What We’re Going to Say About Caitlyn Jenner

As many of you know, I spent last week up on a mountain surrounded by 300 fellow queer Autostraddle staff members and readers at A-Camp. When you’re up there, it can seem like the rest of the world stops spinning, like the only things that are happening are happening at camp. I was reminded just how untrue this is about fifteen minutes before I started a workshop, poetically enough, on how to make queer women’s spaces better for trans women, when Morgan turned to me and said, “Well, her name is Caitlyn.”

I talked to Senior Editor Yvonne about how we should cover the news. With limited access to wi-fi and limited time, Yvonne’s neutral three paragraph, one hundred word article on Caitlyn Jenner’s debut was what ended up happening. That’s all we wrote and, in my opinion, that’s all we needed to write. We acknowledged that the cover debuted and made a place for readers to talk about it, but we didn’t act like it was the Transgender Tipping Point or anything.

via Vanity Fair

via Vanity Fair

As you can see, I now need to write a little bit more.

One of my jobs as Trans Editor here at Autostraddle is to curate submissions that are about trans topics. I’m always telling people that I’m looking for more submissions (especially from Black trans women and other TWOC) and that’s very true right now. In just the few days since Jenner made her debut, I’ve received the same number of submissions that I’d received in the entire two months previous. All of these submissions were about Jenner.

One of my other jobs is to watch the internet and see what kinds of things are being written about trans women and see which things we should be on top of or which things we need to respond to. Again, as soon as I got back from camp, everything started coming up Jenner.

For reasons that are pretty obvious (and some that I’m going to go over here) I don’t want to turn Autostraddle into The Caitlyn Jenner show for the next few weeks. My number one priority as the Trans Editor is trans women of color and especially Black trans women. If we keep on writing about Jenner, a wealthy white celebrity, we can’t do that.

I’d much rather publish articles about Laverne CoxJanet Mock, Miss Major Griffin-Gacy, Lexi Adsit, Ryka Aoki, Reina Gossett, Angelica Ross, Luna Merbruja, and other trans women of color who are making real differences in the lives of trans women. I’d much rather publish first person essays from trans people who want to share their stories. I’d much rather write about the importance of knowing the names and history of trans women of color. I know we need to do better, and we’re always trying to do just that (Hey trans people, especially TWOC, please submit your essays to me and let me know about stories that I should write about. We pay!).

But when the entire country is devoting rapt attention to one famous white trans woman, well, I should probably say something about that, too.

First, I want to get a couple things out of the way. Number one: I’m happy for Jenner. I’m happy that she’s able to be herself and and that she no longer has to hide. I’m happy that cis people are going to learn more about trans people and form some empathy for us. I’m happy for the trans people who will be helped and inspired by Jenner’s coming out. I also completely realize that, largely because cis people have said it is, this is a big moment for trans people. Jenner is the most famous trans person in America. More people than ever can name a trans person, more people than ever have read or heard a trans person tell their story. As soon as she was on the cover of Vanity Fair (or maybe as soon as she talked to Diane Sawyer), Caitlyn Jenner became the face of the transgender community in the United States.

Apart from being a big moment, this is also a pretty strange one. It’s strange that a trans woman who, so far, hasn’t done any work in the trans community has been crowned our queen. It’s strange that a trans woman who is famous, rich, white and conservative, four things that do not describe most trans women, is now the face most cis people think of when they hear the word “transgender.” It’s weird that people are saying that famous, rich, white, conservative and conventionally attractive trans woman is humanizing trans people to a whole new group of people. Why didn’t Janet Mock or Laverne Cox do that for them? Why didn’t CeCe McDonald? Why didn’t Islan Nettles?

The fact that it took a rich, white trans woman to humanize us probably doesn’t come as a shock to most trans women of color — or to most women of color, period. When we see our friends and sisters being arrested, raped and murdered on such a regular basis, we already know that our humanity isn’t being recognized (I say “our,” because I am a trans Latina, but I also need to say that my father is white and I often pass as white, so I’m definitely not dehumanized or brutalized in the way that darker-skinned and black trans women are). So to hear that Jenner’s coming out is finally “humanizing” trans people feels like cis people are rubbing salt in wounds that they’ve given us.

While most thinkpieces written by trans people do point out problems with having Jenner as the “face of the trans community,” since the day she first told Diane Sawyer that she was trans, some white trans people have been joining in to say that Jenner’s coming out was the moment we needed to finally humanize us. Many white cis and trans people have been coming together to once again disregard the visible and tireless work of TWOC. This moment that cis people are saying is galvanizing us is actually making many of us feel even worse.

