It didn’t take long for Bruce Jenner to come out publicly with gender transformation complete. Renowned portrait photographer Annie Leibovitz photographed the public debut of Caitlyn Jenner, which is on the most recent cover of Vanity Fair magazine.
There is also an accompanying article and a brief video about the shoot and the transformation here.
Of course, this will bother a lot of people.
First, there are the religious and social conservatives who already are up in arms about Caitlyn's admission that she has, for her entire adult life, felt she was actually a woman. They howl that her change is an abomination of religious and natural law. Where are the lines? What’s the limit? What’s next? Clowns making babies with otters? And so forth.
Then there are those who will struggle because they were attracted to Bruce Jenner back in the day. After all, he was charismatic, famous, wealthy, and athletic. Plus he was a very handsome man. But what does it say about their own sexual identity if they were attracted to a man who secretly believed he was a woman?
And there are those who will feel awkward (or worse) about being attracted to Caitlyn Jenner. For men in particular, their masculinity is, in some ways, tied to the women they’re attracted to. So what does it mean about them as men if, even on first blush, they see this new woman and find themselves attracted to her?
In all, we’re largely talking about the same thing — we believe there’s some kind of distinct, immovable order to our gender, sexuality, and attractions. We’d like to think that men are men, women are women, straight people are straight, gay is gay, etc. And this is precisely why Alfred Kinsey was so roundly vilified by so many for suggesting that sexuality and identity are along more of a sliding scale continuum, rather than some binary sort of on/off switch.
His theory and Caitlyn both challenge our own identity, our sexuality, our attractions. They raise questions. If a woman was attracted to Bruce, does that mean she might be a little bit lesbian? If a man is attracted to Caitlyn, is he straight? Gay? Into trans women?
What does it all mean???
Such questions, which largely lead to opportunity for dialogue and reflection more than certain, absolute answers, are a perfect example of how we’re gradually coming into the reality of a postmodern world. The binaries simply don’t work, and when we try to cling to them we feel like the universe is crumbling around us when we see evidence to the contrary, and especially when we sense it within ourselves.
Welcome to the world, Caitlyn. You are beautiful.
Christian Piatt is an author, editor, speaker, musician, and spoken word artist.