I’ve been meaning to write about the Jenner interview with Diane Sawyer ever since it first aired. I even watched it again to make sure I didn’t miss anything that I’d want to mention here when I did get around to writing this post. But, then I started transitioning into another career and that took up damn near all of my time for a little while. And I’m glad I didn’t write to quickly about it. In the mean time, the name Caitlyn appeared and so did a bunch of pictures and accompanying a Vanity Fair piece.
I don’t own a television. But, I was able to watch the interview on my uncle’s family room TV. I kept a close eye on Twitter to see how the reaction was playing out on the east coast feed. Yes, I’m back from Jakarta 🙂 But, once it began, I started receiving messages from a couple trans friends who, just like me, were being pulled back into memories of childhood experimentation and fears of being outed. Along with the desire to start a family and dive into ultra masculine endeavors to push back what’s going on in our head and to show the world we are not what we so desperately desire to hide.
It’s not uncommon at all to hear from transgender women how they became very athletic or started working in a career that is often thought of as ultra masculine. For instance, the amount of transgender military veterans is much higher than most people know. So much so, that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has been struggling to come up with better treatment avenues for this unexpected group. So, like everyone else who has been seeing the subtle changes Caitlyn Jenner was making to herself pre-interview, I wasn’t surprised at all that someone who had dominated sport in their prime was taking this step.
I never made it even close to the level of accomplishment Caitlyn Jenner achieved. But, I did work my butt off in the pool for several years. Swimming was my escape. And the better I got, the less I thought people would see right through me. Those swimmer muscles were my armor. And the solitariness of the water. Even under competition, was so peaceful. That’s probably a testament to how much the social anxiety got to me more than the gender dysphoria. But, as soon as I dove in, I was all alone. I couldn’t hear the cheers. I only saw people when I turned to breathe. And if I kept the competition behind me, it felt like I was all alone in the water. I’ve always treasured swimming. And I don’t do enough of it.
About a year ago, I was very proud that I could say I didn’t know what a Kardashian was. That’s how far removed I’ve been from pop culture. Even after I found out they were people, I couldn’t have told you who they were or even what they looked like. I could have walked past them on the street and I wouldn’t have recognized them. Oh, the good old days. *sigh*
Now? Oh yes. The Caitlyn Jenner interview has inspired me to see what all the fuss is about. I saw the last couple of episodes that appeared to be connected to Caitlyn’s coming out and leading up to the interview. Given the amount of fame they have achieved, it does appear, at least superficially, that they are good people. That is a testament to their parents. I can’t imagine what it’s like having camera crews following you around everywhere. I’m not sure how I would handle transitioning under that spotlight. Probably only because I want to continue seeing how things evolve for her, I will probably tune into her new show starting next month.
Getting back to the Diane Sawyer interview, I found it done very well. You could see how nervous Caitlyn was leading up to the moment she said those words. I’ve never had to do that in front of a camera. But, that hesitation? That knowing everything changes once those words leave your mouth? Yeah. So familiar. The visits back to where she grew up. We’ve all probably done that. But, I do remember having those thoughts as I drove past the old houses in Southern California where I grew up. Those thoughts centered around remembering stepping outside for the first time wearing female clothes.
And it appears Caitlyn, even though given a long time to contemplate on the subjects, is still struggling with her own thoughts on a couple of matters. I’m speaking about how she defines her sexuality and being a Republican. It will be interesting seeing how her thoughts evolve on those two issues over time. Unlike her, I never really was attracted to women. Up until I got a hold of the depression, I thought I was asexual. It’s true that I’ve had sex with a woman and have never been intimate with a man. But, being with a woman never felt right. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be “normal”. It’s taken me some time to come to terms with the fact that I’m attracted to men. And some of that is because of the next issue. Just like Caitlyn still identifies, I was a Republican. I think I held onto that one longer than identifying as a heterosexual male. Being a Republican, for me, goes back to very early days when I was rebelling against my liberal father who left us. And that group of House Republicans led by Newt Gingrich along with Rush Limbaugh came along just in time for my teenage years. It hurt to leave. But, leave is just what I did. I couldn’t handle associating with people who thought I was horrible any longer. I’ve written about this before. And I don’t want to get too side tracked. This isn’t really about me. But, the social conservatives have really stolen the party. So, I decided to make the biggest statement I could make as just one little non-famous person among hundreds of millions. I became a…….Democrat. It will be interesting seeing what Caitlyn decides to do in the months and years ahead of this new road she’s on. Who knows, she may be able to make a difference by staying put.
I was very happy to see that ABC consulted with GLAAD board members, other transgender people and medical professionals. It was not only an opportunity for Caitlyn to tell her story. But, to also do some education.
Oh, the name. I’m sure there were several trans people my age and a little younger who heard the name “Caitlyn” and laughed or smiled a little bit. The name Kate was very popular amongst trans people some time ago. I remember teasing a trans friend when she decided on Cate instead of Kate. I’m glad Caitlyn chose not to go the letter “K”. But, given who is in her family, it probably would have been a little weird. I recently read a post from a friend where she talks about names coming from different generations and being able to spot trans people by the names they choose. For instance, did Caitlyn exist as a name when she was born? Rebecca is a very old name. Someone told me it’s in the bible. I don’t know. But, I did know people named Becca growing up.
One last thing. Before we knew the name “Caitlyn”, it bothered me to no end how she would refer to her female self in the third person. I’ve spoken with a couple of acquaintances who have been around late in life transitioners. It appears to be a thing. As if they have pushed that part of themselves down and away from their daily life for so long, they now think of that aspect of their personality as a totally different persona. Now that I understand that, I’ll try to be more sympathetic.
I hope Caitlyn can feel more free to live her life as she so sees it. Everyone should be free to be themselves. I’d like to thank her and everyone else responsible for the interview and the photo shoot for putting a positive spin on this issue. Last weekend, I rode in the truck that pulled the float for The Denver LGBT Center’s Transgender Program in the Pride Parade. While wearing out my arm waving out the window, my friend, the programs manager who was driving, told me she saw a dramatic uptick in people stopping by the programs booth this year over past years. People like Laverne Cox have been around a couple of years. So, maybe there’s a new “Caitlyn” effect helping ordinary people understand us better and helping closeted trans people feel a little more comfortable coming out of that closet. I sure hope so.