“I just hope I get it right,” she says.
It’s no makeup o’clock, but she doesn’t mind. She has a story to tell, a message to share and the voice of an unjustly marginalized community to broadcast. It’s 4:32 in the morning, and she can’t help but lament the tragic, preventable transgender deaths before her time, before her voice, her message and her story.
Dear world, meet Cait.
Sunday’s premiere of E!s newest docu-series “I Am Cait” was nothing short of a societal breath of fresh air. Clichés were banished (writers everywhere rejoice!), my sobs were audible and, hopefully, hearts and minds were opened. For the first time onscreen — off the pages of Vanity Fair and off the record — we met Caitlyn Jenner, or her self-dubbed epithet, “the new normal”.
For ten seasons on E!, viewers literally kept up with the partly vapid, yet equally fascinating lives of the Kardashians. Sex tapes were leaked, earrings were lost in the ocean, Rob dated an ex-Cheetah Girl, Scott Disick became The Lord and marriages were annulled after less than three months. Yet at its core, throughout life’s peaks and troughs, family came first for the clan; a family complete with Bruce Jenner, father figure for the children of Kris Jenner and the late Robert Kardashian, and the biological father of his daughters with Kris, Kendall and Kylie Jenner.
Anytime catfights persisted longer than their usual five minutes, or Kendall and Kylie almost succumbed to high school curriculums, or Kris lost her shit, Bruce always added a sense of normalcy to each episode; he’d bring them back down to earth as they descended from their Balmain-clad heights.
But despite his refreshing pragmatism in a household of all things nonsensical, Bruce deceived them all. He spent what’s recognized as the better part of one’s life with an internal pull, a wavering sense of self — a wrongly ascribed gender identity. After 65 years, a gold medal, three marriages and six children, Bruce bid adieu to his falsified lifestyle, and Caitlyn earnestly, determinedly emerged as the woman she always knew she was.
Like most significant social advancements as they come into fruition, the fight for transgender equality is marked by a horrifying excess of devastating casualties, with few, albeit triumphant, heroes. In the event of overwhelmingly insufferable realities, most of us are mere spectators, too afraid to invalidate an unaccepting society on our own. However, valorous leaders invariably emerge. Cait’s taking a step in the right direction, emphasizing a takeaway for all — being one’s true self in their one life.
Although Caitlyn is finally victorious after a lifetime of internal battles, much of the transgender population doesn’t have the financial means to undergo the bodily reconstruction necessary to signal their transformation in an appearance-obsessed society. For that, they’re misunderstood, mocked and in the most extreme cases, murdered. Cait is painfully aware of this. In the premiere’s opening, intimate moments, she states “we don’t want people dying over this, we don’t want people murdered over this stuff, God, what a responsibility I have”, recognizing her celebrity as crucial to halting unwarranted hate.
For the remaining 40 minutes, we’re privy to Cait’s habitual woes — ducking in the backseat to avoid the invasive paparazzi, the mourning of countless transgender youths, along with the nerves accompanying her introductions to family and friends who knew her as Bruce. But the most moving initial encounter is that with her mother, Esther. Aside from the obvious reasons, it’s touching, yet relatable to all — it is clear that no matter how old we may be, we’re still intrinsically children; mom’s approval matters.
‘I Am Cait’ strays from the dramatics so often inextricable from reality TV. As it’s majorly raw, untethered Cait and her sincere exchanges and blithe smiles, the scripted aspect is seldom recognizable.
In its poignant, yet practical approach to championing the rights of transgender individuals, ‘Cait’ excels. The realistic, nurturing approach once reserved to resolving trivial matters within the Kardashian household was so essential to Bruce Jenner’s stoic, yet playful presence on the series. With Cait, her zeal for life is amplified, pairing that inherent levelheadedness with resolute self-acceptance.