanted to say that you are one of the most interesting people I have followed in a long time and I would not have gotten to see you had it not been for I am Cait – -so for that and for Miss Jenners desire to be herself before she dies, may I say KUDOS.

    I takes a Village this world we live in and I am happy to know you are on one of the front lines. I wish you the best always.

    Tami Cash

  4. Anne M Upton 3 years ago

    I too was skeptical at first. Was it just a stunt? Think why anyone would want to put themselves through this. I heard fair amounts of negativity in are group but they forget we all come from different places, we may only have being Trans in common. “The Big Dress Theory” Well written
    Thanks
    Anne Upton

  5. Darya 3 years ago

    “Begrudgement” is my favorite word. Nicely said.

    • I think I misspelled it. Probably shouldn’t have the e in the middle. Like “judgment.”

  6. Angelique Erickson 3 years ago

    A well thought out and presented letter to the trans community. My observation of the show that it is meant for a cis gender audience, was mirrored with your statement confirming that fact. I too was ultra feminine when I first went full time. 8 years of real life experience, has allowed me to mature and grow into my role. My dressing style,is nothing like I envisioned it would be at this point in my real life. Being much more at ease with who I am,I now express both sides of my personality. For while I can happily be very femme and a girlie girl. I can also let the athletic, butch side of me out,without fear. Cait will find where she fits,it’s just going to take time in gender as she does.

  7. Cheryl 3 years ago

    People seem to forget when you are Trans and make the transition it is like being born anew and so far no one has published a how to book on it.
    Most of us stumble though and make many mistakes and trust far to many people.
    But if you are strong you will make it I have been on this earth 60 years and I am still working on it.

  8. Kiersten 3 years ago

    Jenny, very well said. These words were spoken from the heart and touches the soul of every trans woman and man. This words were long overdue. I am not sure I related to the begrudgement aspect but as a minister I do see it in exhibited many.. I very much connected with these words you wrote, “our success as a community will be measured by lives saved, and jobs created, and not by ratings.” This Truth would set many of us free..

  9. Virginia Stephenson 3 years ago

    Jenny- I always suspected you were a nice person, and now I am convinced of it! Your encouragements to us all to look fairly at Cait and not with our wounded or self-centered eyes is indeed an important message. Thank you! I also deeply appreciate your call for us to look to help people in their suffering and to make this world a place of love. I know that came from a place of deep caring yourself. Thanks again. Virginia

  10. JoAnna Michaels 3 years ago

    I agree with what you have said and the part about a work in progress. I have been out for ten yeas and just revisited a library of congress interview i did as a viet nam era veteran and i was brand new. i think i have changed a bit and i have learned how to tell my story. Caitlyn is doing a brave thing and i trust her heart

  11. Jill Anglin 3 years ago

    Thank you for clarifying. I am post op. I am a retired Navy Chief Petty. I have. Listened to you on nationa tv. I have been through transition alone with no on guiding me. My surhery was done by DR. Sherman Leis of Philadelphia. I would love to sit with Caitlyn Jenner one on one just to chat with her as another 65 year old who had GRS at 63 because she was not ready until then even though psychologist and psychiatrist fet I was when I was younger.. My problem is I am a nobody, so I know that is not going to happen. I can understand the disrespect she is receiving,I went through that when I came out at a collegeeI worked at. I lost so called friends and was kicked out of a church. I ended up alone. The thought of suicide crossed my mind,but I was and am strongerthan that. Thank you for taking time to read this. You can find me on face book under Jill Micayl Anglin

  12. Travis Jones 3 years ago

    I feel it’s quite admirable of Cait to take it on the chin as she learns and grows in front of millions of people. I have to say I hope YOU (Jenny) get your own show though. Gosh your just brilliant, and lovely. Cait has a very good friend in you. You have definitely made a new fan.

  13. Jill 3 years ago

    As a mother of a transman, I am grateful for every individual who finds the courage to be true to themselves. Attending ‘PFLAG Philadelphia’ meetings helped me learn about LGBTQ individuals and the need for understanding, support, acceptance, and love. All lives matter!

  14. Diana Langton 3 years ago

    Jenny… a wonderful, compassionate and mature description of the unfathomable diversity of trans existence… and the wonderful work that Cait is trying to do…. it will do SO much good!!

    Jill Micayl Anglin, you are NOT a nobody… I am not a nobody… no one is a nobody. I know what you were trying to say, but you need to own your fabulous self… none of us are nobodies.

  15. Chrissie See 3 years ago

    Really well said. While I cringed when Caitlyn said, “Everyone wants me to be a spokesman for the transgendered” (um, no, sweetie, that’s wrong) there can be no doubt that she both has a huge and genuine heart, and that her decision to come out publicly has changed the national conversation, and in an immensely positive way.

    Her experience may be far from typical, but her courage helps us all. And who among us has escaped transition without faux pas? Certainly not me…

  16. Harriot Petschel 3 years ago

    Thank you for the thoughtful comments. Although I have been in transition for about five plus years finally had my BA. I love and appreciate everything Caitlyn is doing for the community. I would wish that before other criticize what she is doing they would try to do 1 one 100th of what she has cone for the community. Saying this has got me blasted on more than on site. Jenny your book was the first one I read when I began my journey. For those who attack all I can say some of us are privileged – get over it. I still will love you and support your journey.

