Caitlyn Jenner confronted fears in this week's episode of I Am Cait on E!, including face to face meetings with a male member of the family and a male friend and -- for the first time -- the public.
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 is joining me each week on what we're calling "The Advocate's sofa," comparing our notes as we watch, for the duration of the season.
This week I'm joined by trans man Ethan St. Pierre, a gender activist in New England who has been lobbying Congress on behalf of hate crime victims and survivors since 1991. He is no stranger to the impact of hatred and bias: he is the nephew of Debra Forte, a transgender woman murdered in Haverhill, Massachusetts in May 1995.
St. Pierre was a board member of Families United Against Hate and the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Antiviolence Project, and for a decade worked with the Remembering Our Dead Project as coordinator of The International Transgender Day of Remembrance, investigating and updating the statistics of those who are murdered as a result of anti-transgender hatred or bias. He's the creator of founder of TransFM internet broadcasting network; you can find his recorded podcasts here. And St. Pierre now cohosts the Becky Juro Show Sunday nights at 7 P.M. EDT on BlogTalk Radio.
Dawn Ennis: This week's show started with the Los Angeles Trans Pride event, and featured some "trans on the street" interviews about Cait. Unbenownst to me, my dear friend Gillian Cameron appeared, saying, "This person is a human and not a monster -- and that's what it's about."
Ethan St. Pierre: Perhaps Caitlyn is raising the bar on monsters. Maybe we should stop seeing ourselves as monsters and start thinking of ourselves as beautiful beings.
Ennis: The theme this week is clearly about how Cait sees herself. Her friend Candis Cayne confronted her, more than once, about how she kept using "they" to refer to the transgender community.
St. Pierre: My first thought was that Cait felt above our community and didn't see herself as one of us. Then I remembered my own experience when I was new, and how I didn't feel part of the community either, at least not until I applied myself, introduced myself and made friends. I think that perhaps Cait was experiencing the same disconnect. I think we could all learn by using the word "we." (Education points).
Ennis: What did you think when Scott Disick visited, and Cait said, "I'm the same person with icing on the cake?"
St. Pierre: Yes, we are always the same person that we knew ourselves to be but from the outside looking in, we appear much different. We may have grappled with being trans our whole lives but this is brand-spanking-new to those around us.
Ennis: I still cannot figure out why Cait continually refers to herself in the third person.
St. Pierre: Although I never referred to myself in the third person, I can understand that she's still getting used to herself. I had the luxury of my transition not being so public, my mirror was my own.
Ennis: Well, mine was made public, thanks to the tabloids. And when Sarah Kate Ellis and Nick Adams at GLAAD talked about the media with Cait, they made the point of how wrong it was for them to out a trans person.
St. Pierre: The news headlines have always been a thorn in my side, whether people are identified ans transgender, gay, black or whatever. The headline has always served as a purpose of sensationalism and/or exploitation.
Ennis: I smiled in recognition over that joy Cait felt in the simple act of her male acquaintance changing her name in his contacts list.
St. Pierre: I get that. When I knew I gained acceptance of my cis friends, it may seem simple but getting pronouns correct was always the big thing.
Ennis: How about Cait's remark on what she says is a surprise to her about the trans community, a reference perhaps to what Kate Borstein said last week: "They're so they're damn normal... not freaks."
St. Pierre: I cringe at the word "normal." Just saying.
Ennis: Well, a lot of people had that same reaction to the word, "freak." But it was nice to see Cait finally say "we," when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality: "We still have a long way to go," she said. But then I was sad when Sergio the model helicopter guy didn't show, and she remarked it was her first time being stood up. What surprised me was Cait deciding she would go to Sergio's hobby shop by herself. No security, no paparazzi. It was smart of Executive Producer Andrea Mertz to pre-interview Sergio, who told her he was nervous about meeting Cait. When she walked in, he looked uncomfortable. "Things haven't changed," she said, and Sergio told Cait, "What matters is your happiness." But then he admitted, it was "kind of awkward... whatever makes him happy -- or her." I cringed, knowing this is a common experience. And it's going to be harder because she's so famous, especially when she decides she is ready to date. Did you face a similar circumstance?
St. Pierre: Although I feel for Cait and I know this can be a lonely place sometimes, the dating scene was never my lonely place. I've been married for 12 years.
Ennis: Well, then she's a lucky woman! Like Cait says, "it's better to go through life with friends."
St. Pierre: Cue song: "I am a rock, I am an Island."
Ennis: Ha! That song has a special meaning for my best friend, and I doubt she's alone in that. So, this week, Candis and Chandi took Cait to New York, so she could attend Pride. And while there, they talked about that old debate, LGB versus T and how she feels that trans folks have always been at the "bottom of the totem pole." And Chandi complained how "gay boys" don't support trans people.
St. Pierre: I found it difficult to hear that (yes, I know we have always been at the bottom of the barrel) but instead of rising above that, instead of being strong for transgender people and speaking on our own behalf, why are some of us still asking gay men to speak for us or asking anyone else to speak for us?
Ennis: Exactly. But how great was it to see Cait cheered when she appeared at Candis's show at Pride. Her first public outing, which she was so scared to face, was a complete success. Kate Borstein told her, "you're opening doors for us."
St. Pierre: I agree with Kate Bornstein, Cait is opening doors for us, but I have to add that if it wasn't for people like Kate Bornstein, that door would still be attached to Cait's closet.
Ennis: True, and it's important that the pioneers' contributions are being included in this series. This episode definitely ended on a high note, with cheering crowds on Broadway, and Cait saying, "It's been an amazing journey for me and I'm seeing it all come true." But it looks like tough times ahead again next week when Jenny Boylan calls out Cait for not facing her sexuality. Thanks for joining me this time, Ethan!
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Watch the clip below in which Cait, Candis and Chandi try on clothes at Patricia Field's shop in New York City, from E!'s I Am Cait: