01 June 2015
By now, you’ve heard that celebrity photographer Annie Liebowitz is taking shots of the most famous person currently undergoing a gender transition. Her work is scheduled to appear in Vanity Fair.
I guess I am like almost everyone else in wanting to see what Caitlyn Jenner looks like. But more to the point, at least for me, I want to see this next stage in her coming out into the world after spending 65 years living as a boy and man named Bruce.
What I find interesting is that every news account I’ve seen and heard so far refers to her with feminine pronouns. Until now, they had been using masculine ones. It’s not a surprise, really, because when she announced that she was embarking upon life as a woman, she didn’t reveal her name. She was still Bruce Jenner when Diane Sawyer was interviewing her just a few weeks ago. It’s hard to call someone named Bruce “she”.
More to the point, she said that she still preferred, at that point, to be referred to as a man named Bruce. I will not speculate on what her reasons might have been, but I know that all of us who have transitioned, or are transitioning, know that there is a moment when we are ready to come out into the world as the people we truly are. For some that happens fairly quickly. I guess I am in that category, as I started living as Justine less than a year after I started taking hormones and about two years after I started counseling and therapy. I’ve met others who lived years or decades longer than I did with the names and genders they were assigned at birth, for a variety of reasons. Sometimes those reasons have to do with jobs, careers, marriages , family or other social relations. Others simply have to become more comfortable with themselves in their new identities.
That last sentence might seem paradoxical to some of you. No matter how early in life we realize we aren’t the gender we’re assigned at birth, and no matter how much we dream about living as our true selves, it still takes time to adjust to our new lives. For some of us, the discomfort and self-loathing we felt in our old lives has shaped so much about our lives that it takes time—and sometimes brings us pain—to live without those things. Also, those of us whose bodies don’t conform to our genders tend to be sensitive and vulnerable people. Shedding our “boy skin” or “girl skin”, as it were, makes us even more prone to being hurt as well as experiencing joy. Some, I believe, know they’re not ready for the intensity of the love and hate, the embraces and rejections, and the losses as well as the things we find and regain as we enter the world as our own selves, with our own names.
Whether she is experiencing all, some or none of what I’ve described, I am eager to see Caitlyn Jenner enter the world, and hope her passage is safe and joyous.