He Said, She Said: Privilege Check On I Am Cait

He Said, She Said: Privilege Check On I Am Cait

Caitlyn Jenner got schooled in episode two of her docu-series on E!, I Am Cait.

Each week, The Advocate is presenting a look at the moments in each episode that we feel resonate most strongly within the trans community, through two perspectives. What you’ll read here are just opinions, not facts.

I’m News Editor Dawn Ennis, writing from my experience as a woman assigned male at birth who transitioned in the public eye. To provide variety, a different individual will join me each week, on what we’re calling “The Advocate’s sofa,” comparing our notes as we watch, for the duration of the season.

While we acknowledge there is more than just the binary, this week the noted writer and former GLAAD media strategist Tiq Milan joins me. He is an activist and former reality TV star as well as an out and proud trans man of color. 

Dawn Ennis: First off, I was expecting so much after last week's episode, which for me was positive, but also revealing of Cait's disconnection from the rest of the world. What did you think of this week's show, Tiq?

Tiq Milan: Caitlyn shows so much vulnerability as she learns how to embody her femininity, particularly around her voice. I think many transpeople spend time in the mirror or over recorders trying to get their voice to a pitch that makes them feel confident and safe in their gender.  

DE: Her focus on her voice is not surprising -- given how hers sounds the same as "Bruce's" voice, a masculine voice. So many trans women I know wish they could have the reverse effect you and other trans men typically achieve with testosterone. 

TM: But at the same time there are lots of transfolks who don’t fret over their voice at all which is a testament to the diversity of the transgender experience.

DE: True, and I think it's very revealing that instead of working on her voice, she thinks surgery could be a quick fix. Moving on, I was floored by how people I know or want to know appeared with Cait this week:

Candis Cayne, Drian Juarez, Chandi MooreZackary Drucker...

TM: Jen Richards is an amazing friend and colleague of mine and I was so proud to see her bring a different context in the room about the lived experience of transwomen. 

DE: And at long last we got to see Jenny Boylan, the professsor and pioneer who hasn't been given the credit she deserves for all the work she's done consulting with ABC, E! and directly with Cait herself. But I don't think I've ever seen anyone, even her wife, boss Jennifer Finney Boylan around like Caitlyn does! Still, it was wonderful to see Jenny confide with us, the viewers, and also with Jen, that Cait thinks "being a woman is a party," that it's "all about makeup and hair," and that "she's oblivious," meaning Cait.

TM: The sisterhood that's created around Caitlyn is a great thing to see on such a large platform. It reminds me of the group conversations that we would have with trans youth at community centers and clinics, building community among people with whom you have a common struggle or narrative: “Why not use love?”

DE: One of my favorite moments was a far too short conversation about sex work and the magnificent Angelica Ross breaking it down with other trans women, talking about social economics. 

TM: Angelica Ross, my work wife, was fabulous, I’m not biased. :)
 
DE: Love her. And loved what folks told Cait during that segment: "You have to come down and understand what everybody else is dealing with." PREACH!
 
TM: Yes, the discussion on sex work was great, but a bit short. It’s such a real and big issues for so many girls that are involved in sex work for survival. 
 
DE: Except for that conversation, I had my eight-year-old son watch with me. He asked if he could, having seen 75 percent of the Diane Sawyer interview. He said he wanted to both "help me," and in his own words, "better understand me." Love my little guy! And you know what, he had two truly insightful comments, especially given his age: "She doesn’t have to be a glamour girl to be accepted as a woman," and "I can understand why she says she feels 'free,' but not free enough to be seen wearing a bikini. That must be hard for her." 
 
TM: “It feels free, baby!” Love that line. The pool party was cute and I understand it’s important to have conversations around trans bodies and confidence, but it felt a bit sensationalized. 
 
DE: Yeah, I hear you. But overall, wasn't it wonderful seeing #reallivetransadults on this show? Although they only reflected the trans feminine experience, it was good to show cis [non-transgender] viewers we are not all Caitlyn Jenner. And she even explained what cis means this week! In other vocabulary news, she revealed she'd never heard of HRC

TM:  The road trip there was revealing. Solidarity among trans and cis women is key to progress, but Caitlyn’s conservative views are completely off base. The idea that people who utilize social programs are lazy, unmotivated or complacent is classist and racist propaganda that is used to further disenfranchise poor people. 

DE: That was both my fave moment, and also the one in which I cringed the hardest: the look on their faces, the raised eyebrows, the dropped jaws as they heard Cait's honest views on welfare programs and "handouts." Priceless. 

TM: And being cash poor effect intersects with trans identity as well as p.o.c identity more than anything. There are so many factors and "the bubble" that Caitlyn has been in has kept her misinformed about that. 

DE: Yeah, that flowed well from their earlier conversation, in which they shared their experiences and gave Cait a glimpse into life beyond "the bubble."

TM: Why do you think there was such an emphasis on cultivating Cailtyln into a spokesperson? 

DE: I struggle with this, because Jenner herself has said she doesn't want to be, yet that seems to be where this whole thing is headed. Perhaps it's inevitable, given her past as a motivational speaker and the emphasis this week on voice. But the voices America really needs to hear are those who don't have all this privilege. She needs to be raising those voices, and I worry as Jenny and Jen do: is she listening? Since she's an executive producer of this series, I think so, and hope so.

TM: So... Candis and Caitlyn? Is it for dramatic effect or a real thing?

DE: Oh, goodness. I don't know, but that will certainly be a popular topic of conversation. Hey, if it's real, good for them. Meanwhile, I saw someone tweet that Cait was polluting the Northern California forest, with golf balls.

TM: This was so much fun!!! Good night, Dawn! 

Next week on The Advocate’s sofa: Buddhist clergyman, professional gardener and proud feminist Trystan Marl Greist!

Join the conversation on Twitter @TheAdvocateMag.

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