four things we can hope the world learns from caitlyn jenner
Why #callmecaitlyn means so much more...
Last year, when Kim Kardashian West's greased-up bare bottom fronted the cover of Paper Magazine paired simply with the #breaktheinternet, many thought we'd seen the pinnacle of shock and awe magazine reveals… that was until yesterday. After rumblings and rumours, Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce Jenner, 65 years young, revealed herself to the world on the cover of Vanity Fair. Lensed by famed photographer Annie Leibovitz, Caitlyn went one better than breaking the Internet: she broke the stratosphere, virtual and otherwise. As well as it's release on Vanity Fair's website, Caitlyn released the image with the tweet, "I'm so happy after such a long struggle to be living my true self. Welcome to the world Caitlyn. Can't wait for you to get to know her/me."
With almost a million tweets about #callmecaitlyn and counting, i-D analyses what the issue, which will undoubtedly go down as one of the most important moments of popular culture in 2015, could mean to the transgender community for years to come...
On the simplest level, Jenner has been a part of one of the biggest pop culture phenomenons of the last ten years. Her life, legacy and work has been discussed, scrutinised and at times ridiculed for our unbridled consumption. This entertainment came at a cost for both the Kardashian/Jenner family and the general public as stories detailing their every move saturated the internet. No-one can deny the Kardashians/Jenner's ascent to the upper echelons of superstardom off of the back of their willingness to share the lives with us every Sunday night.
The great thing about this particular Jenner stealing the headlines is the sheer number of eyes the cover will reach. The interview--and its message--will have more reach than any leaflet, hashtag campaign or call to arms. It will be on the newsstands in front of those who may have wanted to ignore the transgender community's existence, and that, in itself, is powerful. The celebrities that have come out in support of Caitlyn range from her daughters Kendall and Kylie Jenner to talk show host Ellen Degeneres and singer Lady Gaga, on Instagram alone they reach over 80 million people. Them speaking out in support is just one way in which Caitlyn's reveal has thrust some much needed spotlight on the issue of transgender equality.
After Caitlyn's cover was released yesterday, GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis commended Caitlyn saying that "by sharing her journey with the world, Caitlyn Jenner is accelerating acceptance of transgender people everywhere and reminds us all how important it is to live as your most authentic self." Whilst there is an undeniable prejudice against transgender people and those transitioning, a lot of people are simply, and frustratingly, ignorant to what goes on inside the community. The statistics are alarming and education is crucial. According to a recent survey by The Williams Institute transgender people are more likely to commit suicide, 78% of of survey respondents had suffered physical or sexual violence at school, and 65% percent of respondents had experienced violence at work. Statistics are even more worrying amongst transgender people of colour.
Mainstream media have picked up on the stories of Leelah Alcorn, Ashlyn Haffner and Blake Brockington but these tragedies happen every single day. Jenner's cover also could very well bolster charities, organisation, and advocacy groups who could do even more crucial work with the publicity, funding and support.
Caitlyn crushed the world record for the fastest accumulation of a million Twitter followers, getting there in just four hours but don't forget with every click of the follow button, Caitlyn gains another set of eyes to spread a valuable message. She's unknowingly building a platform to be able to communicate herself to the world and for those people to have an open channel of communication to speak back to her. In a world where isolation and self-doubt can crumble the strongest of people, Jenner could use her timeline to spread messages of hope and support for millions of vulnerable people who need it. Caitlyn is also set to be honoured at this year's ESPY awards, receiving the Arthur Ashe award for courage in what is seemingly her first scheduled public appearance. Last year's ESPY's saw 2.2 million tune in but we can predict a lot more will this time to see Caitlyn receive her award, which is bestowed upon someone who "whose contributions transcend sports."
Idealistic? Perhaps. But all we can hope is that Bruce's 65 years of torment at living a lie and Caitlyn's debut into the world can open the minds and hearts of the public to transgender men and women across the globe. Caitlyn is just one woman, famous or otherwise, with a story, but that story and influence has the ability to grab headlines and in-turn combat the bigotry, prejudices and preconceived notions that plague the lives of people in the same position.
A tweet on my timeline expressed their distaste for the praise of Caitlyn's coming out, saying after years in the position of a "white privileged male" that Caitlyn wasn't brave, and insinuated that she waited until after she was accomplished and rich to introduce herself. But what life, privileged or not, is worth living if one is not living as their true self, a right that shouldn't be denied to anyone.
Famous names aside, the sad fact of the matter is that minorities are often seldom represented in the media. Black, gay, transgender... representation is key in changing minds and opening doors and Vanity Fair's cultural defining cover and Caitlyn Jenner's bravery is one exciting step forward in the world being a more accepting place.
Text Lynette Nylander