I Am Cait (2015, E!)
By breaking magazine sales, gaining more followers on social media than anyone in 24 hours, and snatching trophies, Caitlyn Jenner has dominated the year’s news and commanded attention for an issue that was overlooked for many years, all while coming to understand who she is today.
Whether you believe it’s all a publicity stunt or an expression of the inner self, it cannot be denied that Caitlyn Jenner has made huge strides for the LGBTQIA community in the past few months. And it was all chronicled on her series, I Am Cait. I am all for reality TV, especially if it gives me, and others, a better understanding of an unknown and struggling community.
I Am Cait follows Caitlyn — former star Olympian Bruce — Jenner into her newfound world. The series opens with the introduction of Caitlyn to her family. This has been noted as a huge struggle for many families. When someone transitions, the family may feel the need to mourn the loss of the family member they knew and begin to understand this new person in their life. Caitlyn argues that she’s still the same person, but the family believes that it’s almost impossible to not mourn the familiarity that they have known in the former body of their loved one.
The show includes the infamous Kardashian clan, arguably more for ratings than to ease Caitlyn’s transition. The Kardashians work to support the transgender community and gain a better understanding of what’s happening with Caitlyn. This is a really important perspective to show because they are having similar questions and struggles that many viewers have been having. A truly interesting moment is when Caitlyn’s 89-year-old mother, Esther, has so many questions both about the transition and whether her now daughter will be condemned for going against the Bible. The show even brings in a biblical scholar to help viewers and Esther understand.
The series also seeks to bring understanding to the issues that occur within the transgender community. Caitlyn not only finds friends, but develops a community with other transgender individuals who help guide her into her new life. The issues that are raised by the transgender community are fascinating, being that they are issues that don’t occur to a cis-gendered individual (someone who agrees with the gender they were assigned at birth). A big issue that transgender individuals discuss on the show is their voice ruining their identity. Caitlyn has a deep voice and feels that it hinders her from being fully accepted as a woman in society. Other women agree with her, stating that their voice is sometimes a “tell” for them and they feel isolated because of it.
Furthermore, the women discuss issues such as unequal treatment in job interviews, the inability to be employed or accepted into schools, succumbing to work in the sex trade industry to pay for bills and treatments, being refused treatment by certain doctors, being unable to find doctors who know the treatments for transgender individuals, and many more.
Aside from the episodes that include Kardashian drama, there are episodes in which Caitlyn goes to transgender youth camps to better understand their struggles. There are episodes in which she works with transitioning teens in California. There are also episodes that involve Caitlyn re-introducing herself to her old “guy friends.” The series even includes episodes dealing with her fear of being rejected from former establishments such as her golf club, racetrack, or helicopter shop.
Though the show’s ratings were not very strong, the community has come together to support Caitlyn and acknowledge the awareness she has brought to the community.
I Am Cait was just renewed for a second season, which will begin in 2016 on the E! network.
— Michael Cotter, Poetry Editor