I Am Cait panel review

27 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

I Am Cait Treats Everyone With Dignity, Including You.

Kanye West has emerged as the unexpected star of I Am Cait, the documentary series following Caitlyn Jenner in the aftermath of her transition to living as a woman. “You couldn’t have been up against more, your daughter is a supermodel, you’re a celebrity.Caitlyn Jenner, Olympic athlete turned world-class glamour girl, took the planet by storm in April when she sat down for an interview with Diane Sawyer and announced her ongoing transition from male to female. If you’ve been following the story on magazine covers and angry dudes’ Twitter feeds and so forth, nothing that happens in the first episode was much of a surprise: As promised, Caitlyn meets her daughter Kylie for the first time, and reveals herself to her mother.

And it was still like, ‘F*** everybody, this is who I am.’” For her part, Caitlyn explained how much she appreciates his support, saying: “Kanye and I have never really been very close, but I love his open-mindedness, and I love how he’s helped Kim come to grips with what’s going on.” Kanye also provides a moment of levity when he attempts to explain his “sock shoes” to Caitlyn’s sister Pam (“So tell me about your untied shoelaces”), mumbling an explanation: “The laces are sort of after the fact.” What is refreshing is that the network behind such progressive entertainment as What Would Ryan Lochte Do? could offer us a dignified, uplifting look at a real transgender person’s day-to-day existence.

On Keeping Up With the Kardashians, which this show mercifully does not resemble at all, Bruce Jenner was presented as a bumbling dad and an easy punchline. Philosopher Martin Buber said, “All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware,” and it’s clear from the very first moments of “I Am Cait,” when we see Jenner lying awake strafed by insomnia at 4:32 a.m., that she’s not sure where this whole thing is headed. Progressives are more likely to see gender as being fluid, and while the facts of genetics are inarguable, a person has a right — and a destiny, perhaps even a divine calling — to live a life in which one’s gender expression feels authentic to him or her. Sounds civil enough, but the debate around whether being transgender is part of God’s plan or a willful deviation from it can get ugly — particularly in social media, with either side posting, “But the Bible says …” and, most likely, deteriorating from there into the online equivalent of “well, bless your heart” rictus grins. I suppose we could turn God-splaining into a sporting event, where we just shout Scripture at each other until someone collapses from frustration and exhaustion.

Jes Kast-Keat of West End Collegiate Church in New York. “She bears witness to life abundantly, the abundant kind of life that Jesus preached about.” Former stepdaughter Kim Kardashian, while standing in Jenner’s closet helping her vet her wardrobe, looks at a dress Jenner holds up enthusiastically, and announces, “Mom has that one.” To which Jenner replies, “Oh God . Landon from the Los Angeles Gender Center to talk to her family about gender identity: “Acceptance is the most important thing,” Landon says. (Pronouns are also very important, she adds.) If that’s the only point the show is able to get across, it’s probably worth it. Forty-one percent of transgender individuals will make a suicide attempt in their lives; last night, Caitlyn visited the family of a transgender teenager who took his own life at 14, and talked to the mother to see what she can do to help. John Russell Stanger, executive director of Parity, an organization that helps LGBT people reconcile issues of faith and identity, said, “Caitlyn Jenner inviting us to witness her transition is a gift because she allows us to see how our Creator has been quietly at work in her life all along. There is no healing that kind of heartbreak, but showing the long odds and terrible tragedies that often befall transgender people makes this issue real for people.

During her recent ESPY speech Caitlyn lived out her Christian faith by speaking passionately about those still ignored, rejected, and even killed in our communities — trans youth. God is calling us to dedicate ourselves and resources to supporting trans youth, especially those of color, before more of their invaluable lives are taken from us.” Those who struggle in their own hearts to make sense of trans people in a spiritual context can remind themselves that the point is not to approve without question, but to understand. Sure, everyone’s still perfectly made up (and Kanye West shows up at one point), but the result is more or less subdued, and dare I say, educational, especially for viewers who are completely unaware of transgender issues, and even for those who are.

Shine on. (Lily Burana is the author of three books, including, “I Love a Man in Uniform: A Memoir of Love, War and Other Battles.” Follow her on Twitter @lilyburana.)

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