‘When did you know you were a girl?’
Silence fell as Caitlyn Jenner posed this question to the audience. ‘That’s what a trans person goes through 24 hours a day, 365 days a year’, she adds. ‘That’s what goes through their heads, trying to understand who they are.’
I listen to Caitlyn Jenner, one of the world’s most famous transgender women, former athlete and reality TV star whose voice is often distorted through the media, as she discusses a lifelong battle with her identity.
After 65 years of keeping Caitlyn’s voice hidden, she wants it to be heard. ‘Finally I’ve had the opportunity to tell my story’ she says. ‘We live in a very diverse world. There’s diversity everywhere we look. We have diversity in the colour of our skin, in religion, in the lgbt community. Everyone is different and we need to be understanding of that.’
What’s important to Jenner, she soon makes clear, is changing people’s mind about trans politics. But how can she do that when she supports a party which actively discriminates against LGBT rights? ‘[Trump] has been one of the worst presidents when it comes to LGBT issues and trans issues’ she says. ‘I thought he would do a better job.’
‘The ban in the military was devastating’, she goes on to admit. ‘I supported Donald Trump when he became my candidate. I like a lot of the things he has done but also dislike a lot.’
Jenner’s words are bizarre. Aside from the party’s transphobia and homophobia, Jenner fails to realise that the trans people she wants to represent aren’t just trans— what about the intersections of class and race the party also discriminates against? Concluding on Trump, Jenner says that ‘he has the final say. It’s his responsibility. He’s very disappointing.’
Asked whether she wants to get more involved in politics, Jenner is equally vague: ‘Do I do a better job lobbying or on the inside? Right now I think I can do a better job on the outside.'
Jenner has been accused of being a fraud and a fake, hiding behind her privilege as a white wealthy woman. Her life is ‘the easiest it’s ever been’, she says. ‘I can wake up in the morning and be myself.’
But life hasn’t always been this easy, she explains. After her success as an athlete, she thought ‘have I constructed a person I could never be free from? I was a dyslexic kid. I had identity issues which I couldn’t talk about, but when I found sport I latched onto it because it was my way of proving myself.
‘After I created this character I thought am I stuck with him for the rest of my life. I liked bruce he was a good person.’
But Jenner was always struggling with her identity. ‘I would sit there in church and think why me? I always asked that question’. She tells the audience that she even considered suicide, but didn’t want to ‘silence her voice.’
Her transition also had a detrimental effect on her family life. After the publication of her memoir The Secrets of My Life, she explains how communication broke down between herself and the Kardashians. ‘They don’t want me in their lives’, she told the audience.
Be yourself, is the important thought Jenner leaves us with. ‘Be who you are. It took me 65 years.'
I leave the Union not entirely sure what to make of Jenner’s words, but with the impression that although her heart seems to be in the right place, perhaps her privilege and ignorance are an obstacle in her fight for the LGBT community she claims to be so passionate about.