I never watched the episodes of Keeping up with the Kardashians when Caitlyn Jenner came out. At the time, I felt like they were exploitive of a family and a person in a lot of pain. I know that they all signed up for the life they have, but I still felt strange being part of it as a viewer. I also only really remember the media frenzy surrounding her coming out. I subscribed to the idea that this was some sort of publicity stunt, devoid of dignity or well-intended education on a subject the world really knew little about. I did watch the Diane Sawyer interview, but with the wonderment of a person who was curious about what the interview would reveal. Little did I know then that I’d relate more than ever to the family that redefined celebrity for American pop culture.
It was tempting when Katie came out to me to want to reference those episodes, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. In some way, I felt like the experience of the Jenner-Kardashians couldn’t replicate my own with Katie. Caitlyn is older. The Kardashians are famous and wealthy. They are seemingly shallow and concerned about problems I don’t relate to. For goodness sake, they have their makeup done for the cameras every single morning. They can’t be anywhere near my life, right?
I was wrong. Last week, while Katie was out of town visiting her mom and spending quality time with her niece, I mustered up the courage (with the help of a glass of wine) to watch the Interview episodes. It was really hard and I paused many times to cry. What was remarkable to me was watching this family take one of the most vulnerable times in their lives and chose to share it with the world, not knowing how it would be received. As easily as they were embraced, they could have been ostracized, outcast by a society we are all well-aware is riddled by ignorance on transgender issues. The gravity of how much power their example gave to others is truly incredible and I honestly wish I could have watched these episodes earlier. The statements made throughout were all things I have said myself: “I understand what you need to do”, “I want you to be happy, but this feels like a death”, “it feels like you’re lying to me”, “I need more time”. Now, a year later, it was consoling to see where the Kardashian family was in that moment, relate to it so strongly as similar to my experience, and truly see how far I’ve come. What I see in the episodes is a family that wants to be supportive in any way possible, but is also struggling to marry the person they know with the secret that they feel was kept from them, even if they understand why. I see pain and loss. I see a lot of hope and support. I’m glad I watched it. Wether coached by a lawyer or their PR or no one at all, the Kardashians really set the tone for how people should view transgender humans: as humans first and foremost, but also as people wrapped in intricate and confusing pain who need love and support.
Now, I know Caitlyn Jenner is wrapped in controversy, but I’m not going to pass judgement on her political leanings, on her early support of and now recent apology of support for Donald Trump. First, I’m not educated enough on what her stances are to make a judgement on whether she is right or wrong, LGBT+ friendly or not, etc. I do admire her apology this last week, because I think it takes a lot of courage to admit being wrong. I also know many people are angry with Caitlyn for not being the revolutionary advocate she started as. It’s difficult to imagine people supporting Donald Trump as part of the LGBT community. Trust me, I totally understand. That said, if anything, Caitlyn Jenner proves there is diversity in any population. Our differences of opinion exist because none of us are limited to one category. We all intersect with the multiple identities we share and don’t share with others. As I hope this blog attempts to convey: there is no One Way to be transgender. There is no One Way to transition in a marriage, to love your family while you do it, to mourn the loss of the life you had, to celebrate the life you are headed towards living. All we can do is try our best to meet each other where we are. I think the world could use a lot more understanding. Oh, we can also advocate the shit out of protecting human rights when they are being violated. And Vote. Voting is very important also.
On an unrelated note for this topic: Katie has her first appointment with an Electrologist on Wednesday. I’m nervous for the pain she is going to experience, but I’m SO EXCITED to get this process started for her. It’s going to be a good week.