Transgender, by definition, is when a trans person identifies with the opposite gender that fits into the gender binary than they were assigned at birth. It can also qualify as an umbrella term for nonbinary and genderqueer folk. White privilege, by definition, consists of societal, governmental, economic, and political privileges that benefit white people beyond what is commonly experienced by people of color. Caitlyn Jenner is a societal sensation, dominating the media with the controversy of her transition.
There’s no doubt it’s controversial in an unfortunately transphobic society we live in currently. However, we live in a “gender revolution,” where nonbinary and transgender activists and icons are coming out and into society. However, Jenner does not fit into the appropriate terms of an icon.
She brings light to transgender issues, which is vital information coming from a trans woman. But why do people listen? Other trans women have spoken about the same issues. Laverne Cox, Carmen Carrera, and a plethora more. Why aren’t they being heard, as opposed to Caitlyn? We’ve known Caitlyn Jenner for quite some time now. She’s white, rich, and conservative. The whole American Dream of the twenty-first century rolled up into one person. But we should take a step back and reassess what was listed. Caitlyn is white. She benefits from white privilege and, therefore, is listened to more often by other people and society.
White people tend to silence people of color when they speak on the same topic. Whether it be race, gender issues, or feminism, white people are usually the ones being heard. Because of Jenner’s white privilege, she has a societal advantage and, therefore, has an economic advantage. Yes, she was rich before she transitioned, and that’s exactly the issue. The fact that she had money before, during, and after her transition is a huge indicator of her privileges.
The majority of trans people don’t have the funds to invest in the surgeries, medicines, vocal therapies, et cetera. Caitlyn has the money for all of those things, therefore making her a bad representation of what trans people are. She has addressed this issue, yes, but the fact that people praise her anyway truly shows that she will be hailed as an icon because of her white privilege.
We knew Caitlyn pre and post-transition, but we never saw her struggle to firmly take hold of what her gender identity is. Not that we would want to see someone struggle, per se, but she has a certain lack of relation and former struggle during her transition that trans people can look up to. Surely, coming out was difficult, but her transition looked as if it were a breeze.
Coming out post-transition with such an elegant demeanor is not a common occurrence for most trans folk. A boost of confidence and self-assurance, yes, but what she had after she transitioned is not what most have as well. Riches and an activism following is far and few in between. Trans icons to look up to would be Laverne Cox, Marsha P. Johnson, Janet Mock, and Kylar Broadus. Their voices in society are muffled by white privilege within their own community, and deserve to be heard.