Respecting identity over appearance | The Triangle

Respecting identity over appearance

Back in June, Caitlyn Jenner graced the cover of Vanity Fair with the story of her transition. Asking the world to now “Call Her Caitlyn,” she shared with us not only how struggled she was in revealing her true gender identity but also how freeing her transition has been.

America was, surprisingly, fairly accepting of her transition. While there were obviously those naysayers who would still call her by her former name and insisted that she no longer is the great athlete that she once was, most of the words used to describe Caitlyn were in regards to her beauty and her strength. She very quickly became an important figurehead for the transgender movement in America, alongside star Laverne Cox from “Orange is the New Black.”

John Stewart was quick to point out that the support of Caitlyn was not actually as supportive as let on. In his segment welcoming Caitlyn to being a woman, he made the surface appreciation for Caitlyn apparent with his clips highlighting reporters focusing on her looks, her genitalia and comparing Caitlyn to her ex-wife Kris.

News about Caitlyn has now been revolving around her new show “I Am Cait,” which documents Caitlyn’s day-to-day life as a new woman. One recent episode revealed her wearing a swimsuit for the first time. She described the experience as “freeing” and showed delight in finally being who she is.

Meanwhile, news outlets have run away with the swimsuit reveal with some headlines claiming it is a “must-see.” Why is it a must-see? Is it because she is now a woman and we must objectify women in swimsuits? Or is it maybe because she is, more specifically, a transgendered woman, and we must judge how well she fits the visual of what we think a woman should look like?

It is this kind of false support that damages the transgender movement as a whole. While Caitlyn had the means to transition, many others are not so fortunate. Many do not even have access to clothing of their gender, let alone the surgeries required to transition completely. Caitlyn has earned attention and respect because she can pass as a female, but those who cannot afford to make the same physical changes but still identify with a
different gender should be availed the same kind of respect.

How well someone looks post-transition should not be the reason why we should respect and support them. Being able to take that step into being the person they want to be is the reason we should. The precedent we are setting with our treatment of Caitlyn is one that is suggesting that transgender people should have our support only if they do a good job at passing for their new gender and not one that suggests that we should respect people for who they are on the inside.

Even if Caitlyn did not look good in a swimsuit, even if she could not afford gender reassignment surgery, we should still be able to accept her for who she is on the inside and “Call Her Caitlyn.”