Ask A Trans Woman: Caitlyn Jenner’s Transition

Trans PeopleLorelei Erisis, The Rainbow Times' "Ask A Trans Woman" Columnist.
Photo: David Meehan

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Lorelei Erisis, The Rainbow Times' "Ask A Transwoman" Columnist.  Photo: David Meehan

Lorelei Erisis, The Rainbow Times’ “Ask A Transwoman” Columnist.
Photo: David Meehan

By: Lorelei Erisis*/TRT Columnist—

Lately, it seems like the only question people want to ask me is, “What do I think about the whole Caitlyn Jenner ‘thing’?” I’ve been asked this question by hair stylists, friends-of-friends, bartenders, baristas, strangers on a train and cis gay men galore. It’s what they all want to know when they find themselves confronted with a bona-fide, in the flesh, transgender woman.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I like that all these people are asking questions. I also like answering people’s questions. It’s an amazing sign that suddenly all of these people have a person that they ‘know’ who is trans. It’s that vital connection that helps people over the hump to acceptance.

That’s maybe the best part of this whole Jenner hoopla. For years, she’s been there, flickering on the TV in living rooms and bedrooms. “This man’s man—envy of the husband, fantasy of the wife, probably both for all those gay men who saw her in “Can’t Stop The Music”! And, now, she’s a woman! [pullquote]Caitlyn Jenner has brought being trans right directly home for all those people. That’s great. [/pullquote]

Caitlyn Jenner has brought being trans right directly home for all those people. That’s great.

But let me be honest, the question has begun to bore the hell out of me  because all that is not what people want to hear. That’s the analysis of a professional media wonk, activist and trans columnist. I think about these things a lot and that’s what I think of this.

What do I think about her actual transition? The surgeries? Who she may or may not be attracted to? Her money? Why did she choose now, why not do it years ago? Isn’t she maybe doing this for the publicity? What about the Kardashians? What about the reality show?

The thing is though, if you’ve ever met a white, middle-aged transitioner, someone married with kids who started their transition somewhere between the ages of 40 and 70 then you’ve heard this story before. With the exception of Caitlyn Jenner’s fame and her money, her transition, at least so far, is so not earth-shattering or even off-script in any way from a thousand other stories.

In that respect, I suppose it’s just the right story for middle America. But for those of us in the trenches, it doesn’t advance the narrative one bit. It just means we all have to sort of collectively tread water on the really interesting explorations of how gender roles, the binary, race, privilege and a spectrum of sexualities and identities play into what it means to be trans, while the rest of the country just plays catch up. [pullquote]The thing is though, if you’ve ever met a white, middle-aged transitioner, someone married with kids who started their transition somewhere between the ages of 40 and 70 then you’ve heard this story before. With the exception of Caitlyn Jenner’s fame and her money, her transition, at least so far, is so not earth-shattering or even off-script in any way from a thousand other stories. [/pullquote]

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Caitlyn Jenner is going to blow all our minds with some totally off-script stuff she’s been keeping carefully under wraps for “The Show!” Maybe she’s actually super-queer! Maybe she sleeps with whoever she wants, regardless of gender in massive indulgences of consent and careful communication! And maybe she’s a closet socialist to boot and is just identifying as a Republican so she can sneak into their ranks and be all super-secret-double agent and just blow the Fox News addled minds of all those old white men trying to grind our country into the dirt.

Maybe, but I doubt it.

We’ll get a reality show that is all ours. Oh, joy. For months, after every single episode I’ll get an inbox full of people who want to know just what I, as a trans person of note, think of Caitlyn’s latest “drama.” I’ll even suck up my incredible actor’s distaste for the reality show format and watch the whole damn thing just so I can be polite and answer all those people’s questions as intelligently as I can. Because that’s the sort of gal I am.

It’s entirely possible I’ll even meet Caitlyn at some point. She’ll be wicked sweet and I’ll remember this column and feel just awful about the things I said. Some Hollywood type might even reach out to me to consult for the show or gods-forbid be on the thing! I will say yes so quickly you won’t even be able to get the word “hypocrite” out fast enough to catch my glittery dust! [pullquote]And maybe she’s a closet socialist to boot and is just identifying as a Republican so she can sneak into their ranks and be all super-secret-double agent and just blow the Fox News addled minds of all those old white men trying to grind our country into the dirt. [/pullquote]

But for now, and probably for the next several rounds of media cycles, I suppose we should all prepare ourselves for more All-Caitlyn, all the time! And, if those of us who are lucky enough to have voices that get amplified and heard, we might be able to sneak a few thought-bombs in between the lines of the standard narrative. Change the world a little while everyone’s attention is focused on the latest reality show spectacle and the usual gatekeepers are distracted.

Caitlyn Jenner might not be groundbreaking. But maybe she’s just what we needed.

* Lorelei Erisis is an actor, activist, adventurer and pageant queen. Send your questions about trans issues, gender and sexuality to her at: askatranswoman@gmail.com.

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