It’s also strange that a lot of pretty respected news organizations are using Jenner’s coming out as an opportunity to release statements of trans misogyny as “opinion pieces.” Or maybe “strange” is the wrong word, because really, we should be used to it by now, but it still feels wrong.

One of the highest profile “opinion” pieces was written by Elinor Burkett for the New York Times, entitled “What Makes a Woman?” The piece trots out many of the same old arguments made by trans-exclusionary feminists for decades, the very same arguments that necessitated the creation of the term “transmisogyny” in the first place, a term that differentiates acts of discrimination, violence and oppression that trans women face from ones that trans men face on the basis that womanhood and femininity are seen as less valuable than maleness and masculinity, and so trans women and transfeminine people are targeted specifically because we are trans and because we are women.

Burkett argues that Jenner’s interpretation of “womanhood,” which Burkett defines with scorn as “a cleavage-boosting corset, sultry poses, thick mascara and the prospect of regular “girls’ nights” of banter about hair and makeup,” puts “women — our brains, our hearts, our bodies, even our moods — into tidy boxes, to reduce us to hoary stereotypes.” She says the idea that a gendered identity is “encoded in us” is “nonsense that was used to repress women for centuries.”

There’s so much going wrong here I don’t really know where to start. Okay, how ’bout here: she misgenders Jenner and other trans people throughout, reinforcing her original statement that trans women aren’t real women. She doesn’t even attempt to be polite about it: she uses Jenner’s birth names, “he” pronouns, and refers to how she just “became” a woman. She uses this singular trans woman, then, to represent all trans women, a group she argues against for the rest of the essay.

She also uses phrases like, “female students who consider themselves men,” showing that she and the editors of the Times had no interest in looking at GLAAD’s guidelines for talking about trans people. I know what the Dallas Morning News says (not just once, but twice), but it’s really not that hard to trust that trans people know who and what we are and to use the correct names and terminology for us.

She claims trans women have no awareness of what it’s like to be a woman, claiming we don’t know what it’s like to be afraid while walking alone at night (despite the fact that trans women who dare to walk anywhere alone are exceptionally vulnerable to harassment, assault and even murder) or how it feels to be paid less than men. To Burkett, we’re just the next “men” in line trying to tell women how to feel and think while reinforcing a damaging gender binary. I guess Jenner has humanized trans people for Burkett, but instead of seeing a human being she can empathize with, she just sees a human that she doesn’t really like. 

I could go on, but I won’t: like I said, her arguments aren’t anything new, nor are the rebuttals to them. But they were presented to the world as new, untested — and progressive — ideas because the world was paying attention to Caitlyn Jenner.

While Jenner has created a brand new level of visibility for trans people, that visibility has definitely come with a price. Because so many more people are interested in reading articles about trans people, so many more people (including many who have very little knowledge about trans issues or people) are willing to very publicly share their opinions, and be heard. In Burkett’s case, rather than question her own misogynistic judgements about the value of a feminine gender presentation or the agency of women who choose those things (because apparently those of us who like makeup and dresses are just buying into a “tidy box”), or question why the media seems only comfortable with very feminine-presenting trans women to begin with, she goes after trans women themselves. As if we aren’t already vulnerable enough. (Caitlyn Jenner, specifically, aside.)

via Time

via Time

There have also been some really amazing responses to Jenner’s coming out, many of them, not surprisingly, written by trans women of color. Janet Mock wrote an incredible blog post that not only outlines Jenner’s various privileges but also talks about how trans coverage is changing now and how we should react to that. She talks about how in the one hour after Jenner made her debut, she received more media “requests than I have received from the release of my book, the release of Laverne Cox’s TIME cover, my infamous CNN debate and the consistent deaths of trans women of color — combined.” Again, cis society is deciding that this is the issue that they finally want to pay attention to.

Cox herself also added her own thoughts via a tumblr post that largely talks about Caitlyn’s glamorous photo spread and look. Cox talks about how Jenner’s look isn’t the norm for trans women, Cox’s isn’t even, and that “this is why we need diverse media representations of trans folks to multiply trans narratives in the media and depict our beautiful diversities.” Both women were spot on. Jenner’s debut was an auspicious one, but we need much more representation and we need to be recognized for much more of the things we’re already doing.

Every year on Trans Day of Visibility I see two kinds of essays. One kind, usually from white trans people, talks about the importance of visibility. The other kind, usually from TWOC, talks about how for black and brown trans women, being visible often means being open to violence and discrimination. I see the value and truth in both. Jenner’s extremely visible debut in Vanity Fair is showing this duality perhaps better than any previous mainstream trans story.

