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Television

‘I Am Cait’ recap: You don’t need a man to make you a woman

Caitlyn Jenner

Caitlyn Jenner in “I Am Cait.”

(E! Entertainment)

When “I Am Cait” began, it was clear that the show’s main focus would be on Caitlyn Jenner being confronted with the realities of what it means to live in the world as an out trans woman. However, what was less clear at the show’s outset was the fact that a significant portion of the show would be spent examining, even subtly, the gap between what Caitlyn experiences in this process, compared with what a normal woman’s experience would be.

Take new best friend Candis Cayne, for example. When the two sit down for a nice lunch out, they talk about navigating chivalry when it’s two women going out, but they also speak a little about Candis’ car trouble. It turns out that she’s driving a 10-year-old Volvo, with 100,000 miles and a computer on the fritz, that’s causing her no end of grief.

Caitlyn listens sympathetically before murmuring that what she really needs is a Porsche. From the look on Cayne’s face, it’s clear that she’s used to this type of slightly out-of-touch comment from Cait, responding, “That’s not really in my budget.”

The conversation then turns to Candis’ upcoming doctor’s appointment and how she had to wait three months to get in to see him, because there are so few medical professionals qualified and willing to take on the specific challenges of gender-transitioned patients.

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Caitlyn seems shocked at the thought of waiting three months to see a doctor and it’s clear that because of her bank account, there’s very little in the physical world that Caitlyn has ever had to wait for.

There’s something deeply empathetic about Caitlyn’s cluelessness about the real world, an honest naivete that only a person whose privilege has sheltered from the cruelest realities of life can exhibit. In a way, it’s the genius of the show itself. Caitlyn is the audience surrogate of