Binjal Shah writes a passionate piece on how we reacted to the arrival of Caitlyn Jenner, all broad-minded and liberal on social media but are a population we are far from burying the beasts inside us that inherently live in disbelief of such incidents
Bruce Jenner transitioned into Caitlyn Jenner, but with her, the entire world seems to have transitioned into the next stages of human evolution – being a more sensible, mature and liberal, and basically less nosy species with that rod up its behind loosened a little. The International sports celebrity had come out as a Transvestite back in March 2015, and several watershed interviews, magazine cover photoshoots, reality-show showdowns, hormone injections and other transitional surgeries later, Bruce Jenner could officially declare- “I am a woman.” And the internet’s reaction to this has obviously been… calm and peaceful, empathetic, civil and encouraging. (?!) Wait, what just happened?
Jenner, who had been grappling with gender dysphoria since her youth, came out in an April 2015 interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer, which became the ”highest-ever rated news-magazine telecast” at 20.7 million viewers, ’20/20′. “For all intents and purposes, I’m a woman,” Jenner told ABC’s Diane Sawyer. “People look at me differently. They see you as this macho male, but my heart and my soul and everything that I do in life – it is part of me. That female side is part of me. That’s who I am.”
Now here’s why this should have been especially difficult to stomach – considering she was considered the epitome of a man bursting with sweat and testosterone and all other manly juices – which are the qualities people automatically associate to male athletes. You could hardly even imagine them as sensitive or having a warm and fuzzy core – let alone believing they’ve felt like a woman trapped inside a man’s body all their life! Yes, for someone who took down the whole staggering stereotype with one interview, you would think the world would experience mild discomfort over the fact that they probably think the world as they knew it will never be the same.
So yes, those are the few reactions I had expected from regular people, apart from the usual attacks from that section on the internet that claims to only be there to do “god’s work” of furthering the holier than thou transphobic agenda. But nothing of the sort happened.
What soon followed that interview was ”Call me Caitlyn”- the call she gave to her fans – who seemd to be mostly confused about which gendered pronoun to use for her, but were secretly really confused about how that guy they know on Twitter and Tumblr who has a trolling-OCD, managed to keep all his chill and even be kind of encouraging, as gender dysphoria, transgenders, cross-dressing and sex-change operations invaded his preciously guarded social media space. But these perplexed fans, whilst expressing serious suspicion and shock over everyone’s solidarity towards Jenner, joined in on the welcome parade themselves. This phenomenon I flag in history as the first sighting of a positive kind of peer pressure.
Twitter for one, was painted with “You Go, Girl!” and virtual standing ovations for the courage the 65 year old showcased to finally embrace who Bruce has been hiding from her all her life. She opened a new account under her new name and identity- Caitlyn_Jenner, and it became the fastest profile to hit the 1 million followers mark – getting there in 4 hours and 3 minutes. Soon, everyone heard from Caitlyn: ”Welcome to the world Caitlyn. Can’t wait for you to get to know her/me,” she tweeted, which was mostly received the way it was intended – people congratulating her sans judgments with full realization that matters like these have never been theirs to spout unsolicited opinions on. Heck, there’s a whole new profile on Twitter that just sprung up to “politely” correct people who, even in showing their appreciation would use the male pronoun to refer to her. “Beepboobeep,” comes along an instant reply. “It’s she, not he,” the profile -you guessed it- shenothe would comment on every error.
She’s going to be on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine- a magazine that revels in femininity, beauty and revelry itself- with zero scruples. Their validation would be a resume-worthy achievement for Caitlyn. Shot by Annie Leibovitz, the internet has unanimously spoken – that the image is drop dead sexy; beautiful even. Fully transitioned, albeit slightly airbrushed, Caitlyn is set to be as big a celebrity as her evil twin Bruce.
Funny you said celebrity – because this brings me to the most important part of my musing. I saved my skepticism for the end, but I can’t help take all her circumstances into consideration, before I get too trusting of the fact that the internet has truly evolved. She was a sporting celebrity of gargantuan proportions as the decathelon runner Bruce Jenner. She has direct links with the Kardashians – which define mainstream as far as American media is concerned. She’s white.
So, is that why we could bring ourselves to afford her the praise she deserves – because she managed to conform to another set of our stereotypes, if not the one she was meant to? Do we still see femininity as white, western, leggy? How come she was never called a drag-queen, and was treated with much more respect throughout her gray phase? That we pedestalize celebs is a psychology we are all aware of – but we have taken it to another level by letting it spill over our own moralities. This time, thankfully, that evil syndrome has had positive, desirable results. But is our heart in the right place, when we root for Caitlyn?
Indians – think closer home – no, not Salman (had to get that out of my system). But I’m talking about Bobby Darling. Is it not true that we followed Caitlyn from the forest to the meadows, but never really let Bobby see the light of day? When she became a public figure, she did spark off debate and discourse – but it was never meaningful, lacked depth or understanding- let alone empathy. The haters experienced a landslide victory – as all that conversation culminated in cheapened ideas about her body and sexuality, tastelessly scripted comedy around her feminine (Duh) mannerisms, hatred-strewn targeted attacks which defamed her and reduced her to her mismatched genitalia, or very often in our great society- an orb containing dark magic and evil powers.
The unfamiliarity of Jenner’s condition caused us to raid google with questions until we fully comprehended what she has experienced, so we could support her. It generated awareness. But the unfamiliarity of Bobby’s condition had only scared us, made us uncomfortable, and pushed us into denial of the fact that this was scientific and anyone of us could end up feeling like Bobby. For us, Bobby was an exception, a victim of an infliction, a terribly bad fate. This just shows our distrust in our own culture and kin – we are so very biased against our own kind.
So are we all just a bunch of hypocrites, as we favorite Jenner’s Tweets on our phones feeling all happy and liberal and open-minded, but as our auto stops at the traffic light and we see that all-too-familiar sight of the trans-beggar closing in- we slide to the end of the seat, lest she touch us with her filthy trans-fingers which might give us her “disease”?
Jenner’s first public appearance as Caitlyn will be receiving the Arthur Ashe Courage Award during the 2015 ESPY Awards in July 2015. She was chosen for the award because “she has shown the courage to embrace a truth that had been hidden for years, and to embark on a journey that may not only give comfort to those facing similar circumstances, but can also help to educate people on the challenges that the transgender community faces.” I am ecstatic, but in my heart if hearts, I will only truly believe this to be a victory of humanity, when all the other trans-folk who had the courage to come out – are not even necessarily presented an award, but just the honor they still have the right to live with.