They say a picture’s worth a thousand words.
And, I’ll admit, when I first saw Caitlin Jenner’s “Vanity Fair” picture, I had none of my own.
Just a shock reaction.
(Kaitlyn was the name of my friend I desperately wanted to be as a kid, too.
We had the same parts, but I still totes wanted to stage a SWF meets bodysnatchers on her at age nine.
So I feel qualified to speak on this topic.)
Mayhaps it’s because I just saw Bruce talking about becoming “her” with Oprah. When he was still “he”, it sounded like such a distant plan – like that boyfriend I had in high school who’d order a new part every so many months to work on his long-term car project. But part of it’s probably also because I’m a human accustomed to social conventions stymieing individuality and the expression of it. The transgender community is only recently having their moment in the spotlight. So looking up at the T.V. where I work to see this was not unlike the first time I bit into wasabi thinking it was guacamole. Especially since it reminded me of something I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
While I racked my brain, trying to match up this image to my déjà vu catalog, the headlines kept mentioning heroism. Was Caitlyn a hero? One blogger had an interesting piece that centered on a picture with a thousand words – too. He’d started out by saying a transgender icon’s not a hero; that a real hero is a soldier who puts their life on the line. As with any good verbose piece championing the efforts of our camouflaged fighters, he added in a rando snap of a warrior at work. But when he read the backstory to that shot, he ultimately backpedaled on all those words that went with the picture which had it’s own (contrasting) thousand-word tale. Wanna know what that tale was? As he came to learn, it actually belonged to a vet who’d been beaten up and brain damaged by men who’d found out he was a cross dresser.
How’s that for an ironic sign?
Not long after reading about the soldier above, the symbolism from the CaitJen pose revealed itself to me too.
Much like the gender switch itself, my brain made an aha level switch from shock to gratitude after I stumbled across a Russell Brand Trews piece on the topic. It wasn’t anything Russ directly said that hit my brain toggle. Rather, it was when he made the suggestion that (when religions are doing such a shitty job of living up to preachings of the icons they center around) we constantly look for new myths, gods, and goddesses – and that’s why we get focused on celebrities. That’s all very true. But the yes-and thought arose from that word: goddess. That’s what Jenner’s gender swap shot reminded me of. The theme they were going for was clearly that of the goddess Aphrodite. The pose even looks a bit like that one armless statue of her (which makes sense since that was the goddess born of severed genitals).
Kinda fun symbolism, but as Aphrodite was also the goddess of love and beauty, I feel like it fits here – since a kind of love is exactly what Caity’s (new nickname; I’m testing it out) exemplifying by sharing her transition. That’s hard to do – no matter what age you are. So, yeah, she’s a hero – in a way – kind of a compassionate warrior. Some heroes show courage by lugging around a gun. Some by chucking the fleshy one they were born with and then talking about why. It’s two separate apples-and-oranges brands of war whose common theme is bravery. (And, yes, it is brave to put yourself out there for the sake of reaching and imparting hope to kids who’re killing themselves over this.) She could’ve chosen to be media-silent about the change. She could’ve chosen to just have random paparazzi pictures say the thousands of words for her (alongside whatever fallacies Inquirer conjures up) and leave her truth within the confines of a community in which she quietly confides. That’d’ve been easy. But she didn’t do that. Instead, she’s using her celebrity spotlight to selflessly and lovingly support and encourage those still struggling with gender identity.
To verbally embody elements of the mythical goddess story that her pictures tell so well.
Get it, Caity. You a bad-Aph bish.