Tuesday, 2 June 2015
The Strange Double Standard of Celebrating Caitlyn Jenner - Why Appearance Shouldn't Matter
As I'm sure you are all very much aware the Internet, newspapers and television shows have been awash with reports and articles on the newly revealed Caitlyn Jenner, the name that the gold medal winning athlete born as 'Bruce' Jenner has chosen to live by, and her Vanity Fair cover. Now, I'm sure that this article will get lost within the tidal wave of other stories centred around Caitlyn, but to hell with it, I'm saying my piece too.
So, Catilyn looks amazing in her Vanity Fair cover. It's pretty simple, and seems to be fairly unanimous. She looks absolutely stunning for a woman of sixty five, though from someone so physically fit as she is it any real wonder? People have been singing her praises, saying that she's beautiful, stunning, all those great words used to describe an attractive woman, but it would seem that the heavy use of these words in peoples reactions have sparked something of a debate.
I'm not talking about all those horrid people out there who refuse to see Caitlyn as a woman and intentionally misgender her or worse, there's always going to be people like that whenever the word transgender is even uttered. No, what I'm referring to is the debate over how some trans women, and specifically Caitlyn in this case, are gaining massive praise for their physical beauty.
It might sound strange but some people are arguing that Caitlyn as met with so much praise and acceptance because of her physical beauty. Now lets be honest, in the world of the rich and famous and celebrity we all know that people in the spotlight will sometimes go to drastic measures to maintain their physical beauty because that's what 'society' says women should do, and Caitlyn certainly has the money to do it.
Has she 'had work done'? Yes, she probably has, but that shouldn't matter. Hell, what she looks like shouldn't matter a toss, but it does. It's worth noting that whilst in the last few days her physical appearance has been massively praised it wasn't that long ago that Caitlyn was being mocked and ridiculed, with people in the media making jokes about what she might look like once she'd transitioned. But, now that she's pretty all those jokes have been forgotten and she's being celebrated.
The problem is though , that for a lot of trans women those jokes don't just go away. Society has put such high standards on female beauty and 'what makes some one a woman' that some transgender people never reach that stage of 'oh she's so beautiful'. It's especially hard for those members of the transgender community who don't want to embody the 'female standard'.
Society has made certain hoops that people have to jump through to prove their femininity and their womanhood. We have to look a certain way, sound a certain way, dress a certain way and act a certain way. The problem is that invasive in everyday life that it's not just trans women who suffer from these impossible standards but cis women too. Every woman struggles to meet these standards.
The thing is though whilst not every cis woman is going to match these 'standards of being a woman' they still get accepted as women. They might end up being called 'tom-boyish' or 'butch' or any other word used to single out those who don't fit into this standard, but they're still women. When a trans woman fails to fall into this standard though they're not seen as women anymore, we're seen as 'things', as 'its'.
I'm nowhere near the end of my physical transition, there are some aspects of myself that are still so male that it makes me sick, and as such I've been subjected to ridicule because of it. I've been intentionally misgendered because of the deepness of my voice or five o'clock shadow I have towards the end of the day. I'm sure every trans person reading this has had some kind of similar experience at some point during their transition where they have been subjected to these harsh restrictions of being considered a 'real' female.
Caitlyn Jenner is a beautiful woman yes, and that's great for her, but her being a woman shouldn't be contingent upon that. She was a woman on the cover of Vanity Fair in her white corset, she was a woman when she had her interview with Diane Sawyer in her men's shirt and she was still a woman when she won the gold medal in her running gear. Her gender is based on who she is, not what she looks like and society need to start seeing it this way.
There are many hundreds of thousands of trans women in the world who are in the same situation as Caitlyn, bar one very important difference, money. Caitlyn had the money to help her become the woman she knew she was. She was able to meet those standards that society says she needs to, but so many trans women don't. There are the trans women who can't afford facial feminisation surgery, there are trans women who can't afford breast augmentation and there are trans women who can't afford hair removal. But they are still women. Each and every one of them. It's worth remembering that whilst we are celebrating Caitlyn's reveal we should be celebrating her bravery and her getting to be herself, not how much she 'fits in' or how 'real' she looks.
I know that I'm not going to change any of these standards, that even together a group of us wouldn't be able to do it, it's too far rooted into the world. But we can start to change things. We can start accepting people for who they are without relying on their outside appearance to match a particular guideline.
When I first came out as transgender I had some amazing friends who immediately started using the name Amy and female pronouns despite me looking nothing like a woman. They treated me as female, they talked to me like I was a woman and they didn't hide it when there were other people around. They accepted me for who I really was and made others around them do the same even though I didn't look like the person I really was.
These actions were so amazingly powerful that I can't begin to describe the positive effect that it had on me, especially at such an early stage in my journey to be the person I really am. I found acceptance and love that didn't rely on anything but being the person I really was. Those friends of mine were amazing for what they did, and a lot of people can learn a lot by following their example and throwing away their standards on what 'makes someone' male or female.
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