If you’ve even remotely followed the mainstream media, then you may have noticed the countless times the name “Caitlyn Jenner” has been referenced. From being a beacon of hope for transgendered youth, to a fashion icon, to the latest celebrity “making it big” off of a reality show, you cannot go one day without seeing Caitlyn Jenner. Among the number of Caitlyn Jenner stories floating around, some that struck me the most were those criticizing the television channel E! for paying Caitlyn a salary of 5 million dollars for her reality television show I am Cait, which premiered late July, and documents Cait’s life as a transgender woman.
Food World News most recently criticized E! for this very thing, arguing that the media is paying a high dollar amount to someone who is riding the waves of our country’s obsession with reality TV. To this, I tell them: you cannot put a price on courage.
My feelings were affirmed the moment Caitlyn Jenner took center stage at the ESPYs, where she delivered her incredibly moving speech after receiving the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage. Caitlyn pointed out to the millions of viewers the facts that many of us have overlooked when considering the transgender population: the 51 percent of transgender people aged 12-24 who have attempted suicide; the 30 percent that have attempted suicide at least once in their lives; the increased rates of homelessness; the discrimination at work; and the discrimination in the military.
The transgendered community who have spent their lives questioning their true self now have a representative voice like no other, and that has come in the form of celebrities such as Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner. So who are we to criticize the amount of money assigned to the production of a show that aims to humanize transgendered people? To criticise advocates who will save lives by preaching the acceptance of differences that our world so desperately needs? And furthermore, why is it that a show, such as I am Cait must go under scrutiny just because of the large amounts of money Caitlyn will be making? If Jenner’s ESPYs speech was any indication of the lessons I am Cait will bring to the forefront, it will be emotional, moving, and a true insight into a world that many of us cannot comprehend.
Audiences who tuned into the first episode of I Am Cait late last month, were introduced to the family of Kyler Prescott, a 14-year-old trans boy who suffered from severe depression, and committed suicide just days before his birth certificate which reflected his change of name, arrived in the mail. Caitlyn met with Kyler’s mom, Katharine Prescott, who shared Caitlyn’s sentiment that the reality of depression and suicide is so prevalent in the trans community not only because as Caitlyn states: “…trans people are somehow inherently unstable– it’s because we live in a world that makes it very, very difficult to be trans.”
Critics of Jenner’s position as a spokesperson of the trans community question the need for Jenner to be making such a substantial amount of money, and question if she has accepted her responsibility, in part, because of the great financial incentive the show will grant her. However, after watching the first episode of I am Cait, the quote which resonated most with me came from Katherine Prescott, Kyler’s mother. She said, “The wonderful thing is that people like Caitlyn are starting to spread the word. This isn’t just a passing thing. This is forever.” I hope that critics, supporters, and those who are still on the fence about Caitlyn will keep in mind the light that I am Cait has already shined on the trans community, and that just cause there is a salary involved should not diminish the awareness this show aims to bring as Caitlyn may go on to fund charities and events with the money.
In her ESPY acceptance speech, Jenner explained, “Trans people deserve something vital: they deserve your respect. And from that respect, comes a more compassionate community, a more empathetic society, and a better world for all of us.” There is no price, too small or high, that would negate the value of a TV program that thrives to bring about a better world for all of us, especially those in the trans community. And there is no price that we can, or should, place on the value of the countless human lives that, perhaps, through seeing Caitlyn’s journey and transition into her honest self will be saved when they shy away from the 41 percent chance of attempted suicide, and the hopeful progress in accepting trans people for who they are. And for that, we should applaud not only E! for making the decision to allow TV to air Caitlyn Jenner’s journey, but to Caitlyn herself who has made, and continues to make, the extraordinary decision to open her life to the millions of fans and critics.
So as we tune in to I am Cait, or watch from the sidelines, I hope we all are able to keep in mind that there is no value too high or small for such an act of courage, and to practice acceptance as not only Caitlyn, “[b]ut for the thousands of kids out there coming to terms with being true to who they are, shouldn’t have to take it.”