A trans woman wrote a post about Caitlyn Jenner back at the beginning of June, when the Vanity Fair cover was all over the place.
The post says many things I thought at the time (and continue to think when I catch a few minutes of “Meet Cait” on cable tv) but didn’t dare say – things about how odd it is to treat a rich privileged self-absorbed conservative as an icon of both trans rights and feminism.
Friends sent me notes of congratulations as if I’d done something, as if I cared. An aging reality star spent more money than I will see in my lifetime to make himself into a pin-up queen and this is cause for celebration? I didn’t respond to any of them. I watched my progressive male friends police the words of others. “It’s She not He!” “It’s Caitlyn not Bruce!” I suppose they think they’re helping, but I’ve never asked for it. All of them are more concerned about their progressive bona fides over my actual feelings.
I see that a lot – progressive male types policing words to demonstrate their progressive bona fides at the expense of…so many, many things.
I couldn’t get away. Every twitter refresh, every website, every television commercial, there she was. I sought refuge with my friends. Their words supported me even as the ground shook beneath me. I felt as if piece of me was torn out, stomped on, and left bleeding on the ground. I could not comprehend why, and then a friend, a friend who has taught me so much about what it means to be a transwoman, wrote this:
I want to be able to have my own story, to be who I am. To be a person, but what becomes more and more clear each day is that I will not have this small, small privilege. I cannot be a bird. I must be the kite on a string, defined by the wind…am I an object? Am I a human? I will forever after today be described to people as “Like Bruce Jenner.” I am no more.
Tears streamed down my face as I read and re-read her words. I couldn’t read any longer. I turned off the computer, picked up my headphones and crawled into bed.
This is part of what I was thinking about that cover all along. Why on earth set the bar there? Why make it look as if that’s what transition is supposed to be? Why make it a beauty contest?
Everything we are. Everything we were. Everything we struggled for, fought for, and hurt for is gone. We are eclipsed by our own shadow. Whatever we were, we are no more. We are all reflections of an aged wealthy conservative living out his own personal gender passion play. Like a perfumed Pontius Pilate, he has condemned us all.
Did I misgender Caitlyn? Honestly, I don’t care anymore. None of it matters. I have spent the last twenty years in transition. Jenner has enough money and fame as to be insulated from everything. Jenner will never experience what it is like to live as a woman in society, or even what it’s like for most to transition. Yet Caitlyn is now our queen; the standard all transwomen will be measured against henceforth. I feel as if my life and struggle has been ripped from beneath me, tarted up, and paraded about for the world to gawk at. It is the Real Housewives version of the transgender experience.
Brilliantly put. I loathe the whole “Real Housewives” whatever-that-is for the way it defines the female experience, so why should I think the trans version is any better? Both are insulting.
The whole spread is an exercise in wealth, privilege, styling, and photo shop. This is what every young transwoman now has to strive for. Only after you have visited the facial feminization doctor will you be complete. Assimilation? Who cares! it’s all about the photo shoot. It is the transformation salon fantasy played out across our media, with a societal stamp of authenticity; Narcissistic indulgence as political act.
And yet there are many who feel the Vanity Fair cover is empowering, that it “increases awareness” of trans people. To that I say, Fuck you. Come to the city and we’ll visit young transwomen, mostly transwomen of color, homeless on the streets because their families cast them out for living their “true authentic selves.” They did not wait to amass personal and financial security, nor have millions of dollars of plastic surgery. Such a thing is impossible and yet I’m supposed to view Caitlyn’s actions as brave? Here’s bravery for you: For the past fifteen years, Bruce Jenner has been the member of a male only golf club. So brave. So feminist.
This is what I’ve been saying – trans activism is not the same thing as feminism, and not all trans women are feminists. I support trans rights, no question, but that does not mean I can’t disagree with particular trans women on particular subjects, including feminism.