Caitlyn Jenner has been instrumental in the advancement of transgender rights and awareness ever since coming out this year.
Her photoshoot for Vanity Fair is nothing short of iconic and her various speeches have brought up issues and statistics to the general public that many had no idea about before. In broad terms, Caitlyn may have been influential in introducing the term 'transgender' to the average household. Her visibility and mass acceptance has given many people of the marginalized transgender community hope and ambition.
However, Caitlyn is also a celebrity and is inevitably under intense scrutiny by everyone. There have been several incidents over the last year that have caused a backlash against Caitlyn, with critics claiming that she is perpetuating transgender stereotypes or reinforcing gender binary values to the exclusion of non-binary members of the trans* community.
Caitlyn's Controversial Comments
On Ellen, Caitlyn stated that she didn't quite 'get' same-sex marriage:
"I'm a traditionalist. I'm older than most people in the audience. I kind of like tradition, and it's always been a man and a woman. I'm thinking, 'I don't quite get it.’”
Caitlyn's comments in TIME also did not sit well.
"One thing that has always been important for me, and it may seem very self-absorbed or whatever, is first of all your presentation of who you are.
I think it’s much easier for a trans woman or a trans man who authentically kind of looks and plays the role... I think it puts people at ease. If you’re out there and, to be honest with you, if you look like a man in a dress, it makes people uncomfortable. So the first thing I can do is try to present myself well. I want to dress well."
Caitlyn ran into trouble with this comment because it sounded like 'dressing well' meant conforming to binary gender ideals. Many people intend to dress in a way that is not gender conforming on either end of the spectrum, but Caitlyn's comments came off in a way that was ignorant and non-inclusive. Admittedly, that is something that an advocate of a marginalized community should never portray.
"I have made some mistakes"
However, in her recent blog post, Caitlyn has apologized for the upset she has caused. The Olympic athlete acknowledged:
"In the last week many people have pointed out some mistakes I’ve made. My first reaction was to feel hurt, to wish people would give me more credit for having a big heart, and to know I don’t have a mean bone in my body. […] I guess I’ve come to understand that maybe I have made some mistakes."
Caitlyn even addressed her statement in TIME head on:
"What I was trying to say is that our world really is still a binary one, and that people who look “visibly transgender” sometimes can struggle for acceptance and may be treated poorly by others. And while this may be true, it’s also something that needs to change."
Caitlyn maintains that she has always tried to be a "force for good" and the errors and badly articulated statements that she has made from time to time, ultimately come down to the long process of learning that the 66-year-old has undertaken.