If by now you have not heard of a little thing called Transgender, not only are we glad you made it here, but we may also wonder where you have been for the past two weeks. It seems all of media has been shinning a spotlight on the story of Caitlyn (formerly Bruce) Jenner’s unveiling of her new sparkly self on the cover of Vanity Fair Magazine. There is much that makes this story noteworthy. Too much in fact for us to go into here. But the root of the story lies in the fact that a person that was once a physiological male, is now a female.
What makes it incredible is that she has been placed on the cover of what is inarguably one of the world’s most prominent fashion magazines, a source so many women use as a reference for femininity and appearance. Caitlyn’s gracing of this cover along with the announcement of her upcoming show ‘I Am Cait” on the E! Network seemingly symbolizes a mainstream acceptance of the transgender community. The operative word there being “seemingly”. If the fashion and media deities have in fact ushered a real acceptance of the transgender community we have reached a pivotal point in our culture. Ms. Jenner has also been awarded the Arthur Ashe Award For Courage, with further emphasizes the acceptance and even understanding of the kind of personal fortitude necessary to shed one identity for another. We might just have reached a crucial turning point in gender equality and the deconstruction of archetypal gender norms.
AT THE SAME TIME we have more recently seen the entrance of Rachel Dolezal into the mainstream zeitgeist for an eerily linked type of deed. This story is one of a local NAACP chapter president who is said to have been portraying herself to be black, when her parents do not claim or acknowledge this to be true. It does seem as though Rachel has gone to some extend to alter her appearance, and behavior to be perceived as black. She has not released a statement as of yet on the matter but the chronological proximity of her story to the one of Caitlyn Jenner immediately begs the question. If Caitlyn Jenner is transgender, then is Rachel Dolezal transracial? There has been much debate already over the notion that transgender is a legitimate not to cast on Rachel, for a multitude of reasons.
THIS HOWEVER, is not the point. The point is that the fact that are even having a discussion about race or gender fluidity at all is evidence that we are amidst a great shift in culture. We may not have flying cars in 2015 but we do have a former man on the cover of a national publication declaring that she is a woman. Keeping track of the pronouns alone is a struggle, let alone what the implications to our society this will, and does have on the children we bring in to the world. Without presuming a better or worse, the exposure of our youth to this race, sex, gender fluidity changes many aspects of the boy/girl narrative. We live in an age when the answer to Where do babies come from? could have any number of complex answers, when it was a question many parents were already struggling to answer.
How then do we navigate, and adjust to this world when the very fundamentals of our biology are subject to interpretation and metamorphosis? It is becoming more and more complex to responsibly approach someone you are attracted to when we have so many contradictions swirling around our society. It would seem that access to information is not the only thing that has been democratized in the age of technology. Whether you believe that Rachel is a transracial person or an out tight liar, or whether you agree that Caitlyn Jenner deserves the award for courage the fact is that are here, and in the news, so as a society we need to address the circumstance.
While it is a conversation that may never end, it is a conversation that never should. We must always be willing and open to investigate, engage, and inspect what is going on in our world to continue to make sense of the changes that occur within it in real time. Just as we can not afford to indiscriminately lean on dogmatic principles, we can not allow changes to our social framework to slip into our culture without a meaningful look at their implications. Without this ever present reorientation we may find that all the criticisms of progressive and fluid lifestyles come true. The compass may be changing and the very stars we gaze upon may move but we should always find new ways to guide ourselves north.