Caitlyn Jenner (and I’m only going to say this once: “The megababe formerly known as Bruce Jenner”) has arrived in the most spectacular style imaginable – in a bustier, on the cover of Vanity Fair, shot by Annie Leibovitz. It is the most ridiculous, bold, life-affirming and gloriously overblown celebrity transition ever. Until now, no one had ever come out in such style.
The cover is instantly iconic, up there with other Vanity Fair masterpieces like the pregnant Demi Moore. Caitlyn Jenner is not messing about. She couldn’t have picked a more provocative, attention-grabbing and, let’s face it, fabulous way to introduce herself to the world had she arrived at a press conference, on a beach, floating on a golden conch shell.
‘Call me Caitlyn’: Jenner owns her identify in Vanity Fair interview
I’m sure this sexualised image of a woman in her 60s will provide people with plenty to criticise, but for me it brings nothing but joy – and, though I don’t speak for them, I suspect many other trans people will feel the same. There have been plenty of people waiting for her to come out looking a mess, ready to ridicule her. Look who’s had the last laugh now. My Twitter feed reckons she looks a bit like Jessica Lange, or that woman who played Walter White’s wife on Breaking Bad, and she has a touch of the former supermodel about her too. Bow down, bitches.
Caitlyn Jenner is fit, healthy and rich, so may well have decades of long, enjoyable life ahead of her. At 65, however, she is not young, and she’s making up for lost time. When she was growing up, society was ignorant of trans issues; her parents and community didn’t have the information that could have helped her become who she was always meant to be while she still had her whole life ahead of her.
Jenner has endured years of hiding who she is, of trying to live up to other people’s expectations of who she was supposed to be and, more recently, cruel tabloid speculation, ridicule and bullying. After going through all that, her time has finally come. To see her looking so happy on the cover of Vanity Fair is a triumph. I love that the cover doesn’t even mention her old name; every journalist should follow the magazine’s lead.
When Kellie Maloney, former boxing promoter to Lennox Lewis, came out as trans last year, the more miserable quarters of the chattering classes cruelly asked: “What does a man in his 60s know about being a woman?” It was the wrong question. A better question is: “Why did this woman feel like she couldn’t be herself all those years?” Caitlyn, like Kellie, has always been a woman. Yes, even when they were “fathering” children. Gender is what’s inside – and for Caitlyn, finally on the outside too.
Let’s be clear. Caitlyn Jenner is not your average trans person. Her lifestyle is so rarefied very few could realistically aspire to it. She has money for surgery. The majority of transgender people – who face such hideous discrimination in the job market, not to mention social and familial rejection – do not.
Many trans people are forced into sex work in order to pay for the medical aspects of gender transition, and often this puts them at risk of drug abuse and physical harm. I’ve been there myself. I live in Britain, where transgender people are entitled to surgery and psychotherapy on the NHS – but even here we have to pay for things such as laser hair removal, seen as a “cosmetic” luxury by the NHS, but essential for any trans woman cursed with thick stubble. In the US, health insurance varies from state to state, leaving some transgender Americans covered, others to fend for themselves.
That doesn’t mean Caitlyn Jenner’s transition isn’t significant. We need trans people from all walks of life challenging perceptions at every level of society. Transgender knows no boundaries when it comes to age, race or social class. As Laura Jane Grace, another American trans hero, pointed out to me on Sunday, Jenner matters culturally – and we need people who inhabit that space to complement the work being done at grassroots level to improve life for trans people.
For years, we’ve been bombarded with stories about adult transitions and the complications and misery these inevitably entail. But stories like this will become a thing of the past as awareness about trans people spreads to parents and doctors. More and more parents are supporting their children when they come out as trans, and around the world trans teens are accessing treatments that delay their puberty and give them time to decide what they really want to do with their bodies as they mature. If we can help, love and support trans kids, the idea of the messy social transition – which so intrigues the public – will cease to exist. I can’t wait for that day.
Things are changing. And fast. Thank you, Caitlyn, and good luck, girl. Say what you like about her dramatic transition, but as far as I’m concerned, there’s only one appropriate response – “Yass queen!”
Via The Guardian UK