“It’s like 4:32 in the morning and I can’t sleep,” Caitlyn says as she begins to talk about what she hopes this show will do – bring attention to transgender issues. “I feel bad all these young people are going through such a difficult time … Am I going to say the right things, project the right images. My mind is spinning with thoughts. I hope I get it right.”
Just like that, I Am Cait and the transgender merchandising machine kicks into gear with another Bunim/Murray reality show, the same producers of Keeping Up with the Kardashians; however, the sneak peak trailers for this eight part docu-series gave us the impression that this show was going to be different. An opportunity for Jenner to break up with the Kardashians and carve her way into the hearts of mainstream America while giving the viewer and insight as to what it means to be transgender.
To say that a lot is riding on I Am Cait for the trans community is an understatement.
The question on everyone’s mind is whether or not there will be Kardashians. Yes there will be Kardashians, but their appearance is brief and sadly, there is a noticeable absence of Cassandra, Burt, Brandon and Brody Jenner, Caitlyn’s children from her first two marriages, all who refused to participate in the series, possibly for fear of a Kardashian-like media circus.
The first person in Caitlyn’s life that we are introduced to is her 89 year old mother Esther Jenner. Esther seems to be the anchor of the miniseries pilot; she is beautiful, focused and fragile and her eyes water as she sees Cait for the first time since her full surgical transition. People who are transgender have seen that look in all of our mothers’ faces and as the tears slowly drip down my own cheeks, I’m reminded of the last time I saw my own mother, more than a year ago when I came out.
“It’s going to take some getting used to,” Esther says repeatedly and like Caitlyn’s therapist, who only makes a brief appearance, uses incorrect pronouns throughout her visit.
It’s heartwarming to see that the show is centered on family and the bond between mother and daughter is real; Esther already knew that Caitlyn had transitioned, but nothing could prepare Esther for such a drastic transition. It appeared as though she had no idea to what level or what a transition from male-to-female even meant as Esther’s unscripted emotions brought home a true sense that this was as real as reality TV could get.
It’s been almost two years since Caitlyn and Kris have divorced and Cait wonders openly why she hasn’t heard from any of the Kardashian Girls. Quick edit and Ding Dong the doorbell rings, its Kim and Kanye and they are here for a short visit and we as viewers begin to wonder if the Kardashian train wreck has just crashed through the front of the home spilling its precious cargo of high priced drama all over the beautiful hardwood floors. Fortunately, the visit is short. At any given time, we all anticipate Kanye running up to grab the camera and telling us that Beyonce should have this show instead of Jenner, but instead he looks visibly uncomfortable and Kim heads straight for the closet to go through Caitlyn’s clothes.
Kim then gets to do what we all want to do: spend some time in Caitlyn’s closet full of designer dresses. Kim pulls out one of Cait’s outfits, a Tom Ford dress that Kris Jenner, Caitlyn’s’ ex-wife, also owns. The moment poses an awkward scene, begging them both to ask the question: who will wear it better, Caitlyn or Kris? They hatch a plan to have them both each wear the dress in public to see who in fact the paparazzi would choose. This is the only segment of the show that seems campy or cheap.
As quickly as they arrived, Kim and Kanye make a quick exit. Although we expected the appearances of various Kardashians, the overall sense of the episode made it clear that this was Caitlyn’s time to shine and tell a story that needs to be heard without the distraction The Kardashian girls coming to terms with one of their parent’s transition.
“I don’t think I have ever been as excited about life as I am right now,I just hope I get it right, I hope I get it right” Caitlyn Jenner says – a theme that has been part of Jenner’s’ mission since her interview with Dianne Sawyer and Vanity Fair cover shoot and article. At the 2015 ESPY Awards, Caitlyn emphasized that her message and goal is simple, to help the Trans kids, the ones who cannot defend themselves against the “difficult times.”
