Caitlyn Jenners reality prove, like its subject, was far away from perfect. But it changed perceptions of trans people forever and advanced our struggle for equal rights
Caitlyn Jenners reality TV show I Am Cait made the chopping block earlier this week. There will be no third season. Social statements about their programming aside, the bottom line for E! must have been that hardly anybody was watching it. After opening with 2.7 million viewers, it dipped as low as 480,000 before the network decided to pull the plug.
As I am trans and very visible, I have countless one-on-one conversations about being transgender, often with strangers. Nobody has ever asked me my take over scenes from I Am Cait, but hundreds have asked: What do “youre thinking about” Caitlyn Jenner?
I think we should thank her. Ms Jenners vast media exposure has pressed a dialogue about gender upon the American public, meaning that millions can no longer claim total ignorance of the issues that affect transgender people. This is a huge benefit for the trans rights cause, even if her tale is not representative of most trans peoples lived experience.
The Jenner effect has given the world an exemplar of a trans individual herself. Tabloid speculation, her Diane Sawyer interview, and most recently the reality prove all cultivated a national curiosity in gender identity. Following her pinup-esque Vanity Fair cover, networks across the country reached out for local trans commentators. I discovered myself visiting Melissa Harris-Perry and Good Day New York to discuss Jenner through my own story.
It was an important opportunity to speak up while the world listened, but in doing so I detected a new talent for speaking, writing and outreach that was marketable. I owe my own advocacy career in no small proportion to Jenner.
A backlash accelerated too. Earlier this year, South Dakota governor Dennis Daugaard prepared to sign a law limiting bathroom use by assigned sexuality. He claimed he had never met a transgender person, and only backed down after that was proven to be a lie. Acting against trans people is getting harder to get away with now at least without huge political cost.
North Carolina surpassed South Dakotas attempt, passing its discriminatory law in a March special session. Companies, major artists and even sports tournaments are pulling their assets from the state, and the federal government has filed suit to challenge the law. Trans people suddenly matter and not just all those people who look like Jenner.