So we here at Autostraddle aren’t going to pretend that Jenner coming out is going to improve every trans woman of color’s life or even every white trans woman’s life. We’re not going to act like she’s the hero the trans community has been waiting for; we already have plenty of heroes we need to pay more attention to. At the very same time that people are claiming that Jenner is doing so much good for the trans community, one of those heroes, Monica Roberts — one of the most important trans writers on the internet — is having to ask for donations on her website. If that doesn’t illustrate the huge gap between the experiences of trans women, I don’t know what does.

There has to be a better way to talk about the trans community (whatever that means) after Jenner’s coming out than to frame everything in reference to her. So that’s what we’re going to do. We’re not going to be publishing articles about Jenner every other day or even every week. We’re not going to keep talking about how things are “so different and so much better” now that Jenner is out. We’re going to keep trying to do better and we’re going to keep trying to focus on trans women of color. Caitlyn Jenner might have humanized a very specific type of trans person in the eyes of cis people, but until black trans women have their humanity recognized in the same way, forgive us if we feel like we still have a lot of work to do.

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Mey Rude is a fat, trans, Latina lesbian living in LA. She's a writer, journalist, and a trans consultant and sensitivity reader. You can follow her on twitter, or go to her website if you want to hire her.

Mey has written 572 articles for us.


  1. I love you, Mey. Thank you for leading us where we need to go and helping us think and feel more deeply in the process of getting there.

  2. Thank you for this piece. You are right it has made people talk about trans more. I’ve had discussion about this with people I normally wouldn’t be discussing this subject with.

  3. Absolutely stellar article, thank you Mey!

    You’ve addressed so many of the things that I wanted to be able to say. That Times article made my skin crawl, but I don’t really have the capacity/experience to respond coherently, when people spout their similarly offensive opinions.

    So instead I will direct them to your brilliant piece of writing.

  4. thank you for writing this. it covers a lot of what i’ve been thinking about this, and now i have a wonderfully written article to share ^_^

  5. Thank you for this article, Mey. Thank you, Autostraddle, for continuing to be a place that fosters this kind of writing, thought, and the authors themselves. And thank you to every trans* writer for doing the work and for being yourselves.

  6. Mey:

    Fantastic article! I really enjoyed that.

    I, too, am conflicted with the reception of Jenner’s magazine cover debut.
    I am very excited for her and glad that people outside of the lgbt community are at least attempting to try and understand what it means to be trans on a very basic level. I did watch Jenner’s interview and it was explained that she had been struggling for most of her life living at Bruce. My mother, someone who actually vehemently disapproves of my being queer and being in love with a woman, called me after watching the interview and says, “OMG, Bruce has been struggling with this for decades… maybe he didn’t choose this.” :: head explodes :: After years of emotional abuse about who I chose to love, this 90-miute article allowed a Bible-thumping woman to reconsider her thoughts about the lgbt community. So for that, I think the talk of Jenner is doing something positive.

    On the other hand, though, I completely see how this is a slap in the face to trans women because Jenner does not represent many in the community. The “hero” thing rubs me the wrong way. While I’m happy for Jenner being a hero to herself and those that look and live like her, this shouldn’t overshadow the heroes that wake up every morning, get dressed, and continue live their lives the way they choose – despite the fact that friends, family, or acquaintances are continusouly being raped and murdered.

    I am not a trans woman, and yet, I can appreciate that while Jenner’s story is beautiful, it is not representative of the overwhelming majority of the trans community and it isn’t fair for people to continue to believe that by saying so is showing “acceptance of diversity” of the trans community.

    • I don’t think this is really Jenner’s fault though (not that you’re saying it is). Since she hasn’t said a word to suggest that her story is representative of most trans women’s lives, and, in fact, has emphasized that it very much isn’t. She says she’s going to engage in activism for trans rights — for all trans people — and I’m willing, for the time being, to give her the benefit of the doubt.

      She also happens to be — by a factor of 100x or more — the most famous person ever to transition, based on their fame prior to transition. (Who’s no. 2 — Chaz Bono, maybe?) She was as well-known an athlete in her day as anybody in the world; the supposed epitome of masculine perfection to boot. That’s why the level of attention doesn’t surprise me at all; it would have been there no matter how she was presented on the Vanity Fair cover.

      The Burkett column is one of the most horribly bigoted screeds I’ve seen in a long time, and I am so disappointed that the Times published it. I have to wonder, given the attention the Times has given recently to trans issues, whether they viewed this as giving “equal time” to “the other side.” Ugh.