  17. Cameron Edin 3 years ago

    Bravo! Great article.

    I am so sick an tired of hearing people whine because Caitlin has so much money she could afford any surgeries.

    There are tons of TG girls that can and do, but they have the option to be stealth, and to live their life in peace. Caitlin does not have that luxury! She has been and will always be hounded by paparazzi, just because, she is a Jenner!

    Better that the world watches her transition, and hears of the pain and struggles we go through, from one of Americas greatest Heroes, from my generation, than creating another mindless reality show that helps no one!

    My only question? How did she reduce the size of her arms, shoulders and legs!! I’ve been trying my hardest, I would love to know! They look awesome!

    Closing: The world is like a white piece of paper, place a black dot in the middle, and all people see is the black dot, and miss all the wonderful good surrounding it.

    Great job Jenny, and your in my prayers Caitlin!!!

  18. Boom 3 years ago

    Great article. As someone who lives relatively near Cait and will probably run into her soon somewhere in Malibu or nearby, I wish she’d tone it down. One thing I dislike about Kim Kardashian is that she is is dressed for evening early in the morning and all day long. That is NOT real life. Cait is an athletic, down to earth person, as Bruce was. I just wish she’d cut the dresses and dress like the rest of us during the daytime (and nighttime too in this city) which is in shorts and tshirts and jeans and tops for dinner. No one dresses in dresses for no reason, besides Kim Kardashian, who I wish Cait would take no advice from. She does NOT need to be glamourous because that is how KK disgustingly chooses to be. I wish she’s be more of herself and be normal and casual like the rest of us. I am not trans or gay but I have the utmost respect for CJ, especially since leaving the Kardashian mess, and it would just be nice to see her relaxed and fit in with the crowd more. Nobu is a killer restaurant but you do not have to dress up to go there. It is on the beach for Pete’s sake. Hope to see CJ there soon. Oh, and tell her to get back to golfing again! It was her favorite thing and I hope to see her out there too!

  19. Kayleigh 3 years ago

    Yup. It doesn’t really matter who it is, or what background they come from, somebody in the trans community isn’t going to like them.

    Caitlyn Jenner is too rich, white and old, Janet Mock is too pretty and got to transition as a teen. and everyone inbetween is also too something for someone.

    This is why we can’t have nice things people. We let perfect be the enemy of good.
    There is never going to be a human being that fits everyone’s criteria. It’s bad enough when cis-folks lay into us, but when we turn on our own it’s horrible.

  20. Jim Green 3 years ago

    At first, I didn’t want to watch the Diane Sawyer interview because I was terrified what the result might be a powerful individual’s incipient voice being perceived as the voice of millions (last in, loudest out). I was pleasantly surprised at how thoughtful the interview, interviewer, and interviewee were.
    Then I really didn’t want to watch the ESPY speech because the award (like the President’s Nobel Prize), seemed premature given that a metaphorical war was still being fought. I watched it anyway and was touched by how thoughtful the speech was.
    Finally, I really truly didn’t want to watch “I Am Cait.” Then I saw that you were an advisor and, having read “She’s Not There,” I figured that the reality show couldn’t go too far off the rails. And, in fact, your even keel and thoughtfulness seems to have set an example that Cait is learning from or that has amplified Cait’s thoughtfulness or perhaps a little of both.
    The first episodes have each shown what we might expect: Some awkward moments as an individual tries out her new wings. We also see a powerful person being blind to how her paying the way for others could be a subconscious effort to control the others or the agenda, and so on. Despite this, it has warmed my heart that we can see Cait processing and thinking. I do have to say I was sorry that we got the annoying, lottery-like “let me step in with my money and power and solve one individual’s situation in a grandiose way” gesture, though I clearly am happy for Blossom if Cait actually fulfills the plan. If I were perfect, I would hold it against Cait. But like many of us, she seems to be trying each day to learn more and to open her mind up each day.
    It will be interesting sometime to hear about how the production is affecting what we’re seeing. (Thus my term “reality series” rather than “docu-series”, I don’t think one can call something a documentary when it is produced by the subject.
    Thanks for letting me share my thoughts!

  21. Kristine Adams 3 years ago

    Thank you for the article and perspective Jenny. I think no matter Caitlyn’s socioeconomic status, femininity, and “newness” to the trans community, she is using her fame to increase awareness and to educate non-trans people, especially in the more mainstream, privileged areas of society, who probably would have never known a single trans persons story, let alone all these wonderful trans women that are on the show who have diverse stories to tell. Also, no matter what community you are a part of, diversity exists within that community. I agree that Caitlyn is still exploring her new identity, and part of that is experimenting with her femininity. Maybe she will always be this feminine, maybe not. This similar issue crops up in the lesbian community. I’m quite feminine and I am typically deemed “bisexual” or I’m given a hard time that I don’t know what it’s like to be discriminated against because I can “pass” as straight. I’m neither straight nor bisexual. I’m just me, and that me loves make-up, dresses, and getting my acrylic nails done with lots of bling.

