On the fifth episode of “I Am Cait”, she grows more into her identity as a transgender woman in a world that is not always welcoming and goes to her first pride parade to represent the “t”: transgender. As the series has highlighted, for some this issue is literally life or death because of the misunderstanding and hostility directed at transgender people. For Cait, some of her male friends aren’t calling her back, and her family is a little distant, but the transcommunity has welcomed her with open arms. It is necessary for transgender people to have each other’s backs, because the world at large pulls shit like this:
Do you see why it’s funny? Because its a man dressed in drag impersonating a trans woman! Oh my god its so hilarious because she used to be a man! Don’t you get it?! The Vanity Fair cover is in the shot, just in case you don’t see it.
Yes, I get it. No, its not funny. Not even a little. Its demeaning and humiliating and says to trans people, “be afraid because your identity is not valid and we will make fun of you”. Making fun in some cases could be the least of a trans persons problem when attitudes such as this Halloween costume start cropping up. Someone might get the cool idea that maybe trans people deserve violence because they aren’t “really” a man or a woman. Someone might get the idea that its okay to kill a trans person because they got aroused by the trans person and can’t handle what that might mean about their identity. In reality, it means nothing to their identity. If a woman is sexually arousing and happens to be trans, being attracted to that woman has no bearing on one’s sexual orientation (ex. I’m not a fag!). This is dangerous because it puts trans people in a constantly vulnerable position so that coming as who they are is made into a potentially dangerous feat. There is a lot of valid fear for trans people, they are much more likely to face job discrimination (which is totally legal), violence, and murder.
In “I Am Cait”, she learned in this episode that there was a bulletin put out outlining the correct ways to write about Cait’s transition when it first happened for the media. It was viewed 200,000 times in twenty-four hours. There are people who are willing to work with trans people to facilitate their new identities. But there is a lot standing in the way also. That wasn’t the only Halloween costume, this one does a really interesting job of making fun of Caitlyn:
DON’T YOU GET IT?! It’s Caitlyn in her Olympic winning ensemble with a sash saying “Call Me Caitlyn” because shes really a man! Hahahaha. She’s just like any other dude in a dress, she’s in drag and pretending. Once a man always a man.
These are dangerous sentiments. These are the sort of attitudes that get people killed. These “jokes” go from private whispering of friends to a hateful group targeting an individual. The more these attitudes are tolerated and embraced, the more severe consequences for transpeople. The consequences for transpeople can already be severe without having to see public displays of humiliation aimed at one’s identity.
One of the focuses of this episode was Cait getting her “straight guy friends” to return her calls and meet up with her. In an awkward scene, Cait goes to the hobby helicopter shop her pal Sergio runs. In all honesty of the scene, Sergio clearly does not know what to think of Cait’s transition. Cait makes jokes, that “nothings different with me”, playing off her obvious transition, and Sergio clearly doesn’t relate to Cait as he did to Bruce. Bruce was a man and that was simple, Cait’s identity is more complex. He and his coworker are welcoming and Sergio goes with the “whatever makes her happy” line of thinking, but one wonders if this was not on television how Sergio would have reacted in real life. Would he have been still goofily trying to accept it, or would he be more standoffish? Its hard to tell since the cameras have whats called a Heisenberg effect: matter changes simply by a person observing it. A situation changes when the subjects know that they are being observed.
This leads into the second part of the episode where Cait goes to a gay pride parade. It is explained to the audience that historically gay men and trans women have had a tense relationship, that some gay men did not accept trans women as “fully human”. It is all rainbows and smiles when Cait is received, her name even chanted by the crowd. If E! cameras were not following her, what would Cait’s experience be like coming out? Would it have been more lonely, without episodic necessity to insert people like Kate Bornstein into her life for ratings? Cait has admitted that her family has been distant, and one wonders what the lack of cameras would have produced in her life.
Transpeople can sometimes have difficulty feeling like they have a place in the world. Outcasted by the heteronormative gender binary, there is little room for a population so small to declare itself legitimate. The Heisenberg effect of Caitlyn Jenner’s transition can be positive for the public, indeed E! and Caitlyn are working to show the normalcy of transpeople. Cait often remarks about how she has meet all these transpeople “who are just so normal”. This is important for the public to see because like the Halloween outfits above, transgenderism in the public mind is distorted and uninformed. Some people say that they simply do not care because it does not effect them, but in reality, they may know a transperson and be completely unaware of it. Would they like it if someone treated that person in their life like a pariah for any other reason? Why should transgenderism be different? That is the sentiment “I Am Cait” is trying to get across.