Review: I Am Cait Episode 7—Name and Gender Change
Trying to deal with the law when presenting as she whilst your ID says he is difficult.
To its detriment, this week’s I Am Cait dips a little back towards the more standard reality TV template. It’s still not following the same content of reality TV but after two shows where they decided to throw the formulae out of the window we’re back to reality TV land. That’s not to say this is a bad episode, it’s not, it had a couple of interesting things in it but it’s not as different as the last two and I think that’s a pity.
This episode is shot in mid July, just before and after the ESPN awards, so we’re looking back only two months. Caitlyn gets in a professional stylist to help her prepare, “So how are you in heels?” the stylist asks. “Professional in heels, I’ve been doing it a long time.” Caitlyn responds. Which is another glimpse into Caitlyn’s past and all those times that when she was under a different name and identity she was dressing femme.
There is a section in the show that at first I didn’t get but on thinking about it a little while longer I now understand. Caitlyn’s putting in a golf club membership application and she refuses to sign as Caitlyn, and although flustered and frustrated she insists on signing as Bruce. She says this is due to ‘locker room issues’ and it’s a battle she’s clearly thought about but isn’t willing to face yet. She talks to Candis about it later saying it could be a huge deal to this conservative members of this golf club. Candis responds with straight talk “It’s not about what they think, it’s how you live your life. … No excuse not to sign your name as Caitlyn now.” She’s absolutely right.
I’ve been facing this, I have not been able to legally change my name or my gender markers and it causes me problems. For example, my daughter is starting a new school and in the many months I’ve been communicating with the school I’ve gone by Marcy, and it has not been a problem. We’ve even visited the school together multiple times. Then my daughters old school has sent them paperwork that uses my old name. I’ve now received emails from the new school questioning who I am and I’ve been forced to out myself as transgender when I didn’t want to. It’s a small thing but it shows how changing your legal name and gender markers really can count.
In every episode of I Am Cait there is an explicit learning moment where viewers get an education on trans life, in this one it comes from Chandi Moore who runs a hospital program called Blush for gender non-conforming youth. A number of these kids have been kicked out of there homes and not received love in there life. The talk here is about legally changing your identity, which in California can take over a year and a half from start to finish, assuming you have the knowledge and the money to be able to get through the process.
When your legal paperwork doesn’t match the name or gender you present as it’s a huge problem. I’m constantly worried about police stops because all my legal ID is wrong. A worry highlighted by one woman at Blush telling a story of how the police pulled over the driver of a car that she was a passenger in. As soon as the police found out she was transgender the focus of the police fell on her and not the driver they stopped. The police misgendered her, called her a tra**y and mocked her, even asking about surgery and her wig. Police harassment of trans people is very real and even though I’m in on the ‘hippie west coast’ (it isn’t very hippie but that’s what people think it is like) I’m still scared when I’m presenting as femme and driving.
Caitlyn’s privilege helps again as she has a visit from Drian Juarez, from the trans economic empowerment project LA LGBT, that walks her through all the steps needed to legally change her name and gender markers. Would be amazing to have someone come to my house and do this for me. I’ve been caught between international law and unable to change eother my name or gender markers for years thanks to my English and Canadian legal status. I have a potential circuitous solution now thanks to a couple of Twitter friends but cannot proceed with it until November.
The most touching part of this episode for me was when Caitlyn’s friends Candis and Chandi wanted to be supportive of her by going to the ESPN awards. To enable Chandi to go Candis bought her a dress for the awards and Chandi was so happy she was in tears. Made me love them both a bit as people because it was so sweet to see. Also there are too many names in this show starting with C and it’s very awkward to write them all in one paragraph! It was nice to see Jenny Boylan and her wife discussing pre to post transition marriages. Jenny said about one third of marriages that has started before transition continue after transition.
The only really annoying thing this week was the constant teasing of Caitlyn’s ex wife Kris’ arrival, only for them to push it into a later episode. I really hate the fake build up of drama in reality TV, it is what makes it unwatchable to me, and then to build something up and not even bother to show it? Urg. If I ever meet the reality TV format in a dark alley it wouldn’t bode well for it! Other than that I Am Cait #7 is again a solid show, they have found there format and it’s fluff, facts, fluff, facts and I’m OK with that. I Am Cait is a much better and stronger show than I ever expected it to be.
Marcy (@marcyjcook) is an immigrant trans woman and writer. This includes Transcanuck.com, a website dedicated to informing and helping trans Canadians. She also has a nerd job, too many cats, is a part time volunteer sex educator and has an ongoing sordid love affair with Lego. Those last two are not related … probably.
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