Profiles Of Transgender Courage: Caitlyn Jenner

Caitlyn Jenner is an American trans woman who is the subject of much controversy. I debated whether or not to even include her in the Profiles of Transgender Courage series as I disagree with some of her political views and leanings. Eventually, I decided to include her because she has made some substantial contributions to the transgender community. Additionally, the fact that she was such an American Icon before her transition, coming out while already in that limelight took great courage as she risked much of her fame and popularity by coming out on such a grand stage. That is reason enough to set my personal disagreements with her views aside and honor the courage she has shown by laying out her journey for the world to see.

Caitlyn was born in 1949 in Mount Kisco, New York. Her accomplishments aside from her work in the transgender rights arena are vast, including success in athletics, television, film, writing, business and as a Playgirl cover model. After a knee injury ended her stint in college football, She was convinced into trying out competing in decathlons. After much training, she won the decathlon event at the Montreal Olympic Games earning the unofficial title "World's Greatest Athlete" and gaining fame as an "All-American Hero". Her (male) image donned the front of Wheaties cereal boxes for quite some time and she was solidified into American culture from that point on.

Other than her appearances in reality shows Keeping Up With the Kardashians (a show mostly revolving around the Kardashian family of which she was a patriarch) and I Am Cait (a show revolving around her life after coming out as a trans woman), her television and film appearances aren't particularly memorable. Though she has appeared in a variety of notable television shows as herself, in voice-over work, character appearance and via satire. She experienced some success in motorsports by competing in the IMSA Camel GT Series. Earning a victory in 1986, her most successful year in the sport, finishing second in the championship to co-driver Scott Pruett. She also has some success in the business world with her previous name being attached to aviation, staffing technology, and Nautilus and aerobic centers. In 2016, she announced she had been named the face of H&M Sport, which later created Caitlyn Jenner's Greatest Victories: A Timeline; a six-minute film highlighting Jenner's accomplishments.

In April 2015, Jenner sat down for a 20/20 interview with Diane Sawyer where she came out as a transgender woman. She recounted her experiences with gender dysphoria since her youth and described her bouts of cross-dressing and attempts to transition privately throughout her history. She exclaimed publicly, "For all intents and purposes...I am a woman." The interview had over 20 million viewers making it the highest rated newsmagazine telecast.

Before her transition, many comedians resorted to cheap jokes about transgender people. Jenner's appearance on 20/20 as well as her subsequent Vanity Fair cover caused the comedy industry to become more creative and tasteful when crafting jokes about transgender people, though not all of that community has transitioned away from mockery. The Vanity Fair cover was especially groundbreaking, as it was featured on nearly every news and talk show at the time and was met with mostly praise...even on Fox News.

Her decision to come out and transition publicly was interestingly timed, as 2015 was the start of many states drafting "bathroom bills" which effectively prohibited transgender people from using the public restroom of their choice. So, on the one hand, transgender people had the negative media attention being spurned by anti-LGBT activists and politicians and on the other, they had the positive media attention with Caitlyn presenting herself for all the world to see. I imagine had she stayed in the shadows 2015 would have been the year of the transgender witch hunt. Her continuous success that year helped balance out the negativity. She received the Social Media Queen award at the Teen Choice Awards for setting the Guinness World Records for amassing over one million followers on Twitter in 4 hours and 3 minutes beating out Barack Obama's previous record by nearly an hour. She also was named one of Glamour's 25 Women of the Year and is described as a "Trans Champion". And the awards and honors, as well as criticism, kept flowing the rest of that year and into the next.

I could go all day talking about Caitlyn Jenner, but I like to keep these profiles short and pointed. So, in conclusion, I'd like to reiterate the fact that while I don't agree with her on everything, Caitlyn Jenner is indeed a Trans Champion. I know for a fact that she donated a sizeable sum of money to the clinic I go to for my hormones and doctors appointments. So while you or I may think she may or may not be misguided, I know her heart is in the right place. Thanks, Cait.

Kristelle's Story: Table of Contents