Joined and interviewed by radio host and I’m a Celebrity runner up Roman Kemp, Caitlyn Jenner sat on stage at The Brighton Dome to converse with the audience about her life, and answer any possible questions they had.
Having lived 70 full years as Olympic decathlon athlete champion and parent to the Kardashian/Jenner clan, whilst also struggling with identity issues as a transgender woman, two hours with Caitlyn Jenner was definitely not enough time to cover everything in great detail. With the glittering letters behind them, spelling out her first name, Caitlyn Jenner began her tale of living as a young dyslexic child who discovered sport as a student, taking to it with excitement and determination, for she had finally found a part of school in which she excelled.
Caitlyn discussed with us the battle she had with her gender identity that emerged from a very young age alongside her growth in the athletic field. To the CIS* people in her audience, she thought the best way to help us understand this notion of ‘transgender’ and how she felt knowing her gender identity was to ask a simple question: “When did you know you were a boy/girl?”
She left us a moment to think about it. For many of us, the answer would be ‘well, Caitlyn, I guess I always just knew, it didn’t require much thought’. Which, of course, is what she was getting at completely. Moving onto a different perspective, Caitlyn Jenner explained that, in terms of left and right-handed people, we knew which felt most comfortable to write with. But in school and later on in adult life, it became clear that the world was best adjusted to right-handed people. “It’s a right-handed world”, she explained to us clearly.
Being left-handed herself, she described how in school she was forced to write with her right hand, whilst knowing she was left handed. However, as soon as she left studies, Caitlyn began writing with her left hand and suddenly felt much better. After that change, her penmanship improved and it felt so much more appropriate to her.
This metaphor was very clever in that we could then understand Caitlyn’s- obviously more difficult- plight with her gender identity. She had always fitted best with her female identity, and as soon as she physically transitioned so that her sex matched her gender, the world felt right.
“That’s a life!”
However, it took many years for Caitlyn Jenner to actively acknowledge these identity issues because “it was the 60s, and no one talked about that kind of stuff, there wasn’t a word for it.” And, amidst this gender struggle, Caitlyn was making a name for herself as the successful Olympic decathlon athlete Bruce Jenner, who was the epitome of masculinity. In a moment of true intimacy, Caitlyn shared with the audience that after winning in her Olympic sport, she had looked at herself in the mirror with the gold medal around her neck, seeing Bruce in the reflection and realising that it would be incredibly difficult to escape this life after making such a household name for herself in the public eye.
After this, however, immediately lightening the mood, Caitlyn’s competitive yet cheeky streak shone through when interrupting Roman to mention the two most incredible professional achievements of her life: “Olympic Gold Medal Champion and Glamour’s Woman of the Year.” Amidst the audience’s laughter, she exclaimed, “That’s a life!”
Ever the true American, Caitlyn filled the evening with inspiring thoughts on dreaming, believing and achieving. Despite her recognition on her struggles with her gender identity, it was clear Caitlyn had intended to set out the message that living your most authentic life was the most important lesson there was to offer.
Despite my support toward Caitlyn Jenner regarding her transgender identity, I left the evening somewhat dissatisfied. Many may well be aware that Caitlyn Jenner has faced backlash in the past from the LGBTQ+ community for her controversial support toward Donald Trump and the Republican Party, who are infamous for their rebuttal toward the LGBTQ+ community.
In 2017 after the UK’s announcement to review the 2004 Gender Recognition Act**, Donald Trump took to twitter to announce that “the United States Government with not accept or allow… Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.”
In 2018, Caitlyn wrote an article in the Washington Post, revoking her support toward Trump due to this constant flow of transphobia. Despite the two-year gap, I was intrigued to see if Caitlyn would address these issues and if she would talk about the progress she was making for the community. Instead, rather than having the audience ask Caitlyn questions directly, we were to submit questions on paper slips, or through the twitter hashtag #CJBrighton in which Roman would select the ‘best ones’.
To me, it seemed quite deliberate, hand picking rather tame questions that seemed to avoid some of the issues and backlash she has faced regarding some of her views and policies. The question portion of the event was instead filled with questions regarding her time in the Australian Jungle on I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!
Despite the rather anti-climactic and disappointing end to the evening, I was nevertheless pleased that Caitlyn had been so open in confiding other struggles she had faced in her life. Hopefully, many others a part of the audience felt the same.
*CIS, meaning those whose gender identity matches with the sex assigned to them at birth.
** The 2004 Gender Recognition Act was created in the UK as a means to legally acknowledge transgender people’s right to transition. However, the call to reform the Act has come as a way to improve the rights of transgender people, and how they are treated within both public, social and medical spheres.