Catching Up With I Am Cait Season Two
Here we go again.
I have a love-hate relationship with I Am Cait, yet I’m going to explain why this show really is still worth watching. However, I’ll start this in a slightly unconventional way by talking about the many ways in which the show is just awful. Caitlyn Jenner is like a child, living in the moment perpetually, and this makes for painful reality TV. At the start of episode one, she says, “I don’t want to hurt anybody,” and, “I still have to learn so much more to be a great representative for our [trans] community,” which is a huge understatement.
Caitlyn Jenner has now been out for over a year. When she first came, out she misstepped multiple times, abusing her privilege and pushing her right-wing politics while saying she cares deeply about trans people. The first season was hard to watch at times, due to this mixture of willful arrogance and naivety. At the heart of I Am Cait is this contradiction: a rich, white right-wing Republican who knows nothing of trans history struggles or issues is attempting to do positive work for the trans community. So of course, she fails as much as she succeeds.
Have things improved as I Am Cait season two gets started? A week ago was the first episode, and Sunday March 13th was the second. I’ve just watched both, and … no. This is the same Caitlyn Jenner as a year ago. She still holds vile opinions and acts as though the world revolves around her. Sadly, she still seems as ill-educated on trans issues as she was a year ago. Some of her recent statements outside or in promotion of the E! reality show have demonstrated this.
She praised Ted Cruz, adding that she’d back him and be his “trans ambassador,” then Ted Cruz appeared at the church of a pastor minutes after he called for the death of “gays and lesbians.” Cruz famously called protections for transgender students “ridiculous,” a decision made by “zealots.” He justified this by saying, “I don’t want my daughters taking showers with little boys,” which shows he has zero understanding of trans issues and is just promoting his own bigotry. Caitlyn also said that Donald Drumpf “would be very good for women’s issues,” which utterly ignores his entire personality and all of his public attacks on Megyn Kelly.
All of this has strained—or shattered, depending on who you talk to—Caitlyn Jenner’s star acceptance in the trans community. Many people, myself included, were willing to give her learning time. She had a lot of awfulness to unpack after having to hide for so very long, and she needed to work through that. After a year, though, the patience of the trans community has worn thin. Caitlyn Jenner has gone from a turning point, an educational moment, to a frustrating embarrassment. Viewing figures, too, are down more than 50% from the start of I Am Cait to just 750,000 now.
Yet, I’m here to argue that this is a show you really should keep watching. Right now, I can imagine a lot of you yelling, “Why?” at me. It’s not for watching the party antics of Caitlyn Jenner; her opinions are basically a vapid catalyst for the real educational sustenance of the show. I Am Cait is worth watching for all the other trans women on the show. They apparently called out Caitlyn a lot during season one, but much of that didn’t get shown. More of this seems to be visible in season two. In part, perhaps, that’s because this season has taken place on a road-trip bus where no one gets the opportunity to escape very easily, and this season has all the elements of a redemption arc for Caitlyn Jenner … but I don’t yet see how that’s going to work.
I Am Cait Season two opens with Jenny Boylan, Kate Bornstien, Chandi Moore, and Candis Cayne walking into Caitlyn’s home on a hill, and they and the other trans women on the show are the only reason to tune in. Together, they sit discussing how hard the publicity around season one has been, upset at the reaction from the trans community to Caitlyn’s politics and actions. Not knowing this was going on, Jenner walks into the room yelling about her party bus. That’s the entire show in microcosm. As Jenny Boylan points out, “She needs to realize that she’s not going to get a pass anymore.” I’m not sure Caitlyn Jenner is yet grown up enough to learn and open her mind.
She lives in blinkered ideals, believing that the republican party only cares about the economy and individual rights, yet Republicans all over the US are restricting women’s and trans rights constantly, and Democrat Bill Clinton is the only president to have had an economic surplus in modern times. Facts seem to be optional elements to Caitlyn’s Jenner’s Republican beliefs, and watching Jenny Boylan spank her with a rolled up newspaper while she scolds her is quite frankly TV gold. “Our dignity should not be dependent on geography,” says Boylan, a point I strongly agree with. Honestly, episode one was worth it just for this discussion and scolding.
Episode one also highlights other old-school views that Caitlyn Jenner holds to heart without thoroughly inspecting them. Every time she talks about men, it becomes clear that she’s attracted to the affirmation of her womanhood that she imagines they’ll provide her. She doesn’t seem actually attracted to men as such; it’s more the concept of the “traditional man” that seems attractive—someone who opens doors, protects her, and so on. When you’re a trans woman, you don’t have to like men. You can in fact opt to like anyone including women, people who are gender fluid, or no one at all. Caitlyn Jenner is reinforcing the concept that trans women have to be attracted to men to be women, and that’s just not true. I’m bi, but I’d only have a relationship with a woman. I can only deal with men in short doses.
Episode one ends with Caitlyn Jenner responding to all the other trans women, who are Democrats, questioning why she’s still a staunch conservative Republican now that she’s come out as trans and she’s seen how Republican politicians tend to treat trans people. She says, “I can keep all of my views the same,” and I’m baffled. Throughout the episode, she says she needs to be open-minded and learn, but the moment she’s pressed to consider other viewpoints, she closes down. Episode two repeats the same events all over but amps them up even further. Kate Bornstien sets the tone by insisting the word tr*nny is empowering and great. It isn’t; it hurts like hell, and that’s by far the majority opinion in the trans community. Even when Jenny Boylan explains how much it hurts her, Bornstien presses on. While I respect the hell out of Bornstien, I find her continually frustrating.
Jenner gets so wound up at having her political views questioned that she starts yelling, pretty much clearing the room of people and causing Candis Cayne to burst into tears. The discussion with her afterwards has the group telling her that the situation was uncomfortable and they didn’t feel safe. At first, Caitlyn doesn’t understand this and starts rebutting until Jenny cuts in with, “It’s not about the issues; we were scared,” and Caitlyn visibly gets it. You can tell when she actually starts processing something, because she goes quiet. Caitlyn can take new things on board; the question is, “Can she do that with trans issues before she becomes ostracized from the community?”
I Am Cait is really worth watching, even if Caitlyn Jenner makes you cringe. She certainly makes me cringe at times with her contradictory soundbites and childlike behavior. “My goal,” Jenner says, “is to make things easier for the next generation,” which is a laudable statement but maybe not when you’re on a party bus and are engaged in self promotion. She has surrounded herself with some genuinely smart women who are articulating some great points about trans life in North America in 2016. I Am Cait is educational and worth your time. It is something of an exercise in frustration watching trans women trying to educate Caitlyn Jenner, but if you can deal with that, then this is making for pretty good TV. The danger is, of course, is whether Caitlyn Jenner cannot or will not change. Jenny Boylan succinctly sums the situation up by saying, “If she doesn’t listen to the rest of the community, she will find herself isolated and irrelevant.”
The same is true for the show.
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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