During the 2015 ESPY Awards, Caitlyn Jenner said in a heartfelt manner, “All across this country…there are young people coming to terms with being transgender. They’re learning that they are different…they’re getting bullied, they’re getting beaten up, they’re getting murdered and they’re committing suicide.”
“What I want to do is create an understanding so that the next person doesn’t have to be like me,” says Jenner, “or have to talk about suicide as a permanent solution for a temporary problem. I know how these kids can feel. I’ve had some very dark moments in my life. I have been in my house with a gun and said, ‘let’s just end it right here…’ ”
This sentiment of helping the trans community was echoed throughout I am Cait and we can’t help but believe that she and the exposure this show gives to the general public will increase the visibility of the trans community in a positive way, eventually paving the way for that trans child – or adult – to live an authentic life without fear.
Overall reaction to the docu-series debut from the Trans community has been positive; Kelsie Brynn Jones, trans writer, activist and lead guitarist for the heavy metal band Broken Cherry told PlanetTransgender, “Caitlyn’s privilege compared with those of us who have come out to date, is simply undeniable. The fact that she acknowledges this and has embraced the fact that she is in a unique position due to her own fame and that of her family, is encouraging. Her speech at the Espy’s recently, where she chose to addresses this publicly, and subsequently use her privilege as a platform from which to try and both educate and advocate, is thoroughly admirable.”
Ciatlyn is well aware of her privilege and has openly spoke about the struggles in our community to find affordable health care access for necessary surgeries and hormone treatments. When most people who are trans earn less than $10,000 per year, a full medical transition can cost in excess of $100,000, a price that is out of reach for most trans folk.
FTM Trans activist Michael Hughes commented to the Planet, “There’s a lot of buzz, a lot of which is negative about her show. From what I’ve heard her say, Cait seems to be taking this responsibility seriously, and seems to want to be a good representative for the trans community. It bothers me to hear other trans people question her motives, because society in general questions our motives at every turn. I believe we need to support her in this endeavor, and if it turns out that the show is a debacle then that’s a different story.”
The Twittersphere exploded with support which continued on throughout the night. Entertainment Weekly featured a bonus clip this morning.
— EntertainmentTonight (@etnow) July 27, 2015
And Margaret Cho Tweeted
— Margaret Cho (@margaretcho) July 27, 2015
Rebecca Juro, host of the Rebecca Juro Show and freelance columnist for the South Florida Gay News and Windy City Times exclaimed to Planet Transgender, “Caitlyn Jenner has been thrust into a position of notoriety as a trans person by virtue of her celebrity status prior to transitioning. It’s something American culture has never encountered before, basically the first trans celebrity “outing”. if you will. The social, political, and cultural stakes are high here for the trrans community, and I hope Caitlyn’s up the task.”
Juro is correct, the stakes are high for Caitlyn and our community as a whole and the sudden thrust of popularity while a community waits with bated breathe to see if moves the needle of acceptance for people who are transgender. Michael Hughes summed it up best, “Let’s give Cait a chance, and get behind her. We need exposure, and I truly believe it will be good exposure given what I’ve heard from her.”
Caitlyn shared a great moment with her sister Pam as the two of them box up Caitlyn’s now-discarded remaining male clothes, followed by a game of tennis. These sweet effortless moments made it seem as though they have always been sisters, and reminds us that they have always been the siblings they still are. “One question: What the hell was Bruce thinking?” Caitlyn asked about her old clothes as the women sort through them. They share a laugh, and this is where see Cait at her most comfortable: talking with her sister and sharing her emotions.
There was a lot going on in the first episode that kept it moving. We saw Caitlyn bond with her mother and sisters, Kim and Kourtney were fashion focused, and there was an outpouring of love for the family of Kyler Prescott. This overwhelming sense of family, friends and acceptance was displayed in a way that makes episode 2 worth a watch and if the previews are any indication of what’s to come, then yes, we will see more Kardashians, but it also appears that Caitlyn is listening to those who came before her and pushing their messages forward.