In case you somehow missed all the buzz over the past few months, Caitlyn Jenner has been making headlines for the success of her Vanity Fair cover and overall positive lifestyle change. But what makes this one special? Once known as Bruce Jenner, Caitlyn announced earlier this year that she would be transitioning to live her life as a woman, and the Vanity Fair cover in question served as her introduction of her new self.
As the first instance of such a public gender transition, response to Caitlyn’s big reveal has been overall quite positive. Already in the public eye before her transformation, Caitlyn was not only known as a man by many, but as a real man’s man – an iconic figure of masculinity for her success as an Olympian. Making the transition in such a public way when being known primarily for masculinity couldn’t have been easy, but Caitlyn’s success is a great leap forward for the cause of transgendered people around the world. Not only is she being readily accepted as a woman, she has brought a once somewhat taboo subject into the lime light.
Transgender: The Basics
An umbrella term, transgender refers to any person who does not identify with the gender assigned to them at birth. To understand what it means to be transgender, first we need to dispel a few myths:
Myth #1: Transgender people have mental health issues
One of the most common myths or misunderstandings about transgender people is that they suffer from mental health issues. While anyone could suffer from mental health issues, being transgender is not a mental disorder itself. Suicide rates, depression, and anxiety certainly occur at higher rates among this group but this due to alienation, segregation, assault, and societal unacceptance, but not because of general mental instability.
Myth #2: Transgender people are just gay and can’t accept it
While it is true that some transgender people are gay or lesbian, this has nothing to do with their identification as a different gender than they were assigned at birth. Gender identity and sexual preference have little to nothing to do with each other and transgender people can be gay, straight, bi, and lesbian just as all people can.
Myth #3: Taking on a new name and pronoun is just an affectation and doesn’t really matter
As hard as it may be for others to adapt to calling a friend or family member by a new name, it is an important aspect of demonstrating acceptance for their journey. Referring to a transgender person by their former name or pronoun is not just considered rude, but a form of hate speech that invalidates their experiences and transition.
In order to transition from male to female, there were several steps to Caitlyn’s journey. First, she likely had to undergo some form of hormone therapy to soften her voice and redistribute natural body fat into a more feminine pattern. Next, she would have undergone gender reassignment surgery (something she has hinted during episodes of Keeping Up With The Kardashians has been scheduled, but is not complete). Finally, cosmetic procedures are used to feminize the facial features, provide a natural bust line, and smooth the skin.
Caitlyn has mentioned that she has had a large support network of medical professionals, mental health professionals, friends, and family to help her along the way as she adjusts to her new body and new mindset, just as all MTF or FTM patients should maintain. If you’re looking to transition and you don’t know where to start, contact our office today!