Introducing Caitlyn Jenner.
“Call me Caitlyn,” screams the new cover of Vanity Fair which features a gorgeous Annie Leibovitz photo of the individual previously known as Bruce Jenner. Now using the name Caitlyn and female pronouns, the former Olympian and current reality TV star has launched herself into the spotlight as arguably the most prominent trans woman of our time.
To which I, and many others, say “Brava Caitlyn! Great photo, brave decision, may you have much happiness!”
But of course, the jerks of the world will soon start gnashing their teeth that a person they don’t know, who has no influence over their lives, and can’t hurt them in any way, has changed their gender expression. We’ll hear the usual complaints about how gender isn’t fluid, that genitals make the gender, and if kids see Caitlyn Jenner looking all glam and gorgeous they’ll all rush off to become trans themselves.
So I would like to ask these people a few questions:
- What color is your hair? Is that your natural color? is that the length it would be without regular hair cuts?
- Do you have a full beard? Or are you clean shaven? Partially shaven?
- What color are your fingernails? Your toenails? Any rhinestones embedded on them?
- Are your ears pierced? Your navel? Your tongue?
- What about tattoos? Got any?
- Do you wear a padded bra or spanx? Do you work out to change your body shape?
- Ever had Botox? Fillers? A nose job? A facelift?
How have you modified your body to express how you most want to look? When you choose your clothes are they sending a message to the world about who you are? What does your hairstyle say? Your jewelry? Your ink?
Is any of that so very different than a trans person using cosmetics or hair styling or clothing or surgical procedures or hormones to alter their appearance and bring their body in line with the image they feel reflects the person they are?
(And don’t tell me it’s a sexual thing and trans people are all perverts looking to spy on your goodies in the bathroom. That’s just dumb. Trans people go to the bathroom to pee. If you don’t believe me, find a trans person and ask what they do in the bathroom. I guarantee peeing will the first item on the list.)
We all have an inner ideal for who we are and we use our bodies as the medium of expressing that. Maybe that means pinstriped suits and rep ties. Maybe it means blue hair and gauge rings in your earlobes. Maybe it means a gender presentation that doesn’t jibe exactly with what’s on our birth certificate. But since none of it harms anyone, it’s fine. Really. It is.
Gender expression isn’t ever something to hate or fear or belittle. It’s part of the inner working of an individual and the best way to treat it is to trust that the individual knows what they are doing with their own body.
Rebekah Kuschmider is a DC area writer with a background in non-profit management and advocacy. Her work has been seen at Babble, Scary Mommy, Huffington Post, Yahoo Shine, Redbook online, and The Broad Side. She is the creator of the blog Stay at Home Pundit and is a contributor to the upcoming book Love Her, Love Her Not: The Hillary Paradox (an anthology, SheWrites Press, Nov. 2015). You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.