Years from now, when people discuss the history of transgender rights, last week’s Vanity Fair cover, in which a corseted, bustiered Bruce Jenner came out as a woman named ‘Caitlyn’, will be remembered as a watershed moment. What may be lost in the telling, however, is the complex public response to it.
Orange is the New Black star and trans activist Laverne Cox was one of the first to applaud Jenner’s courage. “It feels like a new day, indeed, when a trans person can present her authentic self to the world for the first time and be celebrated for it so universally,” she wrote on Tumblr.
Katie McDonough in Salon, too, saw in the move hope for the entire community. “I have no doubt that someone waiting in line at the supermarket is going to lock eyes with Jenner on that cover and see possibility. They’ll read her words and feel less afraid,” she wrote.
But Cathleen Parker, writing in the Washington Post, felt that Jenner’s coming-out was as much a publicity stunt as an act of freeing herself. She said that Jenner, as a “media-personality-for-hire”, “seems to need the applause of an audience as much as she needs the transformation itself.”