One of the most surprising revelations from Caitlyn Jenner’s emotional one-on-one interview with Diane Sawyer was Jenner’s confession about belonging to the Republican Party. She even said it sort of sheepishly; as if to acknowledge the incongruity of boldly asserting her identity as one of the most vulnerable group in the LGBT community while simultaneously claiming to ascribe to a political party that has shown a historic lack of support and compassion.
It’s not that it’s particularly surprising that someone who had previously been living as an incredibly wealthy, famous, white, heterosexual man would be a Republican, or that there are conservative LGBT people, but it seemed at odds with this sensitive and socially aware Jenner, eager to represent the trans community.
All this makes Sunday’s episode of Jenner’s excellent reality series I Am Cait all the more fascinating. Instead of glossing over Jenner’s political views, the show leaned into the conflict with an exploration of privilege and power rarely seen on television (especially on the E! network).
Joined by a diverse group of trans women including Candis Cayne, Chandi Moore, Drian Juarez, Jen Richards, Zackary Drucker and the wonderful Jenny Boylan, Jenner engaged in conversations of race, class and privilege centered around access to employment and social programs. Check out a clip below:
There’s something really special about Jenner, serving as executive producer, not only allowing viewers to witness her lack of awareness, but also highlighting voices from the trans community expressing their concern with Jenner’s celebrity. It was refreshing to hear Boylan clearly call out the media frenzy over Jenner for focusing so much on the look while there are so many other more pressing matters facing the trans community. It takes vulnerability — a trait already at the center of I Am Cait — to share the philosophical transformation accompanying her physical transformation.
Even as we watch Caitlyn expand her understanding, it’s clear from seeing these episodes that she’s already learned a thing or two. By including so many other trans voices, I Am Cait is introducing a much broader trans experience to audiences. In addition to the women listed above, Jenner also heard more emotional stories at the Human Rights Campaign office in San Francisco. There’s no one way to be trans, and it’s important to see these individual stories alongside Jenner’s.
It’s this blend of education and personal storytelling that makes I Am Cait so effective. In tonight’s episode, Jenner shared her insecurities about her voice and her discomfort about being in a bathing suit in front of other people. So often, in film and television, the coming out process is shown as a singular occurrence. It’s refreshing to see all those small, but vital battles play out.
There was also some allusion to Jenner’s romantic feelings for Candis Cayne (something on which the tabloids have been speculating). Regardless of the outcome, I’m looking forward to I Am Cait’s exploration of the differences between gender identity and sexual orientation this will undoubtedly spark.
What did you think of I Am Cait’s second episode?