  22. Lisa 3 years ago

    beautiful. Can you help me understand this whole ‘cis’ thing? I don’t understand why it is necessary to identify any woman as anything more than ‘woman’ or why in my experience the trans woman community seems to hold itself apart and separate from non trans women. Why can’t we all just be women?

    I do understand that a trans woman has a unique journey that only another trans woman is going to be fully able to understand. I just wish there could be more focus on the fact that we are all women, rather than on what ‘type’ of woman.

    Beautiful article. No matter your thoughts on Caitlyn and her advantages, none can deny that she is using her unique visibility to do good that will benefit all.

    • It is helpful to have a word to describe the differences in our experiences of life, and for “not-trans” to be defined in terms of something other than a “not”. In the same way that gay is a better word than “not straight,” or that “straight” might be a better word than “not-gay.” The descriptor is not a value judgement, it’s just a way of describing a certain experience as a positive rather than as a negative, or as a thing in and of itself, rather than as an absence.

  23. Rachel Richardson 3 years ago

    Thanks, Jenny. As always, an insightful and inclusive and balanced commentary on things Trans and a nice contextualising of the Cait Phenomenon in the present media and ‘cis-educative’ space.

    I found a lot of what you said quotable points for members of groups here in Australia I belong to but, I guess, my favourite point you’ve made in this article is the ‘punchline’ so-to-speak:

    “What she wants is to try to do good in the world, and I think she is succeeding. In the meantime, all the rest of us continue to do our own work, in whatever way we can. There is a lot to do.”

    And indeed there is a lot to do. Cait’s reach is clearly immense and her power to drive visibility and human rights agendas is significant but, of course, it doesn’t let the rest of us off the hook! As you say, we need to continue the work in our own ways in our own spheres as best we can for the betterment of all.

  24. Rachel Rand 3 years ago

    Jill, you are most definitely a somebody, and thank you for your service to our country. Every person counts and I am so happy that you were able to find yourself. It’s taken me awhile too, maybe a few years less, but not much.

    Jenny, thank you for the insightful and thoughtful piece.

  25. Kris Peterson 3 years ago

    I’m a Midwestern lesbian and I’ve read a couple of your books – just finished “Stuck in the Middle” last night and am watching the most recent episode of I Am Cait. (As you can tell already, I have a very exciting life, what with this book reading and TV watching jam-packed into one 24-hour period.) Anyway, I’ve said to my wife a few times while watching the show, “you know, I really like that Jenny Boylan”. Just want to say how much I appreciate your sincerity, eloquence, and thoughtfulness. Your writing and persona on the show reveal you to be a very cool, likable person with whom I’m sure conversation is fun and worthwhile. Sincerely, a Minnesota fan.

  26. Cathy 3 years ago

    Fantastic writing. “Anyway, anyone who feels that somehow Caitlyn Jenner–or any transgender person– doesn’t fit into their special “theory” of the world might want to spend a little less time working on their special theory and instead ask, How can I ease other people’s suffering? How can I make the world a little more of a loving place? If your special theory of gender–or anything for that matter– doesn’t reduce suffering or create a world more full of love, it might be worth asking whether what you really need is a new theory. ” THIS IS TRUTH!! Beautiful, thank you.

  27. Dawn Ennis 3 years ago

    Jenny:

    NAILED IT.

    Your in-show comment about “The Pink Cloud” especially hit home for me.

    And I’ve begged those relatives who say they that I’m now “too weird” for them to watch so with understanding we might reconnect. If only it was mandatory viewing. I know if my loved one was going through this, it would be, for me.

    Thinking of you and wishing you well, and to the lovelies.

    Slainte.

  28. Christina Wrightso 3 years ago

    Hi I’m knodtina. I went full time 1st this year and no it’s not an April Fools joke lol. I came out to my family back in 92 Being a crossdresser. my whole family was okay with it except for my mother but she came around when I went to my 20th high school reunion funnily enough. I wore a pink gown that had made special and she was so concerned about the pink she wanted to see the dress then she was okay with it and took her a few years but she’s fine with it now. I came out as trans last year to my family I figured it out maybe 3-4 years ago But I know now what she’s going through in the trans community but me since April 1st I have had nothing but wonderful experience no one has harassed me in any way shape or form and I am a truck driver . I pulled a step deck flatbed. when I am driving not loading or unloading I wear dresses or blouses and skirts. the only time I wear pants or shorts is when I’m loading or unloading. so I am very girly and very feminine most of the time. when I am wearing my shorts and my pants and I am loading or unloading I call that my drab look. because it’s as close as being in drab that I’m ever going to get from this point on in my life. Lol. When I heard Caitlyn was coming out as trans I heard a lot of negative reactions from the trans community I have a lot of trans friends that she would be the worst absolutely worst trans spokeswoman for us. I knew she would be wonderful. She does not represent us all of course no one person can ever do that. but what she’s doing is she is putting us out there and showing everyone what we are. and in my personal opinion we are in approximately the same time zone frame as back in the eighty’s the day and lesbian community was just starting to be publicized and people to know this is going on because of the aids Epidemic that started back then. it brought it into the public consciousness and now its almost trendy to be gay period TV shows movies or based around it. we have a long ways to go we are going to have trials and tribulations good times and bad times but we just have to be patient. Caitlin has brought it up to the public and now the public is going to do its thing vilify us make a sentence heroes criminals weirdos freaks and just any number of different ways we are going to be shown. good or bad we are now in the public spotlight. & I for one am grateful that Caitlin and all the other trans men and women are forging the way for us. so to everyone out there who’s struggling with your own self just remember you were the only one who matters about your opinion about yourself. as I always say it takes two people to hurt your feelings make you feel bad. 1 is the person doing it to you and 2 is yourself for allowing that person to hurt you. Just don’t give them the power keep it for yourself. take care

