It started with a single tweet, a few words attached to a photo of the new July cover of Vanity Fair which featured a newly transitioned woman in all of her unapologetic glory. Hair popped, waist snatched and sitting pretty in her newness.
After you realized who you were looking at in the tight corset, you exhaled. The 65-year-old beauty channeled vintage Marilyn Monroe with an uncanny resemblance to the marvelous Jessica Lange and a dash of Janice Dickinson. You admitted the inevitable: Caitlyn Jenner looks damn good.
Or, maybe you didn’t.
Maybe you sucked your teeth, turned your head and ranted about the audacity of Miss Cait being her authentic self. Some Twitter trolls suggested, “How can you be in support of someone becoming a woman who was born as a man?” Many resorted to the familiar biblical dogma: “That’s not Godly.” And then there was veteran music producer Timbaland, who thought it was funny to repost the meme, “His Mama Named Him Bruce, Imma Call Him Bruce.” Well, Timothy Zachary Mosley — because that is actually what your mother named you — she calls herself Caityln. So who are you to call her out of her name?
Much like Snoop Dogg, who found it fit to refer to Cait as a “science project,” this type of online babble or unfunny jokes is what many trans people face on the daily, especially youth — considering the suicide rate for trans or gender non-conforming people is an epic 41 percent. Snoop, Timbaland, Mike Huckabee or anyone else’s discomfort says more of them than it does Caitlyn Jenner. Should she have remained a stranger in her own body so that people who are transphobic could walk around comfortable in their body and mind? I think not.
Bruce Jenner’s transition into Caitlyn Jenner isn’t about money, nor is it an elaborate plot to push a “transgender agenda.” What it is, however, is a statement of a much larger magnitude. It’s a declaration about being unapologetically true to who you are. Caitlyn never asked for support, as I’m sure she understood she wouldn’t receive it from everyone. What she does ask is to be identified as the person she has always known herself to be.
What her glamorous display of courage did for the nearly 700,000 estimated trans people in America is irrefutable. She stands alongside the likes of Laverne Cox and Janet Mock — both of whom have taken similar strides in the media for their trans-identity — and has allowed thousands of trans men and women teetering on the edge of suicide to live another day.
So no, don’t call her Bruce. Call her a heroine.
Author Andrew Young stated that, “People fear what they don't understand and hate what they can't conquer.” I have seen too much fear in the wake of Caitlyn Jenner’s reveal. But the fear speaks more to people’s need to label and control ideas and identities. Human beings aren’t one-dimensional creatures. Instead, we’re capable of multi-level thinking. As simple as it is to like more than one food, drink, color or musician, why is it so far-fetched that someone can like more than one gender or even identify as another? When was the last time you had to live over 65 years as someone you didn’t recognize? I‘ll wait.
So before you poke fun, repost memes and get angry over the flood of support following the new trans champion's unveiling, do us all a favor: Get off her areola.
Check out the first trailer for Jenner's docuseries, I Am Cait, below:
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(Photo: Annie Leibovitz exclusively for Vanity Fair Magazine, July 2015)