After years of intense training, Bruce Jenner won the 1976 Decathlon at the Montreal Olympic games. After winning, a fan handed him an American flag and he took a victory lap. With an American flag held proudly, a handsome and smiling Jenner rounded the field and that iconic moment was seared into a generations mind. He became the all-American hero.
Ironically, Bruce had painted himself into a corner.
I’ll start with a note: Caitlyn Jenner constantly refers to “Bruce” in her book. She states simply that “he,” “Bruce” did exist and to deny that would be disingenuous. She does this much to the chagrin of others in the transgender community where she is a controversial figure. I will follow Caitlyn’s example in this review.
Her narrative will speak directly to readers here at Femulate. Winning the Olympics brought not only jubilation, but the thought “I’ll never be a woman now.”
If you’ve perused through online profiles of other sisters, Caitlyn’s story will ring true. Always wanting to be a girl, at the earliest age, borrowing clothes and dressing up. Sneaking out in the neighborhood for nighttime strolls and praying at night to wake up as a girl.
He proved himself on the high school football field while envying the cheerleaders on the sidelines.
He hid women’s clothes in the college dorm.
In public, Jenner was the ultimate visage of American manliness — handsome, athletic, and financially successful.
In reality, she would endure decades of emotional loneliness, three failed marriages, parental shortcomings and bouts of self-loathing.
As a transgender person, reading this book at times it seemed she was writing about me. The book is oddly familiar in its writing style, a biographical timeline made up of trials and tribulations that are personally reminiscent and feel like countless transgender profiles that I’ve read online.
In the 1989, after two failed marriages, Bruce would attempt to transition. He started HRT but found little support or acceptance. Then financial reality set in. “If I lose 'Bruce,' I lose my way to make a living and so does the family that depends on me.” Twenty-five years later, there would the transgender websites, medical advances, support groups and a growing community of transgender persons to support her.
A longtime Republican, Caitlyn received a huge negative backlash from many activists in the transgender community. She's realized that as Bruce, she “ ived in a world of white male privilege” and yet was still entitled enough as Caitlyn to have voted for the Donald Trump-Mike Pence ticket. Her remarks about gay marriage on The Ellen DeGeneres Show also drew anger from the LGBT community.
She also took much criticism from the transgender community for her views on transgender women and appearance.
“I think it's much easier for a trans woman or a trans man who authentically kind of looks and plays the role. So what I call my presentation. I try to take that 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. So the first thing I can do is try to present myself well. I want to dress well. I want to look good.”
She has been attacked and berated by transgender activists as being “a clueless rich white woman” and shouted at with chants of “you are an insult to trans people, you are an insult to women.”
To her credit she has raised considerable amounts of money for transgender causes. Her Finally Free lipstick with MAC cosmetics has raised over $1.3 million dollars for transgender youth. She personally has spent countless hours working with families and transgender persons. She knows she has made mistakes, “I’ve grown into Caitlyn,” she said. “It’s tough to take 65 years of being Bruce and being male, and then like, overnight, everything changes.”
It’s common to censure historical figures. We could easily condemn Thomas Jefferson as a slave owner or we can view him objectively and see the paradox of a man who wrote the Declaration of Independence and advocated for a new system of government that brought democracy to the modern world.
As a baby boomer, I see and relate to Caitlyn Jenner as a transgender woman who came of age in a time when the word “transgender” did not exist. To put it mildly, less flattering terms were used to describe us. You couldn’t even find a doctor to get treatment and therapists knew nothing about “sex changes.” You could get arrested for dressing as woman in public. In fact, crossdressers met in secret. The Tiffany Club here in New England would meet new members in cloak and dagger fashion in order to keep their meeting location a secret.
Obviously, that has changed in recent years. Transgender persons are no longer banished to tabloids at the back of the Maybrook Sweet Shop. Many have sacrificed before us and have fought for our rights. To credit any one person would be disrespectful.
It is my opinion, the night Caitlyn Jenner, the former Olympic icon, graciously walked up on stage in front of a national television audience and accepted the Arthur Ashe Award for courage was the moment when transgender persons had reached the proverbial tipping point. All of our pioneers and their sacrifices were finally brought to light in the American collective cognizance.
Our fight for acceptance and rights would be far from over. It was what I like to call our “Will and Grace moment.” It put us on the map and in the minds of America. Now it’s not unusual to see transgender high school students, while universities across the country have programs to assist transgender students. Most Fortune 100 corporations have non-discriminatory policies for transgender persons. Transgender persons are now sons, daughters, cousins, co-workers and friends.
Like any other woman, Caitlyn has been shaped by the experiences and ethos of her life and like any other women, is subject to foibles and shortcomings. In this case, she’s a transgender woman, a member of our community, who believes in us, fights for us and is one of us.
Like any other community in times of adversity, we need to put aside our differences and worked together.