I think by now we all know who Caitlyn Jenner is. Well if you don't, I like to describe her as "the trans fantasy". She is what many trans people wish they had a piece of -- a trans who is seen as a courageous, inspiring, beautiful human being and accepted by more people than they can count on one hand. Lucky girl!
Since Caitlyn's emergence in the LGBTQ community, organizations across the world have praised her for her 'bold step', calling her a hero for transitioning before the world and by that, I guess they mean in front of the reality show TV cameras that follow her around all day.
Ms. Jenner has also received a slate of awards to include the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, Teen Choice Award for Social Media Queen and the latest being one of the Glamour Women of the Year.
Wow! If I didn't know better, I would begin to think that this is a great achievement for the trans community and a sign of tolerance and even acceptance. But if anything, Caitlyn should have gotten an award for glamourizing the trans community. I mean with all the fancy dresses, events, awards and enough money to feed the transgender women in Jamaica who are living in cemeteries and under bridges, one would really hope that this is the life of a transgender.
Well as a friend to many trans men and women, I can certainly tell you that this rewarding and glamourous journey of Caitlyn the world continues to watch, is far from the reality of the trans community.
Glamour Magazine in awarding Ms. Jenner, also gave her the title "The Transgender Champion" and while some will think it is a well deserving label, there are many within the LGBTQ community who feel differently. Why? I will simply share some of the responses I have seen on social media sites.
"I don't believe Caitlyn truly understands what it means to be a transgender. She just came out and has never truly lived a full life as a trans-woman. Has it even been a year?"
"Caitlyn has experienced the happier and more accepting side of life since transitioning. Most of us transgender people have never felt happy or secure. The path that we walk are not filled with TV cameras, glamourous dresses and awards. We have literally had to fight everyday just to exist."
"Does Caitlyn really know what it feels like to walk in our shoes? Hell no! Can she speak to us in a way which we can relate? I sure as heck didn't get a standing ovation when I came out as a woman. All these meet and greet events and so-called motivational sessions and acceptance speeches just make for another reality TV show which equals to money."
"I believe Caitlyn truly wants to live her life as the woman she is and I am very proud of her for that, but until she walks in my shoes and the ones of every transgender who didn't grow up as a hero to the American people, she will never understand why we continue to fight for our place in society. How can you be praised as a Transgender Champion when you can't even relate to the people you are trying to represent?"
Personally, when I think of the people helping to make a difference in our community, names that come to mind immediately include actress Laverne Cox who Wikipedia and other profile sites describe as a LGBT Advocate. It also includes my wife (in my head) Ellen DeGeneres, Lee Daniels, Ellen Page, RuPaul Charles who needs no introduction, Founder and President of Freedom to Marry -- Evan Colfson and a few others. As surprising as it may be to many... Caitlyn Jenner doesn't make the cut.
I mean, Wikipedia in their introduction of Caitlyn Jenner doesn't even describe her as an LGBT advocate but a "television personality" and "one of the most famous openly transgender people in the world." Now if we look at the profiles of the names I listed above, you will see a shocking difference.
As an LGBT or Transgender Champion, especially one with such an overwhelming support system, Caitlyn Jenner should be doing the actual work of an advocate. I don't want to hear acceptance speeches only, but speeches about the struggles of a transgender person and their daily fight just to stay alive. I want to hear speeches about the number of trans-women of colour murdered since the start of 2015. Tell us their stories if you cannot find one to speak to from a personal point of view. Instead, what Caitlyn portrays to the world is nothing but a fantasy.
With all the money Ms. Jenner has and continues to receive, why isn't she helping her trans brothers and sisters who cannot even afford to fully transition? How about creating a program that supports and guides members of the community on how to cope with and overcome their fears and daily struggles? Oh no! Caitlyn is too busy to be an actual advocate for the community she is now the face of.
We are currently celebrating Transgender Awareness Week and I hope that by the end of this celebration, we will truly know what Transgender Champions look like.
Their stories are too painful to share, but they talk about being lonely and confused, neglected by family and friends, discriminated against at school or work and even by the church, encountering people who hated them to the point where they would have to seek help from the police, only to be laughed at. Their stories paint a horrific picture of how badly they were beaten because they chose to put on heels and a wig.
The Transgender Champion is the one who survived all this!