CAITLYN JENNER BOOK REVIEW

I am in a Lyft on my way to the airport and also my driver is full of opinions that, to her, are apparent facts. After Caitlyn Jenner is mentioned on the radio, she tells me through absolute certainty that Caitlyn"s transition is a publicity stunt. "Trust me," she says. "I recognize."

Of course, the driver does not realize that she"s talking to a trans woguy, much much less one that knows Caitlyn personally. So I ask myself for about the 100th time: Do I desire to safeguard her? I wish I didn"t need to think about it. I wish the many well-known trans perchild on earth were a brilliant media personality choose Janet Mock, of whom I might sheight positively without reservation. Or a speaker favor Tiq Milan, whom I could trust to powerfully articulate the interarea of race, class, and also gender. Or an activist favor Bamby Salcecarry out with a lengthy track document of job-related undertaken for the sake of the most delicate trans woguys. I wish I wasn"t so profoundly ... ambivalent about Caitlyn.

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Now, for the sake of a full disclosure: As a trans womale whose exceptionally existence is concerned by conservatives as, at finest, a pathology to be cured, Caitlyn"s political allegiances trouble me deeply — they feel like a betrayal of the community that paved the way for her. But I also can not help empathizing with her. I was part of Caitlyn’s “squad” on the initially seachild of I Am Cait, and I"ve sat with her when the cameras are off. I have actually straight saw both her suffering and also kindness.

So I wiburned that her memoir would work out my feelings either way. I would certainly have actually been relieved to uncover either factor to dismiss her when and also for all, or reason to embrace her without caveat. Reading The Secrets of My Life, however, has deepened both my sympathy for and my frustrations through Caitlyn.


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There"s a sad desperation throughout Caitlyn"s story of her life pre-shift. In each of her marriperiods, she battles to come out, and also her few attempts to share her reality are understandably met through confusion. These stories are heartbreaking once you recognize exactly how badly she longed for some sort of affirmation. Later in life, that desperation evolves into isolation, estrangement from family members, and occasional suicidal ideation. As she secretly goes with the industrious and also unbearably painful procedure of electrolysis, she writes of refmaking use of any painkillers, believing she deserves the pain. And once the sex therapist she privately sees asks Caitlyn"s ultimate fantasy, her response is devastating in its simplicity: to walk alengthy the beach as herself. That somepoint almost everyone in the civilization deserve to take for granted is Caitlyn"s highest aspiration is indicative of simply exactly how actual and also traumatizing gender dysphoria truly is, regardless of any personal privilege.

The reality of Caitlyn"s suffering doesn"t, however, make her lack of analysis any kind of much less frustrating — she consistently raises exciting questions and immediately abandons them. She asks herself what being trans really implies yet has no answer. She conveniently acknowledges gender and also racial disparities in sporting activities, yet never explores them. And as soon as she talks around the complicated relationship in between her feeling of gender, her body, and also sexual attractivity, her experiences fail to administer any type of insight. In one typical instance, she watches a video package on her sports career at the ESPYs and looks in wonder at the juxtaplace of Bruce and Caitlyn. She asks herself, "How might one come to be the other?” The complete depth of Caitlyn’s self-reflections on the topic, though, is simply, “Sometimes answers don’t fairly answer it.”


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And the writing itself is commonly odd. There is no stable tense, through chapters jumping back and forth in time without any apparent reason. Important topics are introduced without context, while tright here are extended vignettes that do not seem to have actually any kind of certain relevance to the narrative, such as her father landing on the beach at Normandy, or her therapist’s tragic backstory (neither of these asides sell an obvious moral leskid for Caitlyn). One particularly discordant area drips through disdain for O.J. Simpson; another a complete chapter details how Caitlyn shaped her body before transition — apparently it’s crucial for the reader to recognize that the brand also of plastic wrap used to produce the shape of a female waist doesn"t matter. In an anecdote around fishing in Alaska, the book explains the remote locale as a area "where not also the bears read the tabloids.” The joke, presumably, would certainly make sense just if it was about a place wbelow even the bears do check out the tabloids.

