Mixed up in the triumph of gay rights equality is the overwhelming media acceptance of transgender individuals. Most recently, the press rallied around Caitlyn Jenner when she made the transition to womanhood through gender reassignment surgery at age 65. Not only has mass media been respectful of Jenner’s decision, but they have also praised her beauty and labeled her as an inspiration.
I am beautiful woman trapped inside and ugly body
Beyond appearing as a woman, Jenner appears as a beautiful woman; She is another unattainable standard to compare our selves to, a message sent by the media saying it’s what’s on the outside that counts. No one cares who you are if you don’t have the looks we expect to match.
Ms. Jenner is not the first transgender person to appear on a magazine cover. Almost a year ago, “Orange is the New Black” star Lavern Cox was featured on the cover of Time Magazine. Cox also received much acclaim for her bravery and beauty. Cox voiced support for Jenner on Tumblr but emphasized that the transgender issue is much more complicated than appearance.
It is ironic that in an age in which we emphasize acceptance and love of our bodies, we have so glorified the male-to-female transgender celebrities who can afford to buy themselves some kick-ass curves. I think it’s fair to mention only a few months ago, the web tore Renée Zellweger to pieces for appearing with a new face. What gives? Is it because Jenner was born a man and Zellweger a woman? Has Jenner still not managed to escape the curse of male privilege?
Defined by suffering
Some people will surely argue that to understand transexualism and gender dysphoria (strong, persistent feelings of identification with the opposite gender and discomfort with one’s own assigned sex), we can consider the suffering it causes. Gender dysphoria causes severe anxiety and depression due to discomfort felt at ones assigned sex. However, this is not the only diagnosis for those who experience debilitating distress at the body they are in. Body dysmorphic disorder (marked by a preoccupation with a defect in a persons appearance, slight or imagined) and Anorexia exert this kind of pain as well, just to name two. There are many people uncomfortable or unhappy in their own bodies, and maybe you are among them. I know I have been.
I’m miserable, but it’s not my fault
It is common to seek out a weakness that we as individuals can wave the responsibility of having created in the first place, and say, that’s it, that’s my problem there. If only that one thing could change, I would be happy. I believe that the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental right. But the constitution got it right in stating “the pursuit” of happiness, because the happiness brought by changing ones outside appearance is temporary and doesn’t dig down to the root of whatever allows us to detest ourselves so frequently.
Reconciling the contents with the container
In a recent article, Nuriddeen Knight points out that though we often regard opponents to gender reassignment surgery as bigots, the operation is itself counterproductive to the gender equality fight. There is an assumption that appropriate gendered thoughts and gendered feelings exist. Instead of encouraging transgender individuals to reconcile their thoughts and feelings with the bodies they were born with, society is now praising them for going to extreme unnatural measures to change their packaging.
As human beings we are all faced with the challenge of accepting ourselves. We can try to change, but if that change is external, we always run back into that nagging weakness in our appearance, our intelligence, our personality. Material change can bring temporary happiness but that long drawn-out process of acceptance of who we are, inside and out, is the only way to triumph for the long term.