  29. Rebecca P 3 years ago

    I think what you have said has hit the nail right on the head…
    I was very skeptical of the show and I have been pleasantly surprised.. If it keeps going in the direction it has been I believe it will do alot of good towards people having a better understanding on the hardships that we go though on our journey of transition no matter what status you may have…

  30. Margo Allen 3 years ago

    I rather expected disaster myself. I am pleased to find CJ using her platform for social activism on behalf of our trans community, and most of all, that she is so typical of so many trans women I have known. She has turned her own difficult situation into a win win for so many. I wish you and CJ well out there in production land.

  31. Alexander 3 years ago

    That was a beautiful post. Caitlyn Jenner may not always be the best to articulate our struggle, or need of equality, of legal protections; but damn it she has good intentions and right now the biggest soapbox for our issues. She has people like you Mrs. Boylan, who take the time to educate her and get her up to speed. Caitlyn will undoubtedly struggle, she’s not perfect but she’s human, and she is making every effort to not just parrot the talking points, she’s trying to showcase every aspect and experience of this community. It’s sad enough that cis and non-queer people are on her case. why does our community have to be part of that? We need to help her, not add to her obstacles. We need to support her, because she is supporting us.

  32. Caitlin Phillips 3 years ago

    Greetings Jenny,

    I live in Ann Arbor MI. We are a University town, claiming very diverse ( although many prefer to LOOK at the diversity, I only know a few terrific townies that will actually TOUCH our diversity and allow themselves to feel it.) and in the educated social circles that I live in… prejudice, racism, and hate simply are never made evident. What Caitlyn Jenner and you all have done with the show, is that you all have moved the light into a dark corner of our room. I have without notice moved easily in and among the transgender community here in full support of everyone being who they are. . My 14 daughter introduces her friends as they wish to be identified, not as they were born. She is completely accepting, and relieved we are here, and we get to experience this movement towards total human acceptance. (We understand how rare this community is. )
    What I realize when I hear the stories and the struggles of someone being shut out to employment, educational advancement opportunities, making this community so vulnerable in so many other discriminating behaviors, my ears perk up with serious concern. Understanding that as a community member, being a small business owner makes me a bit of a connector and allowing me to carry some influence in my community. I think there is a responsibility to employ this community. To provide financial educational opportunities and lead the way in setting the example that the transgender community and the people in it have tremendous value in our community may be helpful. It takes much courage to change yourself and your self image. I believe this courage to be so strong , that in the future I will be seeking people in the transgender community to support and participate in the protection of this group of brave individuals. My hopes would be that others will follow, that gender transformation will not in any way to be considered in a negative .

    In the not to distant future it would be terrific to see the transgender community protected under the Federal Fair Housing laws, as well as protecting the communities right to employment and also educational opportunities should never be denied. This will need to be presented at the Federal level, and I think Caitlyn may make that a bucket list goal to use her fame and connectivity to Federally protect this community as we do many other classes. Race, religion, familial status, etc.

    In closing, thank you for the show. Thank you for sharing your truths, and here is to creating a pathway to acceptance and inclusion of the transgender community into our society.

    Thanks again, Caitlin A. Phillips

  33. Claire Bow 3 years ago

    I so wish that Caitlyn could have had the time and the privacy to explore herself out of the spotlight. We all start off awkward and adrift in a sea of ignorance and isolation. Most of us have the luxury of growing through our awkward phase out of the spotlight and our gaffs are not preserved and broadcast to the world.

    But not Caitlyn, there was no way her transition could be a private thing, the media wouldn’t allow it. Had she tried being private it would have hurt us all, she would have seemed ashamed of who she is, and an object of suspicion because of the secrecy. It was bad enough living through the weeks and months leading up to her announcement with the constant speculation about her gender in every headline. I got so tired of people asking me if I thought Jenner was trans and telling them that the only opinion on that subject that mattered was Jenner’s.

