An incredibly moving and emotional discovery into Caitlyn Jenner's transition.
From the Diane Sawyer 20/20 interview in March and the Vanity Fair photoshoot, to the recent Arthur Ashe Courage Award acceptance speech at the ESPY awards, the one name on everyone’s lips has been Caitlyn Jenner. On Sunday 2nd August, E! debuted their new reality docu-series focusing on Caitlyn’s transition, with the aim to educate viewers on the transgender community. From the out-set, one is quiet apprehensive about the series, as it’s hard to focus on the idea of Caitlyn as a ‘normal’ transgender women, when she was part of the most controversial family in America, a family that built its brand on sex scandals and a ‘tell-all’ reality television show. Many have shammed Caitlyn’s transition and believed that it could be considered a new cash-in product for the ‘famous for being famous’ family.
However from the go, this idea is completely banished from viewers thoughts. The show begins with Caitlyn waking up in her Mailbu home at 4:32am. She has been unable to sleep because she is upset and anxious about the violence that plagues transgender people, especially those in their teenage years, and is worried that her new show will go one of two ways, either helping them or hurting them. Caitlyn speaks into the camera saying ‘Am I going to project the right image? I just hope I get it right’.
And she does. Seeing Caitlyn interact with her mother Esther and her sisters, Pam and Lisa as her true authentic self for the first time is quite moving. Obviously, the family was shocked by the discovery that Bruce was not the person who Bruce wanted to be anymore. But her sisters accept this change almost immediately (after an initial struggle with the use of right pronoun) and joke that Caitlyn is more beautiful than them.
The moment shared between Caitlyn and Esther is especially touching. As a mother, Esther explains that she was always proud of Bruce and loved him very much. She goes on to say that when he won his Olympic gold medal she was the proudest mother in the world and that she will miss him dearly, but that she also loves Caitlyn equally, as they are family no matter what her pronoun is.
This touching moment is extremely poignant as it shows that support is key no matter what and that no matter who someone is, they are beautiful. This sentiment is followed up by Caitlyn’s emotional visit to a family of a transgender daughter who committed suicide at the age of fourteen, due to lack of acceptance at school. I Am Cait is not trying to lecture or force the viewer into acceptance, but to educate and display how important that acceptance can be.
The only annoying part of the show is the insistent return to interviews which, don’t get me wrong, are incredibly articulate and educational, with Caitlyn explaining her transition and journey, but are distracting due to the camera’s obsession with her hands, jewellery and make-up. It’s a reminder that what makes Caitlyn extraordinary is not the fact that she in a transgender person going on an epic journey, but that she is a celebrity and lives a lavish lifestyle, one that most people will never experience.
Caitlyn knows that she is an unlikely and almost unreliable spokesperson for this community that has seen the likes of Orange Is The New Black’s Laverne Cox lead the way for several years. Caitlyn just wants there to be equality in the world and for people like her own mother, who are unsure of what transgender means, to not ridicule it because they do not understand it, but educate themselves on it and learn from the trials that the Jenner and Kardashian family will surely face.
I Am Cait airs on the E! network on Sundays at 9pm.