How Caitlyn Jenner broke the media


As if it’s not hard enough being trans, Caitlyn Jenner has taken some hard hits in the media since she posed for her recent Vanity Fair cover.

As a trans woman with a high profile, it was obvious she was going to attract a lot of attention, both positive and negative. Sadly, the negative press has been ugly, vile and downright disrespectful. Many have been struggling with using the correct pronouns for her as they can’t wrap their minds around the idea of a trans person. Right wing radio presenter Bryan Fischer said:

‘I’m not going to call him Caitlyn Jenner because that’s not his name and I’m not going to refer to him as a she. He’s a he. He’s a he in every solitary cell in his body, he will be until the day that God calls him home.’

Talk show host Bill Maher had this to say to the ‘pronoun police’:

‘You know what pronoun police if you’re going to climb up my ass, while you’re up there you can kiss it because it’s going to take a minute to get used to… this is someone who used to be Kim Kardashian’s step-father and now she’s Kim Kardashian’s step-mother, she’s not Rosa Parks.’

In addition, a meme began circulating online arguing that the media should be talking about Akon’s charity work in Africa, not ‘science project’ Caitlyn Jenner. The image was shared by high profile celebrities, including Snoop Dogg and Chris Brown. Former Nickelodeon star Drake Bell reacted to the Vanity Fair cover on Twitter, commenting ‘Sorry… still calling you Bruce.’ He later deleted the comment and apologise for his actions.

There have also been comments on how Jenner somehow isn’t ‘trans’ enough. In The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw noted that trans pioneer Jan Morris had essentially done it first and so was more worthy of praise. On Buzzfeed, Meredith Talusan, a trans woman, argued that Jenner’s decision to use male pronouns until she was ready dealt a blow to others in the trans community. She noted:

‘…it didn’t seem as though Jenner was comfortable being referred to as “Caitlyn” and “her” until she had achieved her own vision of what a woman should look like – one that conforms to conventional beauty standards steeped in patriarchal values that require enormous financial resources to build and maintain.’

In short, Caitlyn Jenner’s public self-introduction via Vanity has split opinion somewhat.

It was never going to be easy. She was well-known thanks to her Olympic career, and then her appearances on Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Jenner, instead of letting the tabloids sensationalise her transition any further, took control of her depiction in the media herself, inviting Vanity Fair into her home to do the cover shoot and introducing herself as woman in a hugely public way. It must have been terrifying, but how else could she have done it?

The media backlash, especially by those confused over pronouns, was to be expected. Even so, it’s no less shocking to hear the hateful things being splashed all over the papers. People who’ve probably never even met Jenner are declaring that she isn’t a ‘she’, she’s a ‘he’, and she needs to stop being confused and get over it. How do they know this? Are they mind readers?

The other issue is of Jenner not being ‘trans’ enough. Either others have done it before, or she’s not doing it to the correct standards. No matter what she does, Jenner is upsetting somebody. Sadly though, just by being yourself, you can upset somebody. Jenner’s experience is different to other people’s, but who’s surprised by that? She has the cash and resources available to access the things she needed to make this transition, but she has to live under public scrutiny as she does so.

Jenner’s experience will be unique, as she’s gone through the reality TV wringer, and has had the media speculating about her gender for years. The way she comes out, and deals with things such as pronouns, will be up to her. Her experience is unique, as every trans person’s experience will be unique, because every person is unique. Once the media calms down and stops trying to shove her into a pigeonhole so they can feel a bit better about the whole thing, hopefully we’ll be a bit closer as a society to just accepting trans people as, well, people.