On Monday former Olympic decathlon champion Caitlyn Jenner made her world debut as a woman via a stunning Vanity Fair cover.
Just over a year ago, Laverne Cox, star of Orange Is The New Black, made transgender history by gracing the cover of Time magazine for a story called “The Transgender Tipping Point: America’s next civil rights frontier".
Cox was so moved by Caitlyn’s story she took to her Tumblr blog to write about it. In a touching post she wrote:
I am so moved by all the love and support Caitlyn is receiving. It feels like a new day, indeed, when a trans person can present her authentic self to the world for the first time and be celebrated for it so universally.
As beautiful as Jenner is, though, Cox said the photos made her reflect on gender normative beauty ideals. Jenner, she says, is beautiful inside as well as out.
Yes, Caitlyn looks amazing and is beautiful but what I think is most beautiful about her is her heart and soul, the ways she has allowed the world into her vulnerabilities.
A year ago when my Time magazine cover came out I saw posts from many trans folks saying that I am 'drop dead gorgeous'and that that doesn’t represent most trans people... But what I think they meant is that in certain lighting, at certain angles I am able to embody certain cisnormative beauty standards.
Jenner and Cox are lucky, she says. Many trans people don't have the same privileges and they have a duty to "lift up" the stories of trans people most at risk - those who don't have access to healthcare and safe streets and schools, and who don't fit conventional beauty and gender norms.
Now, there are many trans folks because of genetics and/or lack of material access who will never be able to embody these standards. More importantly many trans folks don’t want to embody them and we shouldn’t have to to be seen as ourselves and respected as ourselves. It is important to note that these standards are also informed by race, class and ability among other intersections.