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Jenny Boylan on Caitlyn Jenner: The Big Dress Theory

http://www.jenniferboylan.net Jennifer Finney Boylan | Published: August 14, 2015

(Editor:Pam - Professor Boylan is my new go to person for rational perspective on what being trans means)

I’ve avoided commenting on Caitlyn Jenner in a public way thus far, in part because I’m a consultant on her series I AM CAIT, not to mention an occasional member of the cast. More importantly, though, I see Caitlyn, like lots of trans-people in early transition, as a work in progress. What most trans people need, especially in the early days, is time to figure out how they want to live in the world. Caitlyn Jenner deserves the benefit of the doubt no less than anyone else.

That said, I suppose there are a few things I would like to share. So here are a few thoughts. They represent my own feelings, not that of the show’s producers; not that of GLAAD or Kinsey or any of the other institutions I’m involved with.

I too was skeptical about the prospect of her show at first, and her clear plan for world media domination. The transgender community has had many people in it who have arrived on the scene determined to be famous, and it’s almost always been a mess, not least because so many of us don’t know the full community before we start talking into microphones. Many of us barely know how to talk about ourselves, let alone others. I can tell you that there are things I said in 2003, when I first published my memoir, “She’s Not There,” that I wish I had phrased differently. It takes a long time to understand the many, many ways of being trans–other than our own–and to recognize that other people’s take on being trans is as valid as our own. If you find yourself telling someone, “You’re doing it wrong,” you’re probably doing it wrong.

She was crying, so I said, "Everybody on Jenner." And soon enough, everybody was.

So from the beginning, I feared the worst. But in short order, to my surprise, Caitlyn Jenner won me over. There are a lot of things I can say about her, but I can say this above all: she is a good soul, with an earnest, heartfelt desire to help the world. She is doing this by using her own celebrity to shine a light on the experiences of transgender people, including plenty of people whose stories are very different from her own. So far in her show (as of mid-August), we’ve seen her visit the parents of a young trans boy who committed suicide; spent some time at HRC talking to a trans man and woman about that organization’s work; spent a couple of days hanging out with a diverse gang of trans women (including me) that includes a Latina woman, several women of color, other women who’ve done sex work; a woman who was stabbed in an all-too-typical case of violence for our community, and others as well.

 

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