Transgender Momentum and Who Caitlyn Jenner “Was”

Yesterday, the media was abuzz with the news that Caitlyn Jenner, former Olympic athlete and Wheaties box model, was unveiled to the world with a radical transformation into someone more at peace with her own body, and whom older gentlemen could ogle.

Obviously Jenner has put a lot of effort into presenting herself to the world in a favorable light, and I’m happy for her.  But this just highlights something that others more influential than I have already pointed out – focusing on the looks of a transgender person diminishes the spirit and struggle of such individuals as us in this world.  We don’t just enter into our transgender cocoons and metamorphose into new fabulous lives.  Most transgender people simply cannot afford the sorts of help that someone in Jenner’s position can command.  Some simply don’t have the genetics to ever look like the sorts of people who end up on magazine covers, and some would never even consider wanting that sort of attention, or even that sort of mainstream aesthetic.

One of the issues that’s been brought up in social media, is that a great number of people are still referring to Caitlyn as “Bruce,” “formerly Bruce,” or “born Bruce Jenner,” which goes against the standards set forth by several advocacy groups to not refer to a transgender person by their former name.  But this is an exceptional case – Jenner is already famous.  Bruce Jenner has even been mentioned in song: ( )

So what we have here is not an ordinary transition.  The majority of Transgender people are by no means famous, and even many transgender public figures are usually people who had already embraced at least some part of this identity before entering the public eye.  No one has any business using Laverne Cox’ pretransition moniker, because she was never known in the public sphere by that name.  But sometimes individual circumstances test the limits of what would normally be ideal – and in this case, while the ideal would be to immediately embrace Caitlyn and set that other name aside, the reality is we have decades of fame already established for this person.  So, while I do not speak for all transgender people or activists by any means, I understand and accept that, at least for now, “formerly Bruce” is going to litter media coverage for at least as long as it takes for this fresh revelation to become old news.

But this month is Presidentially-endorsed LGBT pride month – so we should be excited.  There has never been a better time in America to be a gay man, and it’s far from the worst epoch in our history for the rest of the spectrum.  But there are states trying to ban even the best ‘passing’ transgender people from using the restroom of their choice, trans women of color are still more likely to be murdered than any other demographic, and trans men are still the most likely Americans to take their own lives, combining the despair of depression with the ruthless efficiency by which more masculine individuals select their methods of suicide.

But I’d hate to end this entry on that macabre note, because overall, there is hope.  Because as the public takes in the glamour of the most successful transgender people, we slowly move away from being the very bottom of the social hierarchy.  Visibility means a lot, and it increasingly means we grow closer to bringing the public in on the real struggles, the real tragedies, and the real triumphs of the transgender world that has so long been ignored.  Magazine covers may seem like petty victories when people are struggling just to survive (Well, because they are…) but I see some light on the horizon, and as soon as I’m sure it isn’t a mob carrying torches and pitchforks, I plan to head towards it.



  1. Hello Amy
    I agree Jenner’s acceptance is a mixed blessing, however my hope is Jenner takes her new life and does something for others. She has the opportunity to help acceptance for those who are being themselves, the journey from the physical gender you were born with to becoming the gender you are in your soul is fraught with many challenges, I’ve born witness to this as I watched my first serious boyfriend I ever had when I was 16, make the decision to embrace who she really was 5 years later when I was 21 and she was 24-we had broken up in 1991 but remained friends with me promising I would always be there for her. In 1996 I wasn’t shocked and simply accepted her decision to stop being what others wanted an expected and to be her true self. Sadly I was in the minority and I stood sadly by watching former friends, family members shun her. Her beloved mom accepted her however passed from breast cancer in 2006-leaving her feeling so alone and vulnerable at the funeral. Strangely enough it was her Nana’s priest who wrote the most compassionate letter urging her family to accept her and move past everything, her sister was (and still is) a fiercely devout Christian who was baffled that I (a Catholic) accepted her siblings decision with such ease asking me if that was weird since I had been intimate in the past with my former boyfriend. I explained I always knew and sensed she was unhappy hiding herself and changing a gender doesn’t change a kind and loving heart or dear personality and I was intending on being there for her. Somehow my acceptance made it easier for others to never understood why but it did and her sister eventually married a kind man who also accepted this decision. Now in 2015 my former boyfriend, now a female , Diana, is accepted and known amongst our friends. I understand things won’t be easy, I’ve been there while she had moments of sadness, the highs and lows that come with the hormones but my 3 children were raised knowing who Diana is to me now and importantly who she was because I wanted them to know that it is who she is and that accepting someone as they are and for who they are is the way ti go. In September my 16 year old daughter came home cheerfully announcing her friend Nikki was starting hormones to become the male that was inside wanting to come out-hearing that his parents 100% supported this was wonderful when sharing this info with my husband her pointed out how my daughter didn’t question this and how lovely that was for both herself and her friend. The road is never easy but gentle acceptance and encouraging the next generations to continue this acceptance my hope is someone hears someone is transgendered and they express themselves in a manner of “that’s lovely they can be who they really are inside” and mean it. yes a Catholic said that 🙂 I wish you peace and love on your journey an will continue to pray that yourself, Diana and all going through their journey to be who they are can do so safely and without fear of being harmed by the ones who are ignorant to your reasons. Take care!

  2. I enjoyed reading your blog, you make a lot of great points especially how no one person can represent an entire group. I was wondering about one thing though. You said that a trans woman of color is more likely to be murdered than anyone else. While I’m not questioning your stats I am shocked by them. To clarify I’m a white man who has dated a few trans women of color. I don’t say that to be boastful or to say I’m unique. I met a few pretty women of color and went out with them and I didn’t care about what was or wasn’t in their panties. So I’m shocked and greatly saddened to think that a women I went out with is likely to be killed for being herself.
    That’s all I wanted to say.
    Keep up the blog.

    • Yes indeed – murder, suicide, and assault rates are all elevated with transgender people as the victims, and when that is combined with other types of minority status things are even harder. Laverne Cox has brought that up several times in interviews.

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