What more can be said than hasn't already been reported, analyzed and sensationalized?
What does her coming out as a transgender woman and the reactions to it say about our society, our values and our human nature?
Many of us have now read and seen many articles, news reports and media stories about Caitlyn’s life along with her Vanity Fair cover photo by Annie Leibovitz. How do we interpret the myriad of reactions to this event?
First, I would like to talk about all those who are not Caitlyn Jenner, those whose coming out has not been celebrated (or criticized) by the entire world. Those who have struggled often massively throughout their lives to deal with being and/or coming out as transgender, those who have suffered and have been ostracized, harmed and killed when people have suspected or learned about their gender identity. Too many transgender people have killed themselves partly because of the dire societal, vocational, and social ramifications about gender and sexual identities.
Along with the praise and celebration of Caitlyn’s coming out comes the horrible, outlandish comments made by some right wing conservatives who think we are headed for an apocalypse. The good news is some of our Democratic leaders, like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, have praised Caitlyn for her bravery. And even some Fox newscasters have been supportive.
Jon Stewart on The Daily Show of 6/2/2015 entitled his piece, “Brave New Girl.” Not only did he illustrate some of the media using descriptors for Caitlyn like “courageous “and “brave” but he also showed clips of angry, belligerent and abhorrent people talking about what an abomination Caitlyn’s story is. On June 4, 2015, the Washington Post published an article by Josh Cobia, a minister, entitled, “I went to church with Bruce Jenner, Here’s what Cailtyn Jenner taught me about Jesus.” The reactions to Caitlyn are as varied and extreme as we are people.
One reaction that has appalled me about the news that Bruce is Caitlyn is that so many of the media are talking about her body, her sexiness, hot-ness, glamorousness and attractiveness, even female newscasters. They also mention her age as if she only has a little more time left before she is irrelevant to the public. In the past, when Bruce was a decathlon star and TV/movie celebrity, married to a Kardashian of all people, similar media personnel described his former athleticism, his business sense, and his acting talents, not his body. Jon Stewart says, “Welcome to the world of being a woman in America, Caitlyn.“ What a world this is.
So what’s really happening here?
The good news is that our society is moving forward, becoming more and more accepting of people who are not mainstream, people who might differ from our white, heterosexist societal norm. Caitlyn says she wants to help others by talking openly about some of the issues in growing up transgender. Hopefully, that is happening now. At least people are discussing the topic and exploring their own feelings about their values, their beliefs and what is the “new normal.”
My hope is that the “new normal” will be a world in which everyone is accepted for whoever they are. No matter what their skin color, their gender, their sexuality, their religion (or the lack thereof), their size, their looks, and/or their mental or physical abilities. A world where there is less income inequality, where one group doesn’t judge or discriminate against another group based on misplaced hatred and fear but where people are willing to talk with others who may seem different. Where we try to understand other people rather than be quick to judge. To know that what works for me isn’t necessarily what works for you. We can do better than what we have been doing. We can learn and grow, evolve as better types of human beings, even though we may often compare ourselves to others and may compete even until our dying days.
Let’s live in a world where we can have compassion for other people and try to understand how their thoughts, feelings and behaviors make sense in their worlds. We people can do terrible things to one another. If we each have a goal of coming to know ourselves as best we can, then we can hopefully look at others as being more like us than not, all struggling to live in a sometimes chaotic, crazy world where bad things happen to good people, and where people are sometimes filled with hate and fear, causing great damage to us all.
Barbara Sanders, LCSW, is a psychotherapist: http://synergeticresolutions.blogspot.com