      • Agree. And all of this is focusing on Ms. Jenner (who, other than wishing her well on her journey, I’m really no fan of) and not nearly enough on the media framing her story. The name of Annie Lebowitz is very conveniently being left out of all this discussion as is Graydon Carter, the head of Vanity Fair (and kind of a right wing/libertarian jerk). Think they had nothing to do with how these images looked? Virtually everyone who appears on the cover of Vanity Fair is framed in Photoshopped uber-glam drag… so the question is, why is Ms. Jenner’s depiction any different or more oppressive/offensive?

        No one from the trans community said anyone had to gush over the way Ms. Jenner looked in the Vanity Fair photos. No one from the trans community (I heard) said she was the trans community’s “hero” and I don’t know of anyone in the trans community who suggested “Caitlyn Jenner… good, Janet Mock… not as good.” What does Caitlyn Jenner have to do with Janet Mock period? Ms. Mock also largely got where she is from her cisnormative looks (oh yeah, she was getting paid speaking gigs as a supposed leader in the trans only a month or two after coming out… as did Pinay trans model Geena Rocero who were both “crowned” pretty damn fast with next to no experience in trans activism). When’s the last time Phyllis Randolph Frye, someone who did a huge amount for trans people’s legal status during the 1980s and 90s get paid gigs as a speaker or props as a supposed trans leader? (Do any of you even know her name?)

        The Jenner media blitz is NOT some great moment for older, white trans women no matter what anyone’s little fantasies are. If anything, in the short term, many of those persons will experience a lot of nasty backlash from haters who resent the attention media is giving the Jenner story. As to whether Jenner is going to end up a valuable asset for trans rights, a media washout or HRC kiss ass remains to be seen (although given her right wing politics and being on E! I’m not holding my breath for much).

        What I mostly see is a whole lot of non-trans pundits (and some trans ones too) explaining Jenner to us and who we are and what she is or isn’t and what does the trans community “mean” (even before the magazine came out). Burkett is only the most odious of them and all the worse because her garbage was spewed in The NY TImes, a paper which actually, only pretty recently, started featuring positive, objective stories about trans people and not just “are they nuts” op eds by persons with hater agendas and supposed professional credentials. I don’t recall Burkett speaking out this way about any other woman who’s appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair or other rags, nor did I see any mention of the editorial and stylistic forces who clearly dressed up Ms. Jenner like a doll (they way they do with all women). Most of Burkett’s “essay” was reconstituted TERF bile which had nothing to do Jenner and everything to do with “I get to write this in the NY Times because they’re desperate for trans-themed content by “experts.”

        Caitlyn Jenner doesn’t HAVE to represent anything but her own personal story. If you want to pay attention to it (or not), that’s your choice. Anyone else explaining her story is simply pasting their own agenda on top of it.

  7. My mother was visiting when she turned to me to ask if I had heard about Jenner.
    “Who?” I was at a loss from that point on, never having heard of this person before. Suddenly, ex nihilo from my perspective, the pop culture media has foisted this symbol upon us all as both a reference and a benchmark against which cis people will judge (“read”) our bodies and our lives. I was immediately skeptical of subterranean motives. Jenner is the most HRC-friendly trans face I have seen in the media yet.

    And the whole affair felt tinged with a déjà vu which took a moment to trace. Eventually it clicked, the pattern of this spectacle has NOTHING NEW to recommend it, following from a long genealogy of trans exposes from Jorgensen to Renee Richards to Wendy Carlos…

    There is a more open something in the air viz a viz our visibility, in certain quarters, for the lucky. But whatever the particulars in the life of Caitlyn Jenner herself as another trans person deserving of dignity, the Jenner affair as a spectacle is deeply regressive, a voyeristic cis gaze circus which simultaneously splashes a hint of glamour on a tabloid framework barely one inch above the vaudeville freak shows of yesteryear. In this sense, Jenner is the anti-Janet Mock: the curative to those strands of an assertive (inspiringly black) trans narrative which is likewise aesthetically media friendly, yet highlights the struggles of the trans person on the street.

    But the pop media can not abide the REAL. The dying trans kids won’t be on the cover of a magazine. To do so would make them concretely human, and mark us as persons. Jenner’s wealth, her whiteness, her tabloid savvy all remove her (and us) from the scope of the concrete, abstracts us in a safe way for the cis gaze. Jenner reassures cis audiences that the targets we wear on our back come with no cost, that we DESERVE those targets.

    In my poor, rural, conservative, small town there has been no transgender tipping point. Whatever small gains at superficial respect in the framing of this media frenzy (thanks to those like Cox and Mock), the Jenner brouhaha is still produced for them as transploitation. My neighbours snicker and spit over the cover of Vanity Fair, their eyes wide with prurient hungers and fears. In no way has this instance captured for them a more empathetic or compassionate ground of relation to trans people. We are still freaks. And I still thank the gods I can go stealth.

