For all intents and purposes, Caitlyn Jenner means well. However, intent does not negate impact, thus, for all the good she has done in boosting transgender visibility this year, she often leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths with the things she says. Rightfully so.
The most recent example of this is her Time magazine interview when the subject of imaging came up. Caitlyn says that seeks to “try to project a good image for this community.” Given Jenner’s career before and after her now historic reveal this year, obviously, image would matter.
Yet, she often has a habit of taking what’s important to her and mistaking that for what should matter most.
Look no further than the follow up commentary. “I think it’s much easier for a trans woman or a trans man who authentically kind of looks and plays the role.” Then came, “I try to take [my presentation] seriously. I think it puts people at ease. If you’re out there and, to be honest with you, if you look like a man in a dress, it makes people uncomfortable.”
In response to the criticism over her comments, Jenner penned an op-ed entitled “Still So Much To Learn.” In it, Jenner writes, “What I was trying to say is that our world really is still a binary one, and that people who look ‘visibly transgender’ sometimes can struggle for acceptance and may be treated poorly by others. And while this may be true, it’s also something that needs to change.”
Jenner offered an apology, but it doesn’t make me forget what she also said in that same Time interview: “I am not a spokesperson for the trans community. I am a spokesperson for my story, and that’s all I can tell. And hopefully by telling my story, I can make people think.”
Jenner, like many who take on the benefits of spokesperson but tries to steer clear of that label when something they say stirs trouble, wants to have it both ways. None of Jenner’s controversial comments made this year soil the good she has done, but they do point to what it is increasingly interesting about her. She is someone who has spent 65 years of her life as a white man, and for more than half of that, a rich and famous white man.
There is no more privileged a life so to see someone from the most privileged group on Earth go to arguably the most marginalized one is quite the transition. And Caitlyn Jenner is right in that she will continue to make mistakes along the way. Still, when she writes about the media sometimes taking her comments out of context – which she did in her apologetic, but still somewhat defensive blog post – she needs to remember that she elected to not only live out loud, but use her platform to push for change.
So, when we hear Caitlyn Jenner reinforce the very gender binaries that she says led to past troubles, she will rightfully be called out. The same goes for her appearing on Ellen DeGeneres’ daytime talk show and articulated her purported evolved but not necessarily incredibly embracing stance on marriage equality.
Read the rest at VH1.