In May of 2014, transgender actress and advocate Laverne Cox graced the cover of Time Magazine with the words “Transgender Tipping Point.”
This year, Jeffrey Tambor won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in his role as Maura Pfefferman on “Transparent.”
ABC Family Channel, owned by Walt Disney Co., began showing “Becoming Us,” a docu-drama about a real-life Chicago family with the father transitioning to female.
The real tipping point may have come last week, when Caitlyn Jenner debuted her gender identity on the cover of Vanity Fair after a lifetime as Bruce, making the Olympic Gold Medal winner now arguably the most well-known transgender person in the world.
So, with the entertainment industry exploring transgender lives with robust interest, and the public consuming the fruits of that labor voraciously, it may seem as though transgender people have become mainstream.
Not true, says local transgender activist and educator Karen Adell Scot, who transitioned publicly last year. In fact, she continues, there’s a long way to go before transgender people will feel accepted and safe.
“We are nowhere near becoming mainstream. Read the comments below Caitlyn Jenner’s story online in Vanity Fair, and see how far we have to go. Terrible things are stated. Transgender people live lives of inequality at every turn. One in two transgender women will be sexually assaulted or raped. Our suicide attempt rate is still an obscene 43 percent, and grows to 57 percent if our families reject us.
“If trans kids are physically bullied at school and not accepted by family, their suicide rate jumps into the 80 percent range. We are twice as likely to be unemployed. About 17 percent of all homeless youth are transgender, discarded by disdaining, shunning families. There is nothing mainstream about the hatred we still reap every day for just existing. If anything, some people have been stimulated with fear by the Caitlyn Jenner story to act more aggressively toward us because of their amplified fear of the social changes they do not want.”
Scot says that while Caitlyn Jenner comes with a built-in famous factor, but that’s not the most important aspect of coming out.
“I think it is great that she has finally decided to be her authentic self after a lifetime of hiding who she was. Everyone expected Caitlyn Jenner to present as a male when she knew from five years old that she was a girl. I knew from two years old I was a girl. I am pleased she has had the name recognition to spotlight the fact that people like us exist and start the discussion as to the fact that we are born as we are. When I first saw her pic for Vanity Fair I nearly cried for joy. I know exactly how she feels.
“Caitlyn Jenner has opted to be as physically pretty as she can. Part of this is she waited so long to become authentic that I can see trying to live her last years as pretty as she can be. Conformation to an accepted norm in appearance will make it easier on a transgender person. I have tried to do this myself to make my life safer.
“That said, most of us do not have the financial means to have facial aesthetic surgery, and many also cannot have Gender Confirmation Surgery because of the cost. We live lives where we generally have lower wages, or no job, have difficulty obtaining health care and are fought at every turn by insurance companies who try not to pay for our vital needs.
“Getting the facial work and breast augmentation Caitlyn has had is beyond most common transgender people. Honestly, we need to be taken as we are by the general public. We need people to see us and say, “That is a man” if we are a transgender man, or “That is a woman” if we are a transgender woman, and then treat us like who we are.
“There are conservative transgender people, and liberal transgender people. Our gender identity is totally different from our political beliefs, and our sexual preference. There are gay and lesbian transgender people and straight transgender people like me. We may like to drive Fords or Chevrolets. Caitlyn Jenner is a politically conservative Christian woman. I have talked with a friend who knew a woman who became her authentic self at 76 years old. I know many military officers like myself who transitioned and kept their pro-American patriotism like I have. We are a spectrum in every sense of the word — from very feminine women, through gender-fluid, to very hyper-masculine men.
“I applaud anything that helps people to stop the misgendering, ostracizing, shunning, hating, attacking and killing of transgender people for just existing. Some 270 of us were violently murdered last year with many more being nearly killed and surviving. This year the violent murders are trending at an even higher rate.
“Caitlyn Jenner and her coming out as her authentic self is, for me, a source of real joy. Let us hope many more people can learn why we are who we are, and try to get to know us as just ordinary people. Let us hope we gain more allies who stand and speak up for us against disdainers. Let us hope many more transgender men and women will gain the courage to finally come out and be their true selves.
“We are normal people and only seek to be treated as the normal people we are. We ask for the same dignity, kindness and respect that all people seek.”