Caitlyn Jenner: A representation of courage
After months of media speculation, paparazzi dodging and an emotional television interview, she is finally here: Caitlyn Jenner has arrived.
This week, the Olympian-turned reality TV star was featured on the cover of Vanity Fair, appearing publicly for the first time since completing her gender transition. The magazine cover shot featured Jenner posing in a white corset with the words "Call me Caitlyn" at the bottom of the page.
Vanity Fair tweeted the cover on June 1, with the 22-page accompanying article to be featured in the magazine's June 9 issue.
Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce Jenner, faced rampant scrutiny by the tabloid media for months until she came out as a transgender woman in an interview in April with Diane Sawyer for 20/20.
"For all intents and purposes, I'm a woman," Jenner said during the interview watched by millions of Americans.
In July, Jenner's transitioning story will appear on E! in an eight-part documentary series.
There are people who are calling the whole situation a publicity stunt, a ploy to get better ratings and more money. That's ridiculous. Jenner, like so many others, has struggled her whole life and hid who she really was.
There are so many people struggling with gender dysphoria: People that have had to live a lie each and every day. People who have never felt truly comfortable with themselves or with the people around them. People like my sister.
My sister is a transgender woman. For much of her life, she lived as a man, but was never truly happy in her own skin. When she told me who she really was, I was surprised, but ready to love and accept her unconditionally.
She is lucky to have a supportive family. For others, life can seem like an endless struggle, one without a light at the end of the tunnel.
According to statistics from the Trevor Project, an organization that provides support for LGBTQ youth, more than 50 percent of transgender or gender-nonconforming people have thought about taking their own lives, and a fourth of that number have actually attempted suicide.
For these people, the ones who feel so alone and misunderstood, representation can help. Seeing strong, confident men and women just like themselves can help ease a little bit of that loneliness and fear.
Representation matters. Public opinion never changes without a push in our popular culture. And that push doesn't just happen. It takes brave volunteers, those like Caitlyn Jenner, to stand up and publicly share their stories.
By letting the world know her story, Jenner is helping millions of people understand the harsh realities of what thousands of transgender people go through.
People, who once thought of transgender people as crazy cross-dressers or mentally ill, are now seeing that these people are and should be treated like every other man and woman.
No matter what you believe, transgender people should be respected and treated with the dignity they deserve. Use the proper gender pronouns. Use their chosen names. Don't make their lives harder than they already are.
My sister deserves that. No, she deserves more than that — but change doesn't happen overnight.
In a perfect world, everyone could just live as they are. No more hiding. No more feeling invisible or worthless. No more struggling to live as something you're not.
We can do it. We can make that perfect world a reality. But it won't be easy. It will take courage. It will take time. It will take a lot more photos on the covers of magazines.
Deanna Ferrante is a contributing writer for the Central Florida Future.