As Caitlyn Jenner and her production team await word from E! about her docu-series being picked-up for a second season, the reviews and ratings are in from the finale episode of I Am Cait.
The eighth and last episode of the season -- and perhaps the series -- "displayed strengths [and] weaknesses," according to showbiz bible Variety, indicative of a series its critic said "struggled to find its identity." And viewers tuned in, according to Deadline: the show hit a four-week ratings high Sunday night, although it fell far short of matching its July debut. "Final stats for Sunday’s finale may climb significantly," reported Deadline, in keeping with steady growth in DVR-viewing throughout the series, as previously reported by The Advocate.
So what did we see in what could either be the cap on a successful freshman season, or the bittersweet end?
For this eighth and final week, I was joined again by trans man Tony Zosherafatain, the director of I Am the T, a documentary about trans people around the world. Tony's trans activism began at his alma mater, Wesleyan University, in 2008. He is a trans health advocate and is currently pursuing his Masters in Nursing at New York University. Tony is working toward becoming an out nurse-practitioner, focusing on trans-inclusive endocrinology, while continuing to produce I Am the T.
Dawn Ennis: So we finally saw the much-touted Jenner showdown, which was likely familiar territory for every cis [non-trans] wife who feels she was "lied to" by the woman who was her husband. I have to say I felt very sympathetic to Cait's complaint that she was not invited to her daughter's graduation party. That was wrong, and I have been treated the same way at so many family functions since beginning my transition. Punishing Cait for the Vanity Fair article by not including her in her own daughter's celebration -- divorce or not -- was unfair.
Tony Zosherafatain: I think there is something more underneath the surface about the lead-up to their divorce other than Cait’s transition. I found it interesting that Cait told Kris that she didn’t leave her with the intent to transition as she wasn’t sure at that time.
Ennis: From what I've read and seen elsewhere and heard Cait say agan in the finale, she felt the constant drumbeat of criticism by Kris, making her feel unwanted, unappreciated and neglected, led to their breakup.
Zosherafatain: I think the truth is always hard to discern, and in this case it’s difficult to tell whether Kris is actually a good person who cares about Cait’s feelings or whether everything that was said about her in the Vanity Fair article about her is true. Either way, something that all trans people struggle with is telling their partner they’re going to transition. It’s never easy for sure.
Ennis; Overall, I thought this confrontation scene was an overdue, appropriate and all-too familiar experience worth sharing with the viewers. Cait was made to listen to the hurt Kris feels. That also hit really close to home for me, and I am sympathetic to Kris Jenner's feelings. Cait seemed unable to grasp how she hurt Kris and her family by descri bing them as a "distraction" from her pursuit of her authentic gender. I understand what Cait is trying to say, but she's just not going to win Kris over; it's just not happening. This is about hearing and listening, not about debating and winning. The hardest of all the hard words I've had to hear over the years culminating in the dissolution of my own marriage were, "You're not my husband. My husband is dead. And you're the bitch who killed him."
Zosherafatain: I found it a relief to hear Kris and Cait agree to maintain some communication and better their relationship.
Ennis: I have the same goal. Did it strike you as real that they could go from loggerheads to taking selfies together so quickly?
Zosherafatain: The selfie request by Kris came as a shocker. It definitely blurred the lines between what is real and what is reality TV. I couldn’t tell if Kris was being sincere or just wanted to do it for superficial reasons. The ending selfie is so in-line with Kardashian etiquette that I had to laugh. Either way, I really hope that Kris and Cait can maintain a family relationship.
Ennis: I really LOVE the idea of having a name celebration! I don't see why it has to have a religious aspect, but that's her choice. The show, again, didn't reference the trans masculine experience. Is that something you or other trans men have done?
Zosherafatain: A name celebration is actually something I’ve never heard of before! I feel like the name change is the part of our transition that we want to get done ASAP then forget about. I like Cait’s take on seeing the name change as a milestone worth celebrating. In a way, it is a moment of rebirth, where we become the person we were meant to be when we were born. It’s a refreshing take on a step that is commonly seen as bureaucratic and overwhelming.
Ennis: I was so pleased to see Deedie and Jenny Boylan return. And Drian spoke to what I know as a Catholic, that our faith doesn't recognize our transitions.
Zosherafatain: I think religion is something that trans people often have to struggle with. I have always been more of a spiritual rather than a religious person, but I could understand that a trans person may feel stigmatized in church, a temple, mosque, etc. I could agree more when all the women concluded that “God made us this way” Trans people are not the freaks of creation, we were born this way and we will always be around.
Ennis: I've been a big fan of Allyson Robinson's for years, and she brought the show full-circle in answering those questions from the Bible that are often thrown at us.
Zosherafatain: From what I’ve read from different religious texts, it seems like there aren’t any passages that actually forbid a trans person from becoming their true gender. I think religion is often manipulated and texts are misconstrued to argue against LGBT equality. The best weapon we have against bigots is knowledge just like Allyson showed with her answers.
Ennis: I enjoyed Boy George and Culture Club when I was in college so it was wonderful to see him interacting with Cait, Candis and the Gay Men's Chorus and for him to talk about how he's cleaned up his life.
That was fun, but I wasn't sure what the point of showing her redecorating her home, although once again, we are reminded Cait is loaded. As if we forgot.
Zosherafatain: Yeah, I was confused about the redecorating too. Though Cait made a point that her space looks more “feminine” so maybe she tried to relate that to her transition. I can’t think of any other trans people who redecorated to feel like their gender.
Ennis: LOL, I guess none that have their own show on E!. So was it just me or am I thinking the all-white outfits theme at the naming ceremony was like something from The Hunger Games or Logan's Run... just... I dunno.
Zosherafatain: That link to Hunger Games is interesting and worth exploring. I think maybe it’s one of Cait’s favorite colors or maybe Cait wanted it to be like one of the “white parties” that are often held in celebrity circles.
Ennis: LOVED Candis's singing, Jenny's poem -- which I guess you know was supposed to be a lyric from the Grateful Dead -- and Chandi's funny interpretation of Cait's name. The flashbacks were good, and I'm glad the producers gave us a look back at where we've been.
Zosherafatain: The renaming celebration was powerful in so many ways. First, we have the flashbacks that remind us of how all of these amazing trans women met. Cait’s transformation from the first episode until now is definitely noticeable and I’m hopeful that it changed some conservative minds. I think I Am Cait blended reality TV with a documentary style so it didn’t always feel superficial. We got to know Cait on a personal level. It was refreshing to see many trans women of color on the show and to hear their stories alongside Cait’s.
Ennis: The ending with Cait speaking from her heart to the camera without any makeup, as at the beginning, was powerful. This is her authentic self, uncovered, shamelessly naked for all the world to see. Now, I just hope there is a season two!
Zosherafatain: I agree! I want to see how Cait’s personal growth continues and how her family’s attitudes evolve. I wonder what will happen between her and Kris?
Ennis: Good question, and based on public comments she's made, I don't think we can say for sure. Thank you, Tony! I also want to thank all the awesome trans men who took time from their busy lives to join me on The Advocate's sofa these past eight weeks, including Scott Turner Schofield, Tiq Milan, Ethan St. Pierre, Aidan Key, Gunner Scott and Tony Zosherafatain, who contributed commentary twice, including this week. It's been fun, dudes!
Watch the clip in which Kris Jenner confronts Cait, from E!'s I Am Cait finale, below. Watch the full episode here.
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