    So, yes she has a lot to learn and is learning in a difficult environment. Its fine to wish that the public had decided to fixate on one of our more experienced spokespersons but I suspect it was no more her choice than ours and she is trying to make the best out of a difficult situation. I hope we can be patient, and try to remember our own early, difficult, awkward days of transition. Whether she succeeds or she fails she will still be a sister to us and deserves compassion for the battle she is waging.

  34. Francine Domico 3 years ago

    Beautifully written Jenny! I too came out at at 65.a little over a year ago.I shocked some people and confirmed others suspicions. My life mirrors Cait’s in no way.My long kept secrets do.Despite all the fanfare and glitter, Cait’s coming out helped legitimize my journey to my friends and family.To them I am the only transgender person in their life.They did not even know what transgender meant. I have gotten many phone calls from people telling me that now they understand what I had been going through after hearing Cait’s story.She has had a positive effect on my life. Keep up the good work, Jenny.

  35. Sarah 3 years ago

    Jenny, very well-spoken! And I am not surprised since your book She’s Not There was well-written! I am 51 days as a full-time female and 5 weeks at my new job. Perhaps I am on that “pink cloud” right now as you called it, but I know it can all disappear at any moment — especially given our economy — so I make sure work harder than everybody else so I may become truly indispensable. Trans lives matter and all human lives matter! Let us not forget that even at our respective lowest points, and when a friend in need reaches out to you, always listen!

  36. Valerie Larkin 3 years ago

    To be clear, Caitlyn Jenner is not a “spokesperson”. A spokesperson is someone who is appointed to speak for an organization or group of people, and present an official statement or point of view. The White House press secretary is a spokesperson. The head of PR for Google is a spokesperson. But there is no official spokesperson for the trans community. We are so diverse with so many different stories and opinions that no one person can speak for us.
    However, Caitlyn Jenner has become the face of our community. To many cis people, Caitlyn is their only experience seeing a trans person close up (on television, anyway). As long as Caitlyn continues to use that forum that she has been given to remind the world that there are a lot of trans people out there who are not wealthy celebrities and that their stories are equally valid and must be recognized, she is doing us all a great service. I certainly don’t “begrudge” her wearing the couture clothing; I would too if I had her money. And having transitioned at age 65, she is entitled to have some fun. Well said, Jenny!

  37. Cheryl Leask 3 years ago

    If CJ is going to become a spokesperson for the trans community perhaps reaching out to some of us would be a good move to help her understand what our world is really like outside the bubble…but leave the camera crew…“Et al.”… at home.
    Giving an interview to Planet Transgender or talking to one of the bloggers and or well known activists that most of us follow would also be a good start .
    regards
    CC

    • I’m a little confused with this response. Have you watched the program? The whole thing consists of reaching outside the bubble. That’s kind of what the show is. I know I talked to her for months before filming began. I would modestly hope to be considered “a well known activist,” as would the other dozen or so folks she’s already spoken with. That said, there’s always room for more improvement. I hope she will become more fluent in the language of our community soon.

      J

  38. Colin 3 years ago

    Thank you!
    As others have said in their own way– I was very relieved and happy to see you were to be a consultant for this project.

    I just viewed epi 2&3 at the urging of an old cis woman friend who I haven’t heard from in a long time. From out of the blue she txtd me– because of the show!

    It’s also made me think how much my family and other friends can finally learn about transitioning and maybe even understand what I went thru as a transman (now approaching the 20th anniversary of the start of my own transition.)

    Different lives, different journeys, but many similarities with regard to concerns and fears about presentation and passing. That all consuming self-centered time of early transition was not my shining moment or brilliance either– said and did a lot of dumb selfish things.

    My comment about the bubble may not be new(s) but wondering how many of us have lived part of our lives in and/or connected to gay and lesbian circles? Does Caitlyn have that experience/history? I was an activist and politically aware but not all of us have had that experience. I don’t condemn Caitlyn for not knowing what HRC is (I knew it as HRCF back in the day along with the NGLTF) but she should know there are people and orgs who’ve been doing this work for a long, long time. Maybe she and Ronda can watch some docs/movies or be non-fiction book buddies?

  39. Kimberley 3 years ago

    Well said Jenny. I have; as you know, always taken a “wait and see” approach. While I cannot view the show, I do follow the commentary weekly; both positive and negative.

    I believe it was a few weeks back that you mentioned the “pink fog” (Haven’t heard that one in a very long time 🙂 ). You are right on that account. You are also right on the counts of sensationalism and dare I say it bluntly? Jealousy from our community.

    The contrast between CJ and Janet Mock and Laverne Cox is glaring and this is a point of intersectionality that should be explored in much greater detail. The representation of privilege from “white trans people of affluence” is of course very glaring as you stated. Equally it is difficult for the majority of us to relate to her struggles even though they are no different. The anxiety and depression know absolutely no socioeconomic, cultural or religious bounds and the majority tend to forget that.

    It has been and would continue to be intrinsically wrong to begin engagement of power with her struggles; in my opinion. Going to HRC was a mistake as far as I am concerned. They have thrown us under the bus repeatedly and only fuels animosity within our community. Perhaps having CJ sit in on a Cox appearance as an observer; one there to learn would gather more points for her.

