Will the Interest in Caitlyn Jenner Promote Transgender Writing?
For a few months now we have been witnessing a transition that has been so powerful and stimulated so many debates: the transition of Bruce to Caitlyn Jenner.
When Bruce Jenner revealed to Diane Sawyer that he was indeed in the process of transitioning to being his true self, a woman, I couldn’t help but admire his strength and bravery. I am all for equality within society regardless of race, faith, gender or sexual orientation. All anybody wants is for society to accept them, to feel normal within the community, and not just the community in which they do belong, although in this case even the initial response from the transgender community was mixed.
Watching the support for Caitlyn Jenner unfold on social media has been an interesting journey in and of itself. Celebrities and public figures, including President Obama, expressed their support. However, there was a very mixed response from journalists across the mass media, often referencing transgender sources and creating some interesting subjects of debate. An article by Ed Pilkington in The Guardian, for example, entitled ‘Caitlyn Jenner: transgender community has mixed reactions to Vanity Fair reveal’ raises some of these questions, one in particular pertaining to Caitlyn’s ‘privileged’ lifestyle, which has allowed her to transition more easily than most of the transgender community. This begs the question, though, can we really judge someone’s personal journey based on their financial and/or social status? Should they be castigated for not having to reach so high to get the support they needed? The fact that Caitlyn has had this burden for over 60 years, I largely suspect, comes from her place within society whilst known as Bruce. She’s merely got a different story to tell, has never been crass enough to deny that the privilege of wealth has not helped her achieve self-actualisation, and, because of who she is, her transition was always going to be a global media event. Whether she likes it or not, what Caitlyn does is culturally significant in a way most our lives are not.
‘The ability to grow is directly related to the amount of insecurity you can take in your life.’ – Caitlyn Jenner
This brings me to the core of this post. Every transgender story is different. Some may have similar traits, similar battles, but they are all different. I wonder if, due to Caitlyn’s high profile, transgender has become more acceptable to us. Perhaps her story has created some new level of awareness or at least interest and, dare I suggest, acceptance: a positive image as opposed to a device in gothic fictions such as Psycho, Sleepaway Camp, The Wasp Factory, The Silence of the Lambs and, most recently, the ‘Black Bride’ of James Wan’s Insidious Chapter Two.
When we’re scared of something, we stick it in a horror story and start a moral panic, but there is another story to tell – thousands in fact – and transgender authors have been telling them for some time. These authors are not household names, but maybe now they are going to gather a new set of readers, readers who are not transgender or know someone who is, but are just interested in the story of a very personal battle, stories of courage and bravery. Is transgender fiction and life writing about to break through into the mainstream now there is a high profile celebrity that has come forward and said ‘I am transgender’?
There are some books out there that really leave their mark on you, like, for example, Torey Hayden’s novelised accounts of the lives of some of the troubled children she has taught, or startling autobiographies like Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes or Bad Blood by Lorna Sage. By the end of these books you really feel that you have gone through a journey of emotions with the author. Transgender life writing, fiction and creative non-fiction is the same when done well. Many transgender people become sex workers, some deal with aggressive responses by family and/or peers, ignorance from strangers, and prejudices from the business world, for example Blossom Brown, a transgender student featured in I am Cait who has worked so hard to be able to enter nursing school. Her grades are more than sufficient, and yet she has never been accepted into nursing school. Why? The journey of transition is also particularly challenging, because the individual concerned has to not only discover his or her true gender wise but also their sexuality. Some are more comfortable with this than others. Whatever the story, the journey is intense and emotional, and I’d thoroughly recommend you go and read some.
TRANSGENDER BOOKS OF INTEREST
If you aren’t signed up to Goodreads, go away now and sign up, it’s essential for any avid reader as well as a place to be if you’re an author. Goodreads have hundreds, if not thousands, of lists. Genre lists, subject lists, interest lists, etc. I thought, with the current attention to transgender, I would provide you with a selection of transgender fiction and life writing that could be your starting point in discovering some of these beautiful, tragic and compelling characters and stories.
Books of interest:
There are several Goodreads lists that all interlink and provides you with an insane volume of books. ‘Transgender’ lists include: ‘Transgender Memoirs and Biographies,’ ‘Books with Transgender Characters’ and ‘Transgender Books.’
The final question is, will Caitlyn Jenner write her autobiography? I’m sure she will when she’s ready. Behind the media circus is a real woman learning to live in her new body and with her new identity. It’s worth remembering that her journey will be, like the others, very different and unlike most of her peers, she’s doing it under the spotlight. Good on her.
Green Door sends their love and respect.
If you have read or heard about any book that deals with transgender at its heart why not leave us a comment.
Further information regarding transgender please visit GLAAD
*FEATURE IMAGE: CAITLYN JENNER & ABBY WAMBACH AT THE 2015 ESPYS PRESENTED BY CAPITAL ONE (ABC/Image Group LA)