    • “Jenner is the most HRC-friendly trans face I have seen in the media yet.” Oof. I said, “ick” aloud when I read that because you are so right. She’ll probably be posing on the cover of their damned junk newsletter my partner accidentally signed up for a decade ago (they NEVER let you go!!)

    • 1) Every person is entitled to be authentic and no one else, nor society as a whole, is entitled to thwart or redefine that journey to authenticity.

      2) My entire existence has happened through the filter of my experiences, starting with the label of female at birth. My truth was/is built from that and will likely not be identical to the truth of anyone else.

      Some years ago, I realized I could not understand, at all, what transgender people meant with phrases like born in the wrong body or female brain in male body etc. Asking myself what any of that meant led nowhere. Then I stumbled onto the correct question. What is it about ME that keeps me from understanding? Turns out I don’t identify as my body, I only live in it. I reject gender roles and don’t believe my brain is particularly female. I have interests and talents from both halves of the traditional gender binary.

      I was a year out of high school for the ’76 Olympics so I have a very good idea of the gendered world of Jenner’s youth and it was oh so very gendered, by which I mean there were clearly delineated woman/girl things and men/boy things. Elinor Burkett is about ten years older than me so she had an even more restricted life in her girlhood. I believe part of what she tried to express in her Times piece was just that. The way we were treated as girls, ingrained with the message that marriage, motherhood and housewifery was THE goal inevitably had an impact on the women we became as adults. As much as she may have wanted, Jenner did not have that girlhood and all its socializing baggage. To Burkett’s eyes, and mine, too, Jenner looks to be embracing a version of female that exemplifies much of what was so restrictive about the 50s and 60s. Jenner is entitled to do exactly that, but, some of us don’t want her version of female to be the new (old) ideal.

      This phrase “a voyeristic cis gaze circus” perfectly captures this coverage, I think.

    • Don’t worry, she’s a Christian Republican, I doubt that she’s particularly pro same-sex marriage although she hasn’t (to many knowledge) made any kind of clear public statements about it.

  8. I love that you can see through the cis, privileged, biased, conservative propaganda of Jenner’s coming out as Transgender Woman narrative. Thank you for keeping her story, fabulous and courageous as it is, in perspective of the larger goal of wanting civil rights, safety, wellbeing, diversity of TWOC representation for Trans Women of Colour. The human beings who have more challenges going for them currently than Caitlyn Jenner has, are the real heroes who need all the support we can give them. You have put this so well.

  9. I was waiting for your response to this news. Sharp and thoughtful as always :)

  10. Thank you so much for continuously writing such amazing articles. I can’t imagine my job consisting of having to defend and validate my existence along with my sisters ♡

  11. Mey, I just wanted to say that I appreciate the work you do so, so much. Autostraddle has taught me a great deal about the lives of transwomen and women of colour. It has made me familiar with the names and faces both of celebrities and writers I can follow today and those of women we have lost and should never forget. I am so thankful your voice and the voices you promote are available to me, and so grateful that you make the effort to increase the volume of voices marginalised by wretchedly homogenous and destructive mainstream media.

  12. I’m an Australian cis woman, aunt to a young trans woman. I agree with everything you’ve said about the general reaction to Caitlyn Jenner. I don’t know that our experience here with public perceptions of transgender people and people who prefer not to define themselves according to one gender is all that different.

    However, our highest profile trans woman is not a “celebrity”, but Group Captain Cate McGregor, a high-ranking military officer and cricket commentator. We also have Norrie, whose tireless pursuit of legal recognition finally resulted in the High Court of Australia determining that sex and gender were not binary: Australians now are not required to specify gender on their birth certificates. Sarah Parry is a transgender woman who had a successful career as a Navy diver in bomb disposal (including service in Vietnam): in 2002 to she came to public prominence as Hobart Citizen of the Year, coordinator of the ‘Windward Bound’ project, a traditional square rigger built by young volunteers.

    As you will have noticed, there aren’t any prominent trans women of colour on the list, and that’s a whole issue in itself. Racial discrimination and bias is just as real here, but experienced a bit differently. However, I want to ask, in all seriousness, why you and Autostraddle have chosen to focus on trans women of colour? This isn’t a criticism necessarily: I’m just not understanding it. I thought Autostraddle was all about girl-on-girl culture generally? (Please don’t start bashing me as racist, that’s not what I’m about)

    • We center on trans women of color for multiple reasons. First of all, it wast trans women of color like Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy who started the LGBT movement in america by throwing some of the first bricks at the Stonewall riots. All of them also did a lot of great work that continued to lay the foundation for the modern trans movement and LGBT movement.

