In the Spotlight: Why Caitlyn Jenner Is Doing More Harm Than Good


Shortly after coming out, Jenner posed for a "Vanity Fair" special edition called "Call Me Caitlyn".

Since Caitlyn Jenner came out to the world as a transgender woman in April 2015, she has undeniably been one of the most widely heard trans people in history. She had the potential to change how the world views trans people and to finally bring them into the visibility of the general public, but the opposite has happened. Trans people are still shamed, gawked at, ignored and belittled by the media, despite Jenner’s very public transition and many statements to the media.

Why is this happening? First of all, Jenner is unwilling to accept that she is in the position of being a leader and a voice for the trans community. She has stated multiple times that she is not a spokesperson for the community, yet she remains the most famous trans person in the media’s spotlight, meaning that she is the only trans individual that many people know anything about. This creates an incorrect default thought that all transgender people are like Jennerappearing to be a very feminine woman.

This brings our attention to another issue. Jenner has stated in multiple interviews with well-known magazines like “Time,” that she feels how well a trans person passes, whether they are perceived as the gender they identify as, is very important because it will make it easier for the people around them. “If you look like a man in a dress, it makes people uncomfortable,” Jenner said in her interview with “Time.”

That particular comment has created a lot of tension within the trans community. The problem is that Jenner has access to resources that the vast majority of transgender individuals do not: hundreds of thousands of dollars for the clothes, makeup and surgeries that allow her to present the way she wants to. For most trans people, the reality is that all those things simply cost too much, and they can’t express themselves in a way that will “make people more comfortable.”

Additionally, many trans people face much more pressing issues. A report by the Movement Advancement Project and Center for American Progress states that trans people are four times as likely as the average person to live in extreme poverty. The murder of trans people is at a historic high; it’s estimated by the HRC that one in 12 trans people will be killed in hate crimes. According to “Injustice at Every Turn,” a report by the National Center for Transgender Equality, ninety-percent of trans people are harassed at work. According to a study from the Williams Institute at UCLA, 46 percent of trans men and 42 percent of trans women attempt suicide, while only 4.6 percent of the general population reports a suicide attempt.

There is more to worry about than looking pretty.

It can certainly be argued that Jenner is good because she shines a much-needed light on the existence of trans people, who are otherwise almost completely ignored by the media, but she makes no effort to use her fame to the advantage of the community she claims to care so much about. While she could be donating her money to homeless shelters for trans youth, giving speeches directed at the trans women of color who walk the streets in constant fear of being sexually harassed and killed or speaking to the media about the generally ignored, yet very serious issues faced by trans people, she does not. Instead she uses her resources to keep herself in the spotlight, while the rest of the trans community continues to suffer in silence.