Some stories are unavoidable. As much as one tries to ignore it, some stories keep finding their way into your daily routine. It constantly pops up on your Twitter feed and Facebook timeline. It leads the morning and nightly newscasts. It’s on the front page of your daily paper (both physical and digital). It’s all that anyone is talking about at work, and whispering about at church. Caitlyn Jenner’s coming out has become a constant fixture in my world all week long. As this clearly could be a defining moment in American pop culture, her story shouldn’t be relegated to salacious gossip or redundant punch lines. Believe it or not, there are some real lessons to be learned:
Sisterhood is a universal concept
Femaleness and femininity have always been packaged in very traditional, universally accepted ideas about what it means to be a woman. The transgendered experience blows all of those notions to smithereens. Feminists are now challenged with finding a way to reach out to sisters like Janet Mock, Laverne Cox, and, yes, Caitlyn Jenner, embrace their unique journey and build solidarity with their struggle. Sisterhood is not only powerful, but it’s becoming more diverse.
The “T” in the LGBT community is just as important as the L,G, and B
We rattle off the LGBT acronym so often in our modern vernacular that we tend to forget that LGBT represents four very unique experiences. Many times someone will say LGBT, but they really mean lesbian and gay. This particular moment in our culture is forcing us to pay much closer attention to the “T” as an experience very different from lesbian, gay, or bisexual.
Pretty takes work
Hormone therapy and plastic surgery can provide the basics needed to be deemed female; but getting cover-of-Vanity-Fair glamorous takes “more than a notion”, as my grandmother would say. It’s truly a team effort. But don’t be fooled, the transgendered lifestyle is much more than a grown-up version of playing dress up.
Gender is more complicated than we ever imagined
The sheer variety of reactions to Caitlyn’s story proves this lesson to be true. You could ask 100 different people their opinion of Caitlyn Jenner and you will likely get 100 different replies. We are discovering that the concept of gender goes far beyond what we learned in seventh grade sex-ed. Much like sexuality, gender is fluid and more connected to our brains than our reproductive organs.
Don’t wait to be happy
One of the more hotly debated aspects of Jenner’s reveal has been her age. Many openly wonder “why now at age 65?” The more profound question may be “why not?” Why would any human choose to live in a constant state of misery and yearning? Why do so many of us choose the numbing familiarity that comes with living up to others expectations over the unbridled joy of being comfortable in your own skin? It takes an uncommonly brave person to claim their own version of happy in the face of a mountain of certain criticism, judgment, and ridicule. This brings us to the next lesson…
Courage isn’t one size fits all
America loves a hero—a hero that fits our mythology. We love the soldier returning from war; the firefighter that runs back into a burning building; the world class Olympian who shatters records and becomes the pride of a nation. Bruce Jenner fits that mold, but Caitlyn displays a very different brand of valor. Hers is an unconventional courage born from the fearlessness and determination required to live life on one’s own terms. It’s definitely not what we’re used to, but it’s honorable nonetheless.
At the end of the day, it still all comes down to the money
Caitlyn is an anomaly; but not because she was born a man. There are thousands of transgendered citizens here in the U.S. She is a rarity because she is one of the very fortunate few who have both the monetary means and moral support necessary to foster a safe and emotionally healthy transition. A great deal of transgendered women (especially transgendered women of color) are relegated to lives of back-alley medical procedures, rejection, and poverty. With any luck, the spotlight shining on Caitlyn might also shine a light on the plight of the mass of transgendered women who still live in the margins of society.
No matter what opinion you may hold of Jenner, she is representative of the brave, new world that awaits us. This month hundreds of prominent American cities are planning spectacular Gay Pride celebrations and it is widely expected that marriage equality will be the law of the land by the end of the summer. This expansion of freedom is viewed by many as progress, and viewed by some as a threat. Change is often uncomfortable and usually challenging; but it’s almost always necessary.
The post The Jenner effect: seven lessons we can learn from Caitlyn appeared first on Atlanta Free Speech.
View full post on Atlanta Free Speech