      Also, trans women of color around the world and mainly black trans women in the US are the main targets of anti-trans violence and oppression. If you look at lists of trans people murdered around the world they’re almost all trans women of color and in the US they’re almost all black trans women.

      So when we talk about trans history (at least in the US), it comes from twoc, and when we talk about the current trans movement, again many leaders (Janet Mock, Monica Roberts, Laverne Cox) are twoc, and when we talk about violence against trans people, most of that is aimed at black trans women and other twoc. The fact is, that if you don’t center on twoc when you talk about trans issues, you’re ignoring very large and very important parts of the discussion, and we have no interest in doing that.

    • so I wanted to chime in and address how this plays out on the inside but first i want to be clear also that I’m not taking credit for determining this focus — Mey as trans editor, like the editors of other sections i have no personal identification with or expertise in, is free to pursue content and determine focus as they see fit, without requiring my approval — but I obviously support it.

      so, here’s thing: when we did trans*cribe in 2011 — for which we solicited personal essays from trans women — 95% of the submissions were from white trans women, as were, consequently, 95% of the essays we published. Whenever we put out a call for writers or a call for submissions, we say that we’d really love to get submissions from women of color specifically, and still, 60%-90% of the submissions are from white people. Most of our editors are white. We have white trans women in our community and many white trans women who write regularly for the site (e.g., Mari, Morgan, Savannah).

      Which is just to say that coverage of white women and stories by white women, cis and trans, happen around here organically.

      So honestly, I just hope with my whole heart that a declared intent and declared focus on twoc will, at the very least, guarantee a balance in submissions. If an actual tilt happens, that would be amazing, for all the reasons mey mentioned.

    • Thank you SO MUCH for mentioning GPCAPT McGregor! She deserves more coverage in non-Australian press! If only I could find her National Press Club address on youtube……

    • As a person of color who lived in Australia for 5-6 years I can tell you that Australia has a SIGNIFICANT problem with racism, even – and ESPECIALLY – in the queer and activist circles. So I am all for highlighting TWOC as much as possible, including those from outside the US.

    • Thank you Vicki, I was just wondering the same thing about Mey’s choice of focus. And thank you Mey and Riese for responding. I agree it is entirely your choice what to post about but it is nice to hear the reasoning behind it.

  13. Great article! I thank you and touching on the whole white privileged celeb thing! At the same time, I believe this is why Jenner is more in the limelight as a ‘transgender face of America’ than Mock or Cox. Jenner has been a massive celebrity in the USA for quite some time before this month. Had this happened to another celebrity or person who America already knew by name, I feel as though the reaction would be similar. Cox is an awesome woman, but America is just beginning to know her story, Jenner’s story has been floating around since the 70’s which is why I feel people can identify? Idk!

  14. I am pretty ignorant about a lot of stuff and trying to open my mind to other people’s experiences. Thank you for such a focused and well documented article. I recently saw the intervention of Martine Rothblatt on TED and I am still amazed by her achievements, and her determination to live life and the most romantic love story ever. I know, it is still a white transgender story but her family, well, I hope you people watch it and enjoy it as much as I did. These TEDsters always leave me in that place of feeling small but believing that freaking everything is possible. Martine makes possible things that were the best science fiction ever written not so long ago.

  15. Thanks for this great response!

    “rather than question her own misogynistic judgements about the value of a feminine gender presentation or the agency of women who choose those things (because apparently those of us who like makeup and dresses are just buying into a ‘tidy box’)” — because the kind of androgynous presentation second wave feminists prefer isn’t a “box” and nor is masculinity! Only femininity must be rejected!

  16. Several of my cis friends keep pestering me to “react” to the Vanity Fair article and to Jenner. Henceforth, I’ll just point them to this piece. ‘Cause Mey writes better than I talk, and (pardon some grumbling here) I’m a little weary of being folks’ one-stop-shop for opinions on All Things Trans, especially since I mostly only know what I’ve figured out about my own experience.

    Which is a roundabout way of saying: Mey, thank you so much for this piece.

  17. Ok, I just foundyour article on her New York Magazine cover article. Reading! Oh! And yes, I realized how awkward Chris was when interviewing Martine on TED stage, and how many taime he called her “he”. I was referring to the story and the amzing achievements, not the treatment of them. As I said, I am learning!!

  18. I only glanced at the article, but it seems like the Burkett uses he/him pronouns when speaking of the time that Jenner asked that male pronouns and Bruce be used (e.g. during Sawyer’s interview), then switches to she/her pronouns when Jenner comes out as Caitlyn, and asks that she/her pronouns be used.

