Much as I’m reluctant to further any infighting within the transgender and gender nonconforming community, I also have a responsibility to speak truth to power. Your visibility has gone from mildly annoying, to problematic, to atrocious, to outright detrimental, and so I ask you, politely:
Stop trying to help though the media and public appearances. Please. Stop.
Caitlyn, our trans sister, we were openhearted when you came out. We embraced you, offering support and resources. We respected what you were feeling; so many of us have suffered our own similar dysphoria and torment.
Our community watched nervously as you sat with Diane Sawyer and we recognized it was merely an initial place of naiveté. We forgave the melodrama and the missteps. Again, we were all at the beginning once.
Time went on. Your ongoing statements left us anxious, but each time we made allowances. With increasingly gritted teeth.
We were terrified when word came of the reality show. We clung desperately to the chance that perhaps through all your then-upcoming experiences — at first we were teased with previews of you interacting with trans youth, trans men, genderqueer people, trans people of color, trans people rejected by their families, trans people who were desperate and had few choices other than sex work (not to suggest sex work is inherently bad), and the full diversity of the trans community — that maybe you might gain a deeper understanding of who we are (yourself included) and that just possibly the rest of the world could be educated vicariously through you.
Instead we witnessed a continuation of the Kardashian circus: a party bus stocked with handlers, stylists, producers, coaches and crew while you paraded as a Barbie more obsessed with footwear than inequity, all the while surrounded by endless sensationalism, overt product placements, contrived warmth and the enormous privilege you carry every moment. You expected us to rally behind you, but your producers fundamentally misunderstood the trans community you purport to represent:
Trans people are not Kardashian wannabes. That is not a lifestyle we aspire to; that is a lifestyle that has kept us oppressed. (And the Lamborghini was a bit much.)
Now we are both saddened and furious. Here again you had privilege: the best tutors we could have hoped for in Jenny Boylan, Kate Bornstien and Jenn Richards. All leaders, a bit homogeneous, perhaps, but if you had any chance of learning it was from them. Though clearly unsettled by your antics, they persevered to help you recognize your position and the social justice needs of our community.
Despite their best efforts, you haven’t grown. At least, not much.
More recently, since I Am Cait, Season One, every word you utter makes evident your lack of awareness. Season Two thus far demonstrates that your mindset remains rooted in in the same shallow perspectives and that you are resistant, perhaps even incapable, of change.
Additionally, according to numerous articles reporting your support of Ted Cruz, you said: “[…once Ted Cruz becomes president, I will] have all my girls on a trans issues board to advise him on making decisions when it comes to trans issues. Isn’t that a good idea?”
(Also, stop calling them ‘girls.’ And they’re hardly yours.)
In aligning yourself with a politician and a party that espouse discrimination and violence (subtle and overt) at a time when transgender people are still vulnerable, you have scorned the majority of your community. (See HERE and HERE, though there are countless more.) Do you genuinely believe any of your tourbus ‘friends’ will join behind hatemongering bigots who would eagerly eliminate services, marginalize all ‘others,’ and impose ‘religious freedoms’ to force our return to the shadows? That Ted Cruz will suddenly be sympathetic to the needs of an inner-city, African-American, trans sex worker because you are in his life?
The notion that Ted Cruz would offer his ear because he was ‘nice’ to you pretransition is absurd. You were a cisgender, privileged, white male athletic superhero then. Please heed this lesson, since you have not already: things are different for you now.
(By the way: let us know how your experiences go using the Mens’ Room due to one of the many ‘trans people have to use the restroom associated with their biological gender’ bills making their way through several Republican controlled legislatures.)
And what you represent today: media stories in which many are calling the trans community hypocritical for confronting you have propagated throughout the religious right wing. These pieces only make those who are resistant even less open to us as human beings, and ultimately damage our community. No, we do not need to be homogenous. Yes, there is space for informed, thoughtful conservative transgender people beneath our umbrella. But we would appreciate it if you were the slightest bit sensitive to the importance of your role. You have become a pawn to be used against your own.
I still welcome you as part of our community, and underneath our umbrella, but I’ll ask you once again to stop putting yourself forward as someone who represents us.
At this point, what we most need from you is silence.
Laura A. Jacobs, LCSW-R Trans* and GenderQueer-identified psychotherapist in the NYC area working with sexual/gender minority populations. www.LauraAJacobs.com