“I Am Cait” leaned a little catty in its second episode, with Caitlyn Jenner cast in the role of the pretty party girl who doesn’t realize how easy she’s had it.
Out publicly as a transgender woman for only about two weeks, Jenner is worried about the sound of her voice. “That can out you any time,” she says. “You look great, you look fabulous and then” -- she drops her pitch as far as it will go -- “YOU OPEN UP YOUR VOICE.”
Seeking feminine tips from Kim Kardashian and her pal Malika Haqq, Caitlyn is urged, among other things, to learn to eat like a lady. And after noting that her stepdad’s voice “isn’t that deep” to start with, the often baby-voiced Kim urges Caitlyn to try out voices that are “just a little higher.” She also hits the buzzer on Cait’s attempt to sound like a woman in a faux phone conversation.
“Women cannot relate to the whole voice thing,” Jenner says, apparently oblivious to the many women who’ve worked to lower their voices to be taken more seriously by men. “They don’t see it as being that important, when it is that important.”
She then floats the idea of vocal surgery to Kim and Malika, both of whom look horrified. “What if they made a mistake and you, like, came out with no voice?” Kim wonders. Caitlyn just stares.
Cut to the hair-and-makeup prep -- Caitlyn’s gotta be glam -- for a girls’ night made up of all transgender women. On the guest list (and apparently the creator of the guest list) is Jenny Boylan, an author, Barnard College professor and co-chair of GLAAD who shows up early, feels her “IQ plummeting” as her hair is done and winds up spending time in Jenner’s walk-in closet being offered dresses to try on.
“For Caitlyn, being pretty, being beautiful, caring about clothes and makeup is really important,” Boylan says. “But there are more important things than what you look like.... She has the problem of not knowing the community really well. She’s a stranger in some ways to the community.”
Candis Cayne, Chandi Moore, Drian Juarez, Jen Richards and Zackary Drucker round out the group that’s lifting glasses of white wine and listening to Jenner tell a story about world-famous photographer Annie Leibovitz tearing up during the Vanity Fair shoot.
Not exactly a path the others took, or a story they could tell.
“What you should expect,” Boylan tells Jenner’s hairstylist, “is people saying, Caitlyn is a sweet, smart, good soul who wants to be good in the world but has every advantage, every privilege in the world, and that the world is full of people -- nobody wants to take their picture.”
As the women share their histories, Jenner is shocked by Cayne’s story of being referred to by a doctor as another one of “those people.”
“Yes, Cait, that happens all the time,” Moore snaps. “A day in the life of being trans.”
Away from the group, Jenner wonders: “What if people turn on me like that?” Then she reveals that this is the first time she’s been in a room with more than one transgender woman. And, hey, how did they all deal with the voice thing?
Chandi Moore says she doesn’t have time for that nonsense, while Jen Richards admits working “really hard” with a vocal therapist to raise her pitch because she was tired of being called “sir” on the phone. Surgery is not mentioned.
Then it’s time to shock Jenner once again as Drian Juarez admits to having been a sex worker to pay for her transition. The former Olympic gold medalist asks Juarez if she’s ever talked about that with writer and transgender activist Janet Mock, who admitted in her book that she too did sex work to pay for her transition. Um, no, Juarez hasn’t.
“Cait thinks that because she read a couple of pages in a book that she’s in the know, but she doesn’t get it,” Chandi says in an interview away from the dinner table. “She doesn’t realize how common sex-work stories are.”
Clearly, what needs to happen is a road trip, which Jenner suggests during a wardrobe-change later to Boylan and Richards. She says she’ll arrange for a luxury RV so the ladies can all travel in style to the Human Rights Campaign offices in San Francisco.
Time to pack all of Caitlyn’s stuff for the trip! And yes, Jenner is still referring to herself in third person. Assistant and confidante Ronda Kamihira will be coming along, and Ronda’s daughters are teasing Caitlyn about how cute Candis Cayne is.
Ronda and hairstylist Courtney will represent Team Cisgender -- and can Caitlyn explain to them exactly what “cis” is? Baby steps. Then, after a few sneaky moves are taken to lose the paparazzi, the crew is on the open road.
The wine and conversation are flowing and it’s all fun and games and California poppies and a little bit of activism talk until Caitlyn suggests that some people might be able to earn more money by living off of social services rather than taking one of those entry-level jobs Jen Richards would like to see made available to transgender girls. It does not go over well.
“You don’t want people to get totally dependent on it,” Jenner says. “That’s when they get in trouble. ‘Why should I work?’”
Now Boylan is concerned that Jenner’s conservative beliefs might pose a problem moving forward, because, she says, many transgender men and women need social-services help to survive.
“Living in the bubble is an impediment to understanding other people,” Boylan says separate from the group. “If Cait’s going to be a spokesperson for our community, this is something she’s going to have to understand.”
Back in cis-land, Courtney and Ronda are gossiping about possible chemistry between Caitlyn and Candis. This is, after all, a reality show. And yes, at their house-in-the-woods destination, the women hash out who’s sleeping where (Ronda gets the short end of the stick in the form of a long walk down a hill to the guest house) and are soon interacting with more wine and the obligatory hot tub.
Now, here’s the part of the episode where Jenner appears most vulnerable. It’s the bathing suit thing. Sure, she packed a suit, but she finds she can’t bring herself to take the plunge and put it on in public. She chooses instead to hang back in the house, alone.
“I don’t think I’m ready for that,” she says in her bedroom, talking solo to a camera. “I just don’t know if I’m ready to expose myself like that. Maybe down the line I’ll feel more comfortable with myself, but right now -- I just can’t see myself doing it.”
But morning dawns and Jenner’s back to feeling joyful and free as she hits golf balls off the cliff and experiments with how her swing works now that she has breasts. Yet in a tete-a-tete nearby, Boylan and Richards are nervous ahead of the HRC visit.
“If Cait emerges from this whole thing thinking womanhood is a party...,” Boylan says. “She’s so happy and it’s so moving to see her so elated, but it’s also ... I’m afraid people will think ... it’s all about makeup and hair. And yet there are all these trans women out there who are in danger.”
She worries that Jenner -- who’s obsessing once again about her deep voice, which she doesn’t want for herself, because she does a lot of public speaking, and hey, ladies, aren’t there a lot of options to fix that? -- is oblivious.
The trans women they visit at the HRC aren’t about to let Caitlyn stay that way, however.
She hears from one woman who’s been transitioning since age 19 and wound up as a sex worker after being trans got her fired from four jobs. And then it’s time to hear from Blossom Brown, who’s not about to hold back.
“I’m going to be honest, Caitlyn, when you came out it was so mixed, or whatever because it seems like, you have these transgender women of color who ... were basically saying the same thing you were doing and nobody wanted to hear it ...,” Brown says. “Let’s just be real. It had something to do with your socio-economical status.”
“You’re up there,” she continues. “Come down, and understand with everybody else.”
And that, friends, has nothing to do with hair, makeup or Vanity Fair.
To be continued ...
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