What does being a member of the Kardashian Krew get a woman who didn’t start out that way? The answer: amazing notoriety: magazine covers and glamorous photographic spreads as well as in-depth, personal interviews with celebrity television personalities, coveted awards, and perhaps even the chance to dissolve and forget guilt after rear-ending a car across the median, resulting in the loss of life. Such is the experience of the former Bruce Jenner who was born a man, won gold at the 1976 Olympics, married a Kardashian the third time around, fathered two daughters with her, and then decided that living out his life as a female offered a much more desirable future, one he was always meant to have.
Caitlynn, the new name of the woman who left masculinity in the rear-view mirror, is everywhere these days. We see her, gorgeously gowned, with a well-turned ankle, diamonds sparkling on her ears, going to dinner with friends and accepting sports awards for courage to a crescendo of applause, as she pleads for empathy for all, particularly those caught in the gap between genders, who only want to be what they have been denied by birth. There is no reason to despair, she demonstrates. Given enough money, an A plus roster of contacts, and an excellent surgeon, as well as statuesque, fame-seeking family members with a yen for racial otherness, there is no end to the publicity that a recently molded woman with a come-hither shoulder-length haircut might achieve. She, formerly he, could conquer the eyes and hearts of an American public ever primed for the next A-list sensation.
It has long been thought that the between-genders group and the marginalized, the relegated, have much in common, and perhaps they do. They have known intense and long-term discrimination, even persecution, because of their differences. Some, and not just a few, have even been killed. Being born into the ranks of the relegated, though, is not a circumstance for surgical correction. And even if it were true that a knife could cut away everything wrong with the world for the less-than-citizen, seeing religion, complexion, or heritage as a lapse of nature is not a viable option for people whose difference is both less than and more than biology. Like everyone else, the relegated have their share of good, bad, and ugly; but some, thanks to chance and character, have steeled and willed themselves into exemplar status, rebutting the mantle of assumed inferiority that expectation throws on them. Standing outside the glow of privilege and yet fostering a strong sense of self and creative verve takes a person of soft coal into diamond resilience; but how much glow do they get? They have miles to go before reaching Caitlynn’s zip code. Money makes the world spin, and in shifting times gender is a glamorous accessory.
Since the epitome of fame is where we find the multitude of the moneyed and excessively favored who can do what they want often with impunity, we, as a society, emulate and are enthralled by the cachet and bling of the new and shining and risque. We follow that glint wherever it leads. And Caitlynn, which might have been spelled with the telltale “K” – is the newest, fabulous version of daring and glamorized appeal, close to the top, but a notch below too much. Surrounded by an ocean of attention, Caitlynn has rinsed off the traces of otherness. Garbed in pure and flowing white, Caitlynn put in a plea for a gentler nation at the Arthur Ashe Courage Awards, where she was feted recently. If her request for a kinder attitude toward the other can shine more light on the importance of upping the dividend of difference for all, her words might exert a positive change on the social landscape. Or, what is also likely, once the appetite for the newest iteration of the tantalizing is appeased, the public may turn to the next unfortunate caught in the wrong place at the wrong time headed the wrong way in traffic. And the onlookers will be happy that on this particular stretch of the road they were not the ones damaged. Who gets punished and who goes scot free is shaped by the bottom line of who has the glow. For now, Caitlynn, a paragon of constructed womanhood, is glowing brilliantly in the spotlight.