Caitlyn Jenner’s cover for Vanity Fair sparked off some fantastic conversations. We were given a chance to learn about the issues that transgenders face on a daily basis.
For instance, the politics of the pronoun—how do you refer to someone who has changed her gender? You refer to them by the pronoun of the new gender, of course. A bot will helpfully correct you on Twitter, if you’re confused.
Actor and LGBT activist Laverne Cox wrote an essay that got us thinking about the word beautiful, when it’s used to describe someone from a marginalised community. It’s meant as a compliment, but it can be an excluding word. What if you’re a transgender who is not shapely and statuesque like Jenner or Cox? Should pride be linked to beauty?
Jon Stewart pointed out that, unfortunately, being judged for your beauty is part of the deal if you’re female. “It’s really heartening to see that everyone is willing to not only accept Caitlyn Jenner as a woman, but to waste no time in treating her like a woman. You see, Caitlyn, when you were a man, we could talk about your athleticism, your business acumen, but now you’re a woman, and your looks are really the only thing we care about.”
But what artist and programme developer Crystal Frasier has done is open-sourced the concept of beauty. Frasier recently made available for download a photo template that allows anyone to put their face on that Vanity Fair cover. Starting #MyVanityFairCover was her way of celebrating the diversity of transgender people. She explains on Twitter how the word beauty can be appropriated by those who are mocked for not having enough of it: “For trans women, being beautiful is inherently subversive to the system. The most popular way to smear trans women is call us ugly or manish (sic). Beauty isn’t vital to a person’s character, but when a minority is torn down first for their appearance, humanity and beauty become linked. Telling trans women they’re beautiful, problematic or not on a larger scale, equates to tell us we’re human, and fucks with a sexist system. There are important, wider conversations to have about ‘beauty’ and how it’s used to measure a woman’s worth, and I have mixed feelings on using that word as a feminist, but for a community routinely described as ugly, it’s a more powerful and personal word than ‘pride’.”
Flip through to see how different people owned #MyVanityFairCover