Winter is a trans musician, storyteller, son, brother, and less notably, Original Plumbing magazine’s Mr. Transman NYC 2013. Nicole is a non-trans journalist who writes about sexuality and gender and can remember a time not so long ago when every article about trans people or issues had to include an ad hoc definition of the term. Those days are gone, and in their place we have I Am Cait, part reality show, part PSA, a landmark moment for trans visibility, and a romp through the homes and closets of a very rich woman. Ahead, we discuss last Sunday night’s episode of Cait: “Take Pride.”
Nicole Pasulka: Winter, last week you were wondering why Cait didn’t go to Trans Pride, and right away we learn it’s because she’s in her “stealth mode” and is too freaked out to appear in public and be an open part of the community. She’s living in the most out-there way possible — as the star of a reality-TV show — and yet she’s never been out in public post-transition.
But if Cait is going to be a spokesperson for other trans people, she’ll have to show up for these kinds of events.
Winter Laike: After Trans Pride, Scott Disick, ex-boyfriend to Cait’s stepdaughter Kourtney, comes to see Cait at the Malibu home. Aside from Kanye’s brief cameo, Scott is the only man who has come by. No guy friends have visited — only family members. The two discuss how the coming-out process has been going. “Anyone who’s worth having in your life will understand,” Scott tells her.
NP: If only that were true. What do you think about how Scott handled meeting Cait for the first time?
WL: Scott seemed hesitant at first, which has pretty much been everyone’s reaction so far. But he actually does seem cool with it. Plus, he showed up. One straight guy down, one billion to go.
Over the phone, Cait’s excited to hear that her friend Sergio changed her name in his Rolodex. “I told my wife I have a hot friend,” Sergio says. They make a plan to hang out and fly remote-controlled helicopters soon.
NP: Cait and Candis Cayne visit the GLAAD offices in L.A. and meet with CEO Sarah Kate Ellis and director of programs Nick Adams. Nick put together a guide for how journalists can respectfully talk about Caitlyn Jenner, which was viewed 200,000 times in 24 hours. “In the media, it is taboo to out someone if they’re gay. If you’re transgender, it’s fair game,” says Sarah.
This guide is no joke. One nice thing about the “transgender tipping point” is that the media clearly want to get the story right. It doesn’t mean that some content hasn’t been sensational or offensive, but many journalists and editors who haven’t thought much about trans people still have the sense that there are helpful and harmful ways to talk about the issue. We have GLAAD and decades of on- and offline trans activism to thank for this.
WL: Cait tells Nick and Sarah that she thinks trans women are “normal,” not the “freaks of nature” they’re made out to be. Candis interrupts her and says, “We’re not.” Candis is frustrated that Cait keeps calling other trans people “they” and “them” when she is a part of that community. “She’s been outside looking in for so long,” Candis says. “It isolates her from her own community.”
Cait seems to be so happy post-transition. I don’t understand why she isn’t fully associating herself with the trans community. Some people transition without support from other trans people, sure. But there’s a great benefit to transitioning from within a community. You have access to support, resources, and information that you may not be able to find on your own. Where does an internet search for information on transitioning usually take you? To an online trans community. Even living in NYC, I got most of my trans-related questions answered through trans-specific Facebook groups.
NP: After the GLAAD meeting, Chandi Moore joins Candis and Cait for margaritas. Candis brings up the “they-them” situation.
WL: Welcome back, Chandi! She breaks it down for Cait: “The world needs to feel as if you’re inclusive of our community.”
“If you say ‘they-them’ to girls who have been on the streets, they don’t feel included,” Chandi says. Chandi and Candis bring this back to a larger idea of acceptance. They want the outside world to embrace all aspects of Cait the way they do.
NP: It looks like the “outside world,” in this case, is Sergio and her other guy friends. Her newfound trans community is embracing her, her cis female friends Courtney and Ronda have been supportive and loving, but the straight cisgender guys she used to hang out with are MIA.
Sergio stood Cait up last time they made plans to fly helicopters. Cait calls and says she’s going to come to the helicopter shop. She says she looks pretty good and thinks he can handle it. He seems … apprehensive.
