Caitlyn Jenner's Impact Is More Than Skin-Deep
A day after Caitlyn Jenner broke the Internet with the release of her Vanity Fair cover, there's more to talk about than her gorgeous portrait. After shattering Twitter records and revealing her true self to the world, Jenner's officially become one of the most famous transgender people in the world. In a video released today for Vanity Fair, Jenner thanked those who came before her.
"There [are] a lot of very intelligent women," she said. "You look at some of the people, the pioneers trying to get the message out: Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, Geena Rocero, Carmen Carrera. Back in the eighties I was alone. I’m kind of following in their footsteps. They made it easier for me. I hope with my honesty, I can make it easier for somebody else down the line."
It's a carefully worded acknowledgement of transgender pioneers that couldn’t be better timed. Orange Is the New Black star Laverne Cox applauded Jenner Tuesday morning in an open letter that also offered a nuanced reaction to theVanity Fair cover, tapping into an ongoing conversation about the conflict of traditional beauty standards and transgender identity. "Yes, Caitlyn looks amazing and is beautiful," she wrote, "but what I think is most beautiful about her is her heart and soul, the ways she has allowed the world into her vulnerabilities."
As Cox explains, she and Jenner are both celebrated very publicly for their feminine looks, which align neatly with Americans' predisposed ideas of what the definition of beauty is. But for many trans people, looking like Cox and Jenner is an unobtainable goal. "Most trans folks don't have the privileges Caitlyn and I have now have," Cox wrote. "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."
Popular author and transgender rights activist Janet Mock echoed the sentiment, tweeting that there are important tasks still at hand:
Let's celebrate Caitlyn & use her moment to uplift trans folks facing insurmountable economic barriers for affirming healthcare.— Janet Mock (@janetmock) June 1, 2015
This is something Jenner, too, has acknowledged publicly. In her sit-down interview with Diane Sawyer in April, she said that although she "is not a spokesman" for the community—she wants to work with the community to "get this message out."
"The suicide rates, murder rates, the difficulty — for especially black female trans women — I would like to think that we can save some lives here," she told Sawyer. For Jenner, a famous, affluent, white female, it was a forthright acknowledgement of her privilege.
According to the Vanity Fair article, Jenner's forthcoming docu-series on E! will feature an episode in which Jenner and "several transgender women will take an R.V. from the Los Angeles area to San Francisco to visit a center for transgender youth." Although Jenner does not want to be a spokesperson, it seems she understands her role as a trailblazer, and the responsibilities it will carry.
More From Vogue:
• Has the Fashion Industry Reached a Transgender Turning Point?
• What Should Caitlyn Jenner Wear to the ESPYs?
• Ignorance of Insensitivity? Dealing with Transgender Culture
• The LGBT Community Relaunches with a Powerful Art Exhibition
Photo: Annie Leibovitz, Courtesy of Vanity Fair