Media outlets across America have been buzzing since Bruce Jenner announced that she now wishes to be called Caitlyn, using the cover of Vanity Fair magazine as her platform.
Messages of support have rolled in on every social media site and blog. #CallMeCaitlyn was trending worldwide on Twitter and fans praised her bravery on Facebook and Tumblr.
This is a wonderful thing, no doubt. Trans people deserve support and praise for deciding to reveal their true image in a culture that has marginalized them. It was society — in the form of 1980s tabloids — that forced Jenner to dive back into the closet for fear of harassment and humiliation. Years later in a much more tolerant climate regarding trans acceptance Jenner tried again — successfully — to become what she always knew she was inside.
Yet, we must remember that Jenner isn’t representing all transgender citizens with her transition.
Jenner is a celebrity, an athlete and a millionaire. She has access to things that many trans people will never have. Her reconstructive surgeries and hormone treatments are expensive and extensive, something that most can’t afford.
Laverne Cox, star of Orange is the New Black and transgender activist, said that society needs to remember that every transgender person has their own story. In a piece that she published on her official Tumblr, Cox said that wealth, celebrity status and beauty have nothing to do with being transgender, and the general public needs to remember that when speaking out for or against those transitioning.
“Now, there are many trans folks because of genetics and/or lack of material access who will never be able to embody these standards … I have always been aware that I can never represent all trans people,” Cox writes. “No one or two or three trans people can. This is why we need diverse media representations of trans folks to multiply trans narratives in the media and depict our beautiful diversities.”
Cox also states that yes, she and Jenner are beautiful and enjoy making themselves look beautiful for photo shoots and appearances, but their looks aren’t why they’re beautiful.
She makes a point that needed to be stated. The beauty of trans people comes not from their appearance, but from their courage to embrace their transition in the spotlight.
Cox worded it perfectly by saying “… I also hope that it is my talent, my intelligence, my heart and spirit that most captivate, inspire, move and encourage folks to think more critically about the world around them. Yes, Caitlyn looks amazing and is beautiful but what I think is most beautiful about her is her heart and soul, the ways she has allowed the world into her vulnerabilities.”
Overall, we must remember that Jenner and Cox aren’t representative of every trans experience. Each trans person has his or her own experience. Two women can be respected as figures in the trans community, but cannot be held as models for what it is like to be transgendered.
Some transgendered people are homeless, some have been disowned by their families and some will never get to experience what it’s like to exist in a body that matches their gender.
In the media storm surrounding Jenner, remember that every experience is different.