    • I think it’s generally understood in the trans community that pronouns and chosen names are retroactive once established (unless specifically requested otherwise by the trans person in question).

      I certainly don’t want my friends using my dead name anymore, even when referring to pre-transition me…

  19. this is one of the reasons that autostraddle is my main source of news and critique. incredibly well said, thank you for writing this.

  20. I have found the entire Caitlyn Jenner saga incredibly difficult to deal with. I am a disabled trans women who needs a great deal of medical care particularly at this current time. The media circus has filled the entire world around me with people who know nothing about being trans with opinions on my very existence and extremely messed up ideas about my life. Nurses come in misgendering me and asking intrusive questions. I turn on news programs, open newspapers, and look at social media feeds to see hate spewed at people like me. I don’t even get the benefit of hearing a trans narrative I can relate to as the idea of trans women with disabilities seems to be a completely hidden one. I don’t see stories like mine of sitting on a bed prepared for surgery and being told they won’t take me because I’m an imposter because of old medical records with my dead name.

    Until this story there was always somewhere I could go to get away from the hate and questioning of my right to exist. Now it is everywhere. I can’t be in a mall without people discussing Caitlyn, people come into my home discussing it, it is on the newsstands in the drug store, it is on my social sites, and it is on every TV and radio. I have to admit it has worn me down to the point of severe depression. If this is a trans tipping point it certainly doesn’t feel like a good one to me.

    • Not all visibility is helpful…just look at the horrific tailspin that discussion of Caitlyn Jenner has turned into in the last week (as people compare her to Rachel Dolezal).

      I hope that you are feeling better…and if not, here is a hug.

  21. I feel like this article is way to harsh. Jenner can’t help that she’s white, and I think it has very little to do with Jenner being white. Jenner was a house hold name before transitioning, and has been famous for several years. As much as I like Laverne Cox and respect what she has done for the trans community, no one knew her until OITNB, and some may still not. I agree that yes, Jenner doesn’t represent the majority, but does any celebrity? Chaz Bono’s transition was big news, but not like this, because he’s not as famous. Maybe if a big name POC celebrity transitions we can see if it’s handled any differently, but for now I think downplaying the importance of Jenner’s transition because she is white is unfair.

  22. One of my jobs as Trans Editor here at Autostraddle is to curate submissions that are about trans topics.

    How about Sense8? Created, written, and directed by a trio, one of whom is a trans woman: Lana Wachowski; one of the eight lead roles played by a trans woman: Jamie Clayton, who is in a very physical relationship with the awesome Freema Agyeman; issues around medical, political, social control of trans and otherwise non-conforming bodies and identities as a core narrative structure.

    Remarkable lack of coverage from mainstream sci-fi sites (possibly because it’s not a GoT brofest), and from feminist/queer sites, who I would have thought would be all over it; huge Twitter/Tumblr following, similar to Orphan Black and Legend of Korra in their love for it.

    It’s not without problems, but …

    One of my other jobs is to watch the internet and see what kinds of things are being written about trans women and see which things we should be on top of or which things we need to respond to…

    You need to be on top of this.

    • Mey and aja have been working on a story about sense8 all week. Heather talked about the show in her boobs tube on Monday (sense8 was the lead story in that roundup, actually) and said there that Mey was working on a piece about it. So yeah, she’s on top of it.

    • I agree 100%…there has been so little press response to the show. I kept expecting articles about the show and yet the silence has been kind of deafening.

  23. Thanks to AS, until now I had no idea who Caitlyn Jenner is, but am in awe of Laverne Cox.

    This is why you are my main news source.

  24. If you all want to talk to the Malaysian trans women who have been making incredible gains on getting rights for trans women there, let me know and I’ll hook you up.

  25. I have to say, I was pleasently surprised that Caitlyn Jenner cited Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, and other trans women (primarily women of color) as people influences. I was similarly surprised and happy to see Cox’s excellent post about Jenner trending on facebook. By itself, Jenner’s coming out won’t have much of a positive impact on the most vulnerable members of the trans community, but if it serves as a means of introducing people to amazing activists like Cox and Mock it may well end up being a very positive thing.

    I wonder if Jenner is staring to reconsider her conservative political opinions? She seems to genuinely admire and admire, respect, and be thankful for the TWOC who have helped to pave the way for her, and I feel like it takes some serious double-think to admire someone like Laverne Cox (who does incredible work fighting sexism, racism, mass incarceration, and discrimination against sex workers, as well as transphobia) and still be in any way politically conservative.

      • Ugh, we need comments that can be edited. I wrote “people she admires” then tried to change it to “influences” and was left with “people influences”. This whole comment was a bit of a fail, sorry everyone.