Throughout the book, it seems as if there are two competing voices: one that celebrates distinction, and one that ssuggest wants to blend in. The last is hoswarm, earcolony, and also sad, while the previous reads as deliberately inspirational and slyly aware of its audience. This dynamic is the true heart of the memoir, and also a lot of clearly framed in the comparison in between the single word a lot of frequently used to define her, "brave," and also the intense self-awareness of her very own are afraid. She argues that the world wouldn’t have actually been all set for her transition any sooner, yet looks through awe at Renee Richards, an out trans womale tennis pro that was fighting for trans inclusions in sporting activities 40 years prior to Caitlyn comes out. “It was a form of cowardice to wait so long," she writes of her change. “I just didn’t have the courage. That’s what took me so long." And it"s not just shift, as Caitlyn confesses, “I cannot attend to any kind of confrontation ... I run from it." Thinking of "the pain and also comassures and also inescapable unhappiness" that note her life, she gives a heartfelt plea to the reader: "Please, I am begging you, don’t ever let your life succumb to what others think. Do not provide into are afraid, as I did."


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Caitlyn isn"t also able to look ago on her initially year as an out trans womales without some dissonance. In spite of her inner turmoil, Caitlyn has actually invested most of her life as a affluent, straight, white guy, a reality she conveniently acknowledges however is ill-equipped to interrogate. She is sindicate uninterested in making, or unable to make, a situation for her political opinions, and it would certainly be unfair to insist that she carry out, were it not for the reality that she instantly came to be the de facto face of a globally marginalized area. She is hurt by the critiques that come from her LGBTQ peers however does not seem to really understand also them. She resents the vilification of the comments around marital relationship etop quality she made on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and also defends her assertion that "if you look prefer a man in a dress, it provides human being uncomfortable." In both instances, she rightly points out ways her statements were misunderstood, possibly willcompletely by those trying to find an excusage to attack her, however she stops working to acknowledge how clearly her underlying conservative mindsets come through, much less the affect those beliefs have actually when coupled via power.


This tension is best exemplified by Caitlyn"s eager adoption of I Am Cait star Chandi Moore"s advice: "You can’t save eextremely spirit, but you deserve to save one heart at a time." That"s appropriate for Chandi, a working-class black trans woguys that works via at-hazard teens, yet it"s absurd and offensive when coming from someone via Caitlyn"s distinctive power to result adjust at a systemic level.


For also long, fame prevented Caitlyn from embracing her true self, and also it’s fame that changes our expectations of her as soon as she ultimately does.

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For too lengthy, fame prevented Caitlyn from embracing her true self, and it’s fame that transforms our expectations of her when she lastly does; in the finish, I"m not sure that The Secrets of My Life is for. It will not be revealing enough for those wanting gossip, nor deep enough for those wanting some exploration of complicated sociosocial problems. It will carry out even more factors for those who currently love Caitlyn to love her, and also for those that already despise her to hate on, however is unlikely to persuade those who, favor me, remajor uncommitted. On the one hand, it is a celebration of distinction and also authenticity, and on the other is a genuinely sad tale of someone who still seems terrified of both.

But at the incredibly least it have to convince those like my Lyft driver, people so ignorantly gullible that they take tabloid headlines as truths, believing that being trans is a burden no one would certainly actually select to bear. In the finish, maybe that is Caitlyn"s good worth to the civilization this particular day. The story of among the good symbols of masculinity owning their truth as a womale is so amazing that, via it, many are coming to much better understand also the reality of trans civilization. That"s a tiny readjust of mind, but one that renders for an incalculable adjust in the world, and one I will certainly benefit from regardmuch less of whether I"d pick Caitlyn as the one trans perboy everyone knows.


In the end, I did protect Caitlyn to that Lyft driver, because in doing so, I am really deffinishing myself, and also all trans human being. And I safeguard Caitlyn bereason of passeras in The Secrets of My Life favor this, which will be review by millions of people:

The only worthy self is the true self. It is not the single province of those living their resides in the wrong sex, or those finding out their sexual choice, yet in anyone who is different and feels various and wants to celebprice that difference as a natural outgrowth of our mankind, characterized not by what others think but the beautiful singularity of our hearts and souls.

Perhaps the perchild saying those words can not yet live by them however I still think it’s worthwhile for the civilization to hear them.

Jen Richards is a writer & actress, a columnist for NewNowNext off, and also a consultant & advocate.

Follow Jen on Twitter and Instagram.


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