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June 8, 2015: To Jenner Critics — So What?

June 8, 2015

When I first saw the Vanity Fair cover photo of Caitlyn Jenner, my first reaction was that she looks stunning. Yes, I know: Anyone can look that gorgeous if they have the money she has. So what? Many women who have that kind of money get cosmetic surgery. The difference here is that Jenner’s surgery was, first and foremost, for feminization. It was necessary for her transition.

Speaking of money, she has been criticized for her high speaking fee of $100,000. So what? Many public speakers and celebrities charge that much and more. I read a few years ago that Jennifer Lopez would attend a party upon request and if available — not to speak, just to be there — for $1 million. Like Lopez and many others, Jenner is a celebrity. And, like most high-profile celebrities, she makes a lot of money.

Zoey Tur has been on CNN a lot lately, proclaiming that Jenner is a “product.” I agree. Any celebrity, anyone who is in the media, is a “product,” including Zoey. So what? The implication is that Jenner is transitioning publicly and with much hoopla for her own benefit. Yet Jenner has said she will use her celebrity — and her wealth — to raise awareness about, and directly help, the trans community. As LaVerne Cox acknowledged in a recent Tumblr post, “Most trans folks don’t have the privileges Caitlyn and I have now have. It is those trans folks we must continue to lift up, get them access to healthcare, jobs, housing, safe streets, safe schools and homes for our young people. We must lift up the stories of those most at risk, statistically trans people of color who are poor and working class.” She gets it, and so does Jenner.

And so does the New York Times, which launched a story wall, inviting trans people to submit their own stories. It’s really a wonderful idea. The more trans people — celebrities and non-celebrities — who tell their stories, the more educated we all get; and the more educated we all get, the more likely we are to accept people with “differences.” In addition, a couple of Tumblr users started a campaign inviting trans people to post photos of themselves on a Vanity Fair cover template, according to a Huffington Post article, which posted some of those photos. Trans people are coming out in their communities, too. And research shows that a “straight” person is more likely to accept the trans community if he or she personally knows a trans person.

I’ve read a lot of criticisms about the fact that Jenner is 65 years old and doesn’t look her age since the surgery. So what? Neither does Cher, who recently celebrated her 69th birthday, and I haven’t heard any criticism about all of the cosmetic surgery she’s had done. (She looks great, too.) And looking younger is really a fortunate by-product of FFS. When Mara got her FFS, she came out looking younger, too.

Then, there’s the criticism that the photo is a sexualized image. I do agree that women are too sexualized — and subsequently objectified — in the media. I also feel that the photo (and the others from the photo shoot that have so far been revealed) were done in good taste. We are all sexual beings. We’re also intelligent beings. And emotional beings. And physical beings. All of these attributes can be used to convey someone’s identity; and to me, Jenner’s photos convey her newfound power as a woman.

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