WL: She heads out in a flashy car that screams, Look at me!
NP: As a court is deciding whether to charge Cait with manslaughter for causing a crash that killed a woman, a shot of Cait behind the wheel of her Porsche is maybe not the best PR. But it’s a good reminder that reality TV is not real life.
WL: At the helicopter shop, Sergio tells a producer that he’s “kind of” nervous about meeting Cait. When Cait arrives, Sergio pulls himself together and says, “What matters is your happiness.”
But what if someone’s happiness is also affected by whether or not her “friends” show up? As Scott said, anyone who’s worth it will understand. Cait gets to decide who should be a part of her life. “Friends” who bail when she needs them the most don’t deserve her time and energy.
NP: Still, I like that she just showed up and let it all out. This can’t have been easy, but it’s the only way Sergio’s going to deal with Cait face-to-face. People watching the show who have never met a trans person — or at least have never met someone they knew was trans — are going to identify with Sergio’s situation. It’s a revelation to see this encounter from the point of view of a trans person, and in a way that gives priority to her experience.
I feel excited for Cait right now.
WL: I’m excited for Cait, too. I see that she’s learning and growing. I just don’t want her to get held back by bullshit from so-called “friends.” I’m not a fan of Sergio. Cait isn’t even going to bring up the fact that he bailed on her.
NP: Maybe she just wants to move past it, or maybe she’s afraid to hear the truth.
WL: I don’t think that’s the case. But even if it is, why is the onus on Cait to bring it up? Why doesn’t Sergio own up to it and say, “I know I told you I would come over and I didn’t. I know that you’re going through some serious shit, and it’s super-important to have a support system. You consider me a friend, and I let you down. I’m sorry. How can I rectify this situation?”
NP: I would love to hear Sergio say that. What do you do when all the dudes in your life are being total losers? Girls trip to NYC! The Supreme Court just overturned same-sex-marriage bans, Candis is performing during Pride Weekend, and Ronda’s reserved a private jet.
Cait is psyched about the same-sex-marriage decision, but says that while it’s a big day for the “gay issue,” the “trans issue” is about 20 years behind.
WL: In New York City, Cait, Chandi, and Candis explore Cait’s swank hotel room before Candis and Chandi retire to talk privately about how the T has been pushed aside from the LGB by “the gay men.”
There are organizations that claim to serve the LGBT community that often do not have trans-specific services or provide trans-inclusive health care for their employees. Even the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which shows up in previous episodes of I Am Cait, has been accused of throwing the transgender community under the bus to appease wealthy, white, gay male constituents. Across the United States, there are bills moving through local legislatures that would fine or jail transgender people who use a restroom that does not match the sex they were assigned at birth, and in at least one state, building owners will also be liable if they don’t enforce it. The LGB population celebrates their marriage victory while trans women of color are being murdered at an alarming rate.
NP: The ladies go to meet Patricia Field, a designer who provides clothes in shapes and sizes that fit trans women. This is an excellent outfit montage, I must say.
WL: They’re trying on outfits before Candis’s show. It’s Cait’s first public “outing” — ha! As Cait walks in, a crowd of mostly white gay men chant, “Cait-lyn.”
NP: It’s nice to see Cait welcomed so warmly. Candis thanks Caitlyn at the end of the show, and there are good vibes all around. No matter what happens with Cait’s guy friends or her family, this is an encouraging vision of what’s possible now that Cait has her T community.
WL: Chandi tells Cait, “I am so impressed with the LGB embracing your T.” All Cait did was wave, but, “Look at how they love you,” Chandi says. This isn’t the media. This isn’t Diane Sawyer. This is a crowd at Gay Pride. They’re real people who’ve lived real lives in this world as trans, gay, or queer folks.
After being so isolated in Malibu, Caitlyn finds the vibe in NYC freeing. Do you think she’ll move there?
NP: I wouldn’t be surprised. After Candis’s show, she tells Kate Bornstein, “I’m glad we’re moving forward, I’m glad I can be a part of it.” BREAKTHROUGH.