Caitlyn Jenner’s public transition earlier this month was, by most accounts, a success. Her newly-minted Twitter account, @Caitlyn_Jenner, quickly surpassed 1 million followers in under five hours, and the ESPY Awards announced Jenner will receive the prestigious Arthur Ashe Courage Award for her bravery for publicly coming out as a transgender woman.
But while Jenner’s reveal received mostly positive reaction from non-transgender people, some in the transgender community have had a much different and nuanced response.
“Caitlyn Jenner is just Kardashian 2.0,” Zoey Tur, “Inside Edition” trans correspondent and host of KFI radio talk show, “He Said, She Said” told TheWrap. “I’ve received well over 100 messages from trans women who said they didn’t want to transition anymore because they feel that they can never live up to the Caitlyn Jenner ideal.”
Vanity Fair’s glamorous pictures — shot by world-renown photographer Annie Leibovitz — which depicted Jenner draped in designer clothes against a multimillion-dollar Malibu backdrop had some transgender activists wondering whether Jenner is the right role model for their community.
“Trans women are feeling that the sexualized photos are actually a fetishized version of what men believe women should look like,” Tur said. “It’s an unattainable stereotype that will have a reverse effect on trans people.”
Jenner’s wealth has been the center of much debate among many in the transgender community who feel that her highly-stylized transition puts even more pressure on trans people who don’t have the limitless resources of the Kardashian family.
“Caitlyn is still very much kind of an out of reach Hollywood icon who doesn’t have to spare any expense to look absolutely marvelous,” said George Moll, executive producer of “Becoming Us,” a transgender docu-series which premieres Monday on ABC Family. “While I applaud Caitlyn, I think it’s glamorized to a point where it’s not anywhere near what the reality is for the vast majority of trans people.”
This is a sentiment that is also echoed by healthcare professionals.
“She doesn’t necessarily represent the experiences of the majority of trans people,” said Laura Erickson-Schroth, an LGBT health and public psychiatry fellow with Columbia University. “I think many are middle or lower class; they’re people of color; they don’t have access to necessarily good mental health care, hormones, surgeries — the kind of things that Caitlyn might have access to, being someone who’s wealthy.”
But not everyone agrees. Some experts believe Jenner’s glitzy coming is already having a positive effect on trans people.
“I think this is a great thing for the community,” licensed therapist and president of Gender Wellness of Los Angeles, Casey Weitzman told TheWrap. “What I think the Jenner story will do is get people to have a conversation about it, whether they like the story or not. People at the watercooler are talking about it. Caitlyn is going to help move the cause forward.”
Weitzman said the criticism is misplaced. “If they had put up a picture of her that wasn’t glamorous there would have been an outcry. It’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”