Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce Jenner, athlete extraordinaire and stepdad to the famous Kardashians, has traveled a rocky road since coming out this past June as transgender. Caitlyn preempted her fabulous feminine debut with an interview with Diane Sawyer, where she explained a lifetime of struggle as a man who identified more as a woman.
For her bravery in publicizing such a personal decision and transformation, Caitlyn Jenner won the Arthur Ashe Courage Award in July at the ESPY Awards. Watch Caitlyn Jenner’s emotional acceptance speech below.
According to the Washington Post, not everyone believed Jenner to be deserving of such a distinguished award. Many see it as a PR stunt or, in the words of sportscaster Bob Costas, “tabloid play.”
“I wish Caitlyn all the happiness in the world and all the peace of mind in the world. However, it strikes me that awarding the Arthur Ashe Award to Caitlyn Jenner is just a crass exploitation play — it’s a tabloid play.”
The negative backlash for Caitlyn Jenner’s receiving the Arthur Ashe was nothing compared with her more recent naming of Glamour magazine’s “Woman of the Year.” One widower was so incensed that Caitlyn Jenner received the same honor as his wife that he actually returned the award, CNN reports. Bravery comes in all shapes and sizes, in physical, emotional, or mental strengths. But to be fair, New York Police Officer Moira Smith was named “Woman of the Year” for putting her life at risk and paying the ultimate price in rescuing several people from the blaze of the World Trade Centers on that fateful day in September of 2001. Smith returned again and again to the blazing ruins to bring others to safety. So perhaps one can understand why James Smith does not feel that Caitlyn Jenner’s struggles are equal to those of Moira.
— Women in the World (@WomenintheWorld) November 25, 2015
One woman has come forward to take up the gauntlet, so to speak, and let her voice be heard in defense of Caitlyn Jenner. Jill Soloway is the creator of Transparent, an autobiographical tale of her father coming out as transgender at the age of 75. According to the Huffington Post, Soloway believes that Caitlyn Jenner is attacked because her femininity is not perfect. In comparison, Laverne Cox does not receive the same treatment because her femininity is more appealing.
“There’s this question of femininity for its own sake, or femininity as performed for cis[gender] men or for straight men. So Laverne Cox gets a pass, because she kind of looks like Barbie. She’s like fabulous black Barbie. So everybody can applaud because she’s quote-unquote got it right. And when you realize that people can applaud Laverne Cox because for the most part she’s really, really performing a version of femininity that is pleasing the cis male gaze, you realize how many other kinds of trans women there are out there. And that they’re getting criticized for not perfectly performing femininity for the straight male gaze.
“And late-transitioning trans women, people like Caitlyn, people like my moppa [Soloway’s transgender father], they’ve been exposed to testosterone their entire life.”
— huffpostgay (@huffpostgay) November 23, 2015
While there are certainly Caitlyn Jenner supporters out there, Jill seems to speak the loudest, and possibly from the most experience. It is a brave feat to take on the majority of society on behalf of oneself, but indeed a great gift to stand in defense of another.
Do you think Caitlyn Jenner is deserving of these awards? Share your thoughts here.
[Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images]