        • Being able to edit comments before anyone responds would be great (I suspect changing comments in light of responses is why that functionality isn’t in place).

  26. I’m not sure if this point has been made in the comments yet; if so, let mine serve as agreement to one point:

    Laverne Cox and Janet Mock were already known as trans. Caitlyn Jenner was known for decades as a man, as the epitome of a man. We are seeing the transition. That makes it a very different situation. If Samuel L Jackson was suddenly (to the public) saying that he was trans, I don’t doubt that he’d be in the news a lot. Would white people identify with him as much? Probably not. But I don’t doubt that he would get as much coverage as Jenner.

    • Media is still mostly interested in transition… before and after photos for dramatic effect. They aren’t that into discussing post-transition aspects of being trans, legal/economic/health care ramifications of being trans, or the impact of race and economic status on being trans. They want transition stories which show someone putting on makeup or lingerie, shopping for dresses and heels or, in the case of trans men… binding, pumping iron and shaving. Nervous discussions of why someone would take hormones or get surgery to alter their appearance (I know, it’s shocking stuff). That, and either cisgender people’s discomfort at coming to terms with a trans person or what an overwhelming achievement it is for a cis person to support a trans person.

      I think your point is very apt.

  27. Caitlyn Jenner reminds me a bit of this:
    I’m just happy for her to be able to be who she is.
    Having white,priviledged beautific and sexualized women stand in for womanhood, creating, according to media, a kind of relatability?
    Yeah, well, that’s how mainstream media *still* works, isn’t it?
    So, hell yeah, there’s a lot of work to do, and there’s been enough coverage of her on this site and I agree with everything you wrote, but you want to hear a crazy thing?
    I went “Yeah!” for a trans Lady on the cover of a glossy beauty magazine, and then I went “Yeah!”for that woman being over 60.
    There is progress, we just need to keep pushing the doors open!

  28. I’m glad I finally gave myself some dedicated time to read this. Thank you Mey! This perfectly summed up my feelings–her coming out was so important but not The Most Important. I am hesitant, yet excited to see how her being so high profile will (hopefully) not just be beneficial for her and other white trans women, but for TWOC as well.

  29. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Mey. This is the level of conversation we need to be having and I’m so glad I can now share this piece with every damn straight cis person who wants to talk to me about Jenner.

  30. I’m really glad I finally sat down and read this because everything is suddenly Caitlyn Jenner and it’s strange. To be honest, I had never heard of her until her coming out, so it was even harder to understand the media frenzy. It was good to read this and have some of my feelings explained to me, because as an AS reader, it is sometimes jarring to realise that the outside world doesn’t see things the same way you do, and can completely ignore women like Laverne Cox and Janet Mock in favor of a white celebrity. Also I didn’t even realise she was conservative! Anyway, I feel more anchored now, and I always love reading your pieces, Mey. Thank you.

  31. I have a question: Why do pronouns and preferred names have to apply retroactively?? I get that Caitlyn wasn’t born a man, that she’s always been female, but do we really have to go back and edit the history books and alter people’s memories? I just don’t understand why it is considered offensive ‘misgendering’ to use male pronouns and the name Bruce Jenner when talking *in the past* about a person who *at that time* everyone knew as a man, who was presenting themself to the world as a man, who was competing in the Olympics as a man. Do the 76 Olympic recordbooks need to be amended??

    • Hi Kate,

      In the simplest terms, old names can 1) be triggering and 2) cause real harm. For instance, someone who is in “stealth mode” could have their old name made known to an employer who previously was unaware of that person’s trans history, thereby outing them in a potentially hostile environment. That’s why we take action to change documents in our name, including birth certificates.

      Is it possible to have every instance of an old name redacted or amended? No. Particularly not for public figures like Jenner. And sometimes using an old name is the most practical option. But that doesn’t mean we’re not going to make an effort to assert our identities retroactively.

  32. This article was on point, had GREAT editorial content, yet was nuanced and so well written.
    Exactly the kind of article that makes me come back to Autostraddle (even though I’m a fan of Vapid Fluff as well).

    Thank you so so much, Mey. I’ve been reading articles left and right on the issue, trying to hear/read as many voices from trans women (esp. TWOC)as I could. But like so many here have said, including yourself, I feel like there are so many other conversations to be had, and your article just felt like the best palate cleanser / conclusion to that news cycle.

    I can’t wait to read more from you and from others as well.

  33. I’m so late to this post, but it’s everything I’ve been thinking about Caitlyn Jenner. I’m not trans, but it’s been really interesting to hear all about Jenner – someone I never would have known the name of before this all happened. Meh. Don’t care. Want more stories of people who don’t have tons of money and privilege, please and thank you!

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