    Many of us who have been in this fight for so many years (you know who we are) are resentful and I think it is justified. Will those who can initiate change be influenced by her? Highly unlikely under any condition. That reduces her “efforts” to another photo op.

    She struggles just as we all do and that should be the focus if she is to win the hearts and support of our community. Her raw humanity laid bare is reality and that is what our community needs to see; that vulnerability. I suppose “paying her dues” is what people are more interested in. We have all done it to some degree.

    Still, I am sitting back and waiting for the real CJ to reveal herself. The insecurities, the flaws, doubts and above all the hopes. She will never understand our struggles; but we will understand hers, if and when they are laid out for us. We have so much to learn from her and she from us. There is still a huge story here; if the producers will listen and I have no doubt you have let them know that the direction is correct but the path is wrong.

    Keep at it.

    Peace, love and light.

    Kim.

  40. Katherine 3 years ago

    Very well written article. I’ve given Caitlyn the benefit of the doubt since she first announced her intent. I was also concerned about her intent, but I felt she wasn’t doing this as a publicity stunt. Who would? I’ve seen the comments in social media within our own community that were quite negative, disparaging her for here status and privilege. I haven’t always been able to afford my meds, much less a wardrobe, but that doesn’t mean that I should begrudge her what she has. How petty one must be to do so.
    She may not yet know all the issues and understand the hardships faced by many of our sisters and brothers, but she’s trying. As I lean towards becoming an advocate for transgender causes, I’ve learned how much I don’t know. How many of us began our journey knowing all the issues faced by the transgender community, such as the violence, suicides, immigration issues, hiv, homelessness, etc.? As we progress through our fulfillment to be ourselves we become more exposed to these issues, we learn through personal experience and the experience of others.
    I’ve seen where some are saying that Caitlyn isn’t doing enough for this cause or that. Really? Many transgender advocates are advocates for their specific causes. They help others when they can, but they have a focus. Caitlyn cannot be expected to be involved in all the issues facing our community to an equal degree. I don’t think any of us really can as it would be so overwhelming. Give her time. Let her learn. Let her pick and choose her cause(s). Isn’t that pretty much the way it was done for the most prominent advocates within the community?
    She has the advantage of celebrity, both as a famous sports figure and as a reality star. She’s using that as a tool to advance awareness and more acceptance of transgender lives. I hope those who are still negative or on the fence will give her the benefit of the doubt and time to learn and explore her abilities to help the community. After all, how many of those who have been negative towards her are themselves directly involved in advocacy, protesting for transgender rights in the streets, city hall, at state legislatures, etc.? She deserves a chance and I personally think she’s doing quite well and is learning as she goes.

  41. Carlotta Sklodowska 3 years ago

    Jen, I just discovered your site, and will mark it as a favorite as soon as I finish this post. I think the word you are looking for to mean “Not-trans” is “Cis,” which comes from Latin, meaning “on the same side of,” as opposed to “Trans,” meaning “on the opposite side of.” So a ciswoman has the same gender she was born with, while a transwoman has the opposite one.

    I too am a glamourpuss, and completely unapologetic about it. I have three sisters, and my mother is still alive, but I turned out to be the only glamourpuss among the five of us. The rest are all quite “reasonable and responsible” women, while I am regarded with suspicion.

    • Carlotta, thank you for this. As a writer, a trans advocate, and the national co-chair of GLAAD, you might imagine that of course I know the word “cis.” I use it in this very article in fact.

  42. Paige Pierson 3 years ago

    As a fellow glamour puss and tomboy outright, I feel Caitlyn’s pain-what I’m convinced of is that gender assignment is a brain function, period. As an LPC I’ve been asked to write letters for individuals seeking gender reassignment, a sort of stamp of approval on a person’s decision to begin their process. Why in the hell is this required? If one has the innate desire to go forward with a plan that to them feels natural and normal, why do they need a professional opinion? As I watch I AM CAIT, I begin to see the less permission she seeks, the happier and more joyful she becomes-truly, finally being in her own skin. And to you Mrs. Boylan, you’re second calling might be that of a therapist-you’re good! Keep fighting the good fight!

  43. Rusty Eldora 3 years ago

    Thank you. I am a Trans admirer, that is amazed daily at the strength and determination of Trans woman to succeed at their journey. It is a very tough trail, but usually they are smiling. I too was worried about CJ, but it has gone so well. CJ comes across as unique, but also ‘normal’, someone you would want as a friend. When those people meet their first trans person, they still will be curious, but willing to see what their character is like.

    Employers should realize the experience of transition is a true asset, this person can accomplish the really tough task. Give them the chance to shine, not slam the door on them.

  44. Vanessa Law 3 years ago

    Jennifer, this post was beautifully written. Your words are always thoughtful and encouraging, and I’m so happy that you’re friends with Caitlyn. She is doing a great service for the transgender community by demystifying much about us.

    Her experience is dramatically different from many trans woman, but I’d rather the world learn about one unique experience than never know about us at all.

