“Call me Caitlyn.”
A sentence, a visual, and a moment that has changed the landscape of our culture and has already become one of the GLBTQ community’s most iconic moments.
It seems like a lifetime since the tabloids were reporting that Bruce Jenner wanted to become a woman. It seemed unbelievable that a man such as Bruce – always known as being a “man’s man,” one of the all-time best athletes America has ever had – would want to transition to being a woman. It seemed like just typical tabloid nonsense. As time went on stories would surface but no one knew what to think. Many thought it was just a publicity stunt by a man associated with a family known for such things.
…and then Diane Sawyer came along.
During his interview with Diane Sawyer, Bruce Jenner confirmed what had been suspected – that he was indeed transitioning.
That two-hour interview was a milestone in and of itself. Never before has the world seen such a public display of a person transitioning, saying goodbye to the man they were born as before becoming the woman that they truly were born to be. Jenner called the interview a “farewell to Bruce,” and it truly was.
Bruce Jenner was known to many as an Olympic hero and then known to an entirely new generation of people as the dad on Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Bruce Jenner was a person who had a “name reach” to so many for so many years. That reach is perhaps the unsung hero of this story.
I know many people have their opinions of the Kardashians and what they represent. I know people don’t understand the appeal. I personally can’t attest to ever seeing a full episode of the show. That said, I ask you to put your opinion of the show and family aside, take a step back, and examine the larger picture.
Keeping Up with the Kardashians is a show that has MILLIONS of worldwide fans. The family has so many eyes on it and to some the family is part of their weekly routine. While many people might roll their eyes at this, think about this: you have millions of people who, in some sense of the word, now know someone who is transgender.
There is a fantastic scene in the film Milk, where Harvey Milk says, “People vote two to one for us if they know just one of us.”
The outpouring of support on social media and in other ways has shown the importance of how knowing someone can lead to greater understanding. True, not everyone knew Bruce Jenner, but the level of visibility he attained is a major component. The millions of Kardashian viewers now have reason to care. This seemingly simple association has now translated into a larger acceptance. This vague and distant knowledge of someone has now led to a larger discussion on transgender issues. If Keeping Up with the Kardashians goes off the air tomorrow, it can take pride in the fact that for all the staged nonsense of the show, it has helped bring an often ostracized community into the mainstream in a major way. If a closeted trans individual can come out happily, or if a scared Trans teen can choose life over death because now they have a visible individual that showed them our culture is more accepting of them, then that makes every second of the whole show worth it.
This week we’ve seen a groundbreaking cover and we’ve seen the first drag queen that refers to herself as “gender fluid” win the RuPaul’s Drag Race crown. In a week, Orange is the New Black – featuring a trans actress, activist, and possibly model – will return, bringing with it a major beloved trans character back into the lives of millions. We are living in a time where trans issues are at the forefront of the discussion more than ever. The conversation is happening and it is up to each of us to join in. It is up to each of us to lend our voice to make sure ignorance is combated with education and that acceptance wins out over intolerance. That might not fix every issue facing the community, but it will take the dream world many suffered for and make it the reality we live in.
Keep love, always.