Caitlyn Jenner’s coming out may have pushed trans issues onto the international agenda. But that’s certainly not to say she’s our best LGBTI role model. She is after all a rich, right-wing Christian who only recently came around to the idea of marriage equality.
So it should come with little surprise that some of her commentary on gender issues is a little, shall we say, off. She pissed off plenty of women last month when, after being named Glamour magazine’s Woman of the Year, she said the hardest part about being a woman was “figuring out what to wear”.
And this week she has again been criticised for her enormously privileged views after she said trans women who look “like a man in a dress” make people uncomfortable.
“I think it’s much easier for a trans woman or a trans man who authentically kind of looks and plays the role,” she told TIME magazine after she was named on their ‘Person of the Year’ list.
Many trans people have rightly pointed out to Caitlyn that it is much harder for trans people to look the way they want when they don’t have the ridiculous amount of money she has to pay for her clothes, hair, surgery, etc. And, besides, some people don’t want to fit within a gender binary.
Jenner has now penned a bog post apologising for the comments, saying she is still learning and sometimes says the wrong thing.
“Sometimes this is because I’m still finding out about the issues. Sometimes this is because something that is true for me isn’t true for other people in our community. And sometimes I’ve said things that just come out the wrong way,” she wrote.
“Some people look gender non-conforming because they want to look that way – they don’t want to conform to society’s expectations. Those people have every right to look and present exactly as they choose. And then there are other people who don’t have the resources to access the medical procedures that would help them look the way they would like to look. Procedures, incidentally, that most health insurance plans refuse to cover. All of these people are my brothers and my sisters, and I am fighting alongside them, too.”
Following the apology, trans writer Brynn Tannehill penned an open letter to Jenner, published on Huffington Post, advising her to “take a sabbatical to go experience the things necessary to understand the community” before she acts as a spokesperson.
“You won’t learn what being queer is really like for most transgender Americans being in spaces where queer people are already de rigueur,” she wrote. “You won’t be able to understand where most queer people are coming from until you understand our absolute dread of conservative, republican politicians… Our lives are being put at daily risk as they label us perverts, abominations, predators and rapists. As bad as things are for transgender people, they could get much, much, worse. Your support of the people who would do these things make it hard for us to trust you.”