  45. Sarah Pattison 3 years ago

    Jenny, wonderful supportive statement. Some if the postings pick up on the wealth issue, indeed over here in the UK, it’s probably one of the main themes that I have read. I think it should be put to one side in as far as in the UK we are lucky enough to have NHS support that does when necessary send us through the private sector at the tax payers expence. Part if the problem seems to be that CJ has, as I understand, espoused Republican sympathies and in the UK at present US Republucanism is seen as anti public sector health provision and pro some health organisations that pose a threat to the NHS. I know that there are those that will have much greater knowledge of this than myself and just wish to pass it on as an observation about debate on CJ in the UK. As for the media side I think she is doing a great job just she should maybe avoid identification with any particular party political group.

  46. Kristy Pandora 3 years ago

    We are already comunity and the world is recognizing we are here. How much more visable can we be? I don’t buy into their sales pitch for nobody gets to walk into my identity and claim repsentation of it by privledge. They earn it. If we follow her we easily all can step upon a pathway to misunderstanding. This movement is not 1 or 2 opinions held by who makes the most money or who holds the most media. It is our hurt, our lives, what we all fight for that is the engine and heart of our visibility. The face is not her, or her, it is in all of us. That is who our spokesperson is and who it always has been ans we are far from victimized in my opinion. I truly understand that we are the sole owner to the unique key that unlocks social and human evolution.
    We began turning this shit long before Hollywood tried to buy it. If we worried less about Caitlyn’s discovery into this new World and more about moving foward united, then I truly believe we sit upon our throne. But if you all want to fall trap to this monetary machine causing further distraction, and also division, I suppose that is your perogitive. I will never disrespect anothers choice here, but I will hold hope that one day they can slip away from their pain long enough to quit their addiction to the victim card, at least for one hand, and witness the power they hold in unity with the rest. To understand human history is being rewritten, NOW, and that they are the ink. If you want your ink on their paychecks go for it. Me? I want mine together, with all of us, who are busy pounding down these walls!

  47. Roz Keith 3 years ago

    As the mom of a trans son and an outspoken parent ally/advocate, I have to say that I love watching Caitlyn Jenner’s show. Yes she has privilege. Yes she has a famous family. Yes she has money. However, she is a human being with human emotions having to dodge paparazzi and figure out how to live as a woman in a very public setting. That cannot be easy. She is recognizing that she has to do something with her “stage” that will help the trans community — the entire trans community. Kids should not be committing suicide and (trans) adults should not be murdered. As a parent, it is about unconditional love. As a society, our culture needs to change. It is happening. I would like to think that the “dress is big enough for all of us” and that we can work together rather than against each other to change the world. We tell our story to anyone who will listen because I want people to know how incredible my son is; how courageous he is to live his authentic life. Jenny, thank you for what you do. Caitlyn, thank you for what you are doing.

    I created Ally Moms so trans youth would have some “love at the other end of the phone,” when they didn’t get support at home. The non-profit Stand with Trans was found to support and empower trans youth. Hunter, my son, is an inspiration to many out there; together we are working to make things better for all transgender individuals. http://www.callhimhunter.com is the blog where I share my journey as a mom/ally of a trans child.

    I look forward to the possibilities.

  48. Theresa Sparks 3 years ago

    Jenny,

    I agree with nearly everything you said here, particularly the part of taking time and getting to know, getting comfortable with, herself.

    Theresa

  49. Juliette Killen 3 years ago

    Thank you for posting this commentary Jennifer. I have been watching the show and Cait’s transition as long as it has been publicly available. I still have my hesitations as to whether or not to accept it as genuine and heart felt, but on the show and here in this post, you have also shown similar hesitations. I appreciate that. I was wondering how the community was handling her shot into the spotlight, when so many are struggling to survive on a daily basis just because of who they are. Human beings never cease to amaze me at their tolerance AND intolerance for others. I am glad you have found a middle ground for Cait, and I hope she does what she can to further help your community have a voice, and to become accepted more in the world as who you are, human beings. You deserve no less than that. Cait’s privilege can become the community’s privilege. Maybe not to scale, but certainly an advantage in shedding some light on the violence and discrimination that occurs, and hopefully a better understanding of those who are simply different than us in your community. I am so glad you are getting the opportunity to show Cait the real world of transgender, and that it isn’t all about hair and makeup and outfits. Without you and your organizations, and the access you have given her to the “regular” people of transgender, I fear that she would have no idea how it really is for the community. Thank you for showing her the way on her long journey.

  50. HP 3 years ago

    I’m not gay, nor lesbian nor transgender and don’t have anyone close to me who is – so I’m commenting purely as a human being. I’m disappointed in Caitlyn. I look at her social media which is undoubtedly the strongest avenue today to communicate and advocate, and all I see is a self enamored being. This past week alone, there were headlines about Chelsea Manning facing solitary confinement over nonsense that includes having the Caitlyn issue of Vanity Fair in her cell…A perfect opportunity for her to speak up; yet not a word from Caitlyn. Instead she’s been celebrating winning the title of some sort of Queen on her FB. Really?
    I will be brutally honest and if that offends anyone, I apologize for offending, but I am entitled to my opinion and expext you to respect that right..I had my doubts about how useful Caitlyn can be to the cause because Bruce never struck me as particularly intelligent… or brave. I’m sorry to say that it looks like I wasn’t wrong. I still do hope that I will be proven wrong.

  51. Nancy Nangeroni 2 years ago

    Thank you for your excellent work with Caitlyn. It is always a relief to me to see one of our community’s members doing excellent work, because it takes a little bit of weight off of the rest of us. Our transgender movement continues forward in thoughtful ways thanks to the efforts of many good people, and you are most certainly a luminary among them. Your wise guidance of Jenner helps all of us in the trans community to be seen a little more clearly.

  52. LeeH 2 years ago

    I am a 62-year old cis female and I love the CJ show. It is so interesting to me
    I want to understand and I think it’s very informative for the rest of the world to see the trans community as not so unlike ourselves.
    I wish you lived next door Jenny, I like you

  53. Chris 2 years ago

    I think the issue that the New York Times article tried to express, albeit poorly and with a sidetrack into making suffering a prerequisite for womanhood, is that Caitlyn seems to define being female as all about clothes, hair and makeup. Yes, she rides a motorcycle, but she did that before she transitioned. When it comes to talking about what’s different as a female, it’s all about physical appearances. Even her choice of cover outfit of a for the Vanity Fair article — a skimpy bathing suit-ish thing — sends the message that, “I’m now a women and I get to dress like a bimbo.” Most cis women I know cringed at that.

    Also, a fact check regarding Twitter. Caitlyn’s step-daugher Kim Kardashian West does not have “the largest number of Twitter followers in the world, period,” as you claim. She’s in the top 20 (latest real-time data: http://friendorfollow.com/twitter/most-followers/ ) but she’s not number 1 and never has been.

    Having said all of this, your voice on I am Cait has been a breath of fresh air.

  54. Khloe West 2 years ago

    Thank you for being a good minded and well measured soul that actually “gets it”.

    ‘Nuff said!

  55. Barbara Smlko 2 years ago

    (I am Bellaunbound on twitter) Thank you so much for writing this. As a cis woman, I was raised aware of the trans community. I grew up believing people are people and for me…I know what it’s like when i get a bad haircut…and i try to explain it to people that way (which i know is probably minimizing the situation ALOT) but i say think of how you feel when you get a bad haircut….now imagine that feeling your ENTIRE LIFE plus magnified sooo much more. I can’t imagine and the bravery every single transperson has (I am not sure if i am using the right terminology so please forgive me) is amazing. You and the women on I am Cait are inspirations. While i do find caitlyn inspiring, it’s the other women on the show, yourself included, that I learn the most from. I love that you don’t let her get away with stuff. You make her think, you make ME think. Yes Caitlyn is in a different spectrum than most of us. but that spectrum also made her feel like she couldn’t be who she truly was for so many years. Is it unfair of me to think that? Yes, she’s privileged but in her mind that almost created a jail for her.

  56. Hillary Whittington 2 years ago

    Thank you so much for this Jennifer. I couldn’t agree with you more. We need to allow room for everyone to learn and give them credit for trying. There is no reason for us, as a community, to compete or criticize each other. We are all trying to make things better…and I must admit that I learn something new daily. I am so scared to speak out in February (when my book is released), not because I am worried what the world will say about me, but because I am afraid to disappoint the transgender community. I am not an expert and I am not transgender, but I do want to change this world and make things better for my child. I appreciate you standing up for a woman who has the best intentions. We cannot be mad at her for being successful; she has worked hard to achieve her goals. I am very proud to have you, Caitlyn, and your “girl pack” leading our world into acceptance. Thank you for your words of wisdom. Please know you and Cait have many moms cheering you on! Warmest, Hillary (Ryland’s mom) PS. Loved your books btw!

  57. Cameron Edin 2 years ago

    I dont care what anyone says about the physical nature of JC, it is the pre-TG symbol that struggled, hurt, endured that lonely pain, that only our generation really had to deal with, that matters.

    She opened the eyes, minds and hearts of so many people that being TG does not affect weak. effeminate men with mommy problems. When the purest form of a male example announced to the world her life long struggles and exposes that pain, then it really helped to legitimize our pain and struggles to our friends and family.

    CJ seemed more like a wall flower on her previous show, now she seems to shine with so much self confidence. It seems almost rude to say “self confidence’ for someone that was such an athlete, but I believe she is an example of a person that achieved great athletic levels due to internal pain, and now we can see the external joy.

    I have a dear friend that lost over 65 pounds, from a hulk to a beauty queen, a person that was married, in the marines, children, career,. etc etc. Her story and transition are totally amazing, and mind blowing.

    Who can we contact to guide her in writing her story?

  58. Peg Hiles 2 years ago

    I am just a 60 year old woman who is a teacher, interested in all women’s issues. I was skeptical & concened about how ” I am Cait” would be until I saw you on the show. I have seen you on news shows and read some of your work and and have always enjoyed you wisdom & intelligence. Thank you for staying on the show!

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