Caitlyn Jenner: #TransIsBeautiful
Written by Georgie Proud
You have probably seen Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover popping up in your newsfeed or on your TV screen at some point in the past week. Earlier this year, the former Olympic decathlete and TV personality, came out as a transgender woman.
So you might be wondering what Transgender means?
You may think the words ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ mean the same thing, but they are actually two separate things. Sex refers to a person’s physical characteristics, that’s the sexual organs they have. This can be called someone’s assigned sex.
Gender refers to how someone identifies, their gender identity. The gender binary (binary means two) refers to the way our society often talks about gender- that there are only two options, female or male. There are lots of people that don’t identify with either male or female, or identify with both. So it’s helpful to think of gender as being much broader than just male and female
Gender is not something we’re born with, it’s something we learn as we grow up. For example think of pink toys for girls and blue toys for boys. Through our society – our families, media and peers – we are taught how we are supposed to behave as boys and girls, women and men.
Transgender people’s gender identity doesn’t match their assigned sex, while cisgender people’s gender identity does match their assigned sex. There are many more gender identities than just man and woman, like genderqueer, non-binary, agender, neutral, third gender and a trans person may identify with one or a few of these. A person’s gender identity is separate to their sexual orientation so, like cisgender people, a transgender people may identify as heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, asexual or any of the different orientations out there.
It has been great to see the reaction in the media to Caitlyn Jenner’s coming out and transition has been largely positive. This is a huge step in the acceptance of trans identities and the elimination of transphobia in our society. Orange is the New Black actress Laverne Cox, an equally famous transgender woman, has written in support of Caitlyn on her tumblr while also recognising that Caitlyn has privilege that most trans people do not. Through fame and money Caitlyn and Laverne have both been able to attain a form of traditionally feminine beauty that many trans people can not or do not want to.
A year ago when my Time magazine cover came out I saw posts from many trans folks saying that I am “drop dead gorgeous” and that that doesn’t represent most trans people. (It was news to be that I am drop dead gorgeous but I’ll certainly take it). But what I think they meant is that in certain lighting, at certain angles I am able to embody certain cisnormative beauty standards. Now, there are many trans folks because of genetics and/or lack of material access who will never be able to embody these standards. More importantly many trans folks don’t want to embody them and we shouldn’t have to to be seen as ourselves and respected as ourselves . It is important to note that these standards are also informed by race, class and ability among other intersections. I have always been aware that I can never represent all trans people. No one or two or three trans people can. This is why we need diverse media representations of trans folks to multiply trans narratives in the media and depict our beautiful diversities.
Laverne has started the #TransIsBeautiful hashtag to try and increase people’s understandings of what it means to be transgender today. People have also been creating their own Vanity Fair covers, under #MyVanityFair, to show the diversity of the the trans community.
Let’s hope through campaigns like these we can start to see more real representations of trans people in the media, and more acceptance in our our society.
Georgie is one of the co-founders of Rosie. She is passionate about social justice issues and feminism. She lives in Melbourne with a dog called Murphy and a cat called Worms. Georgie loves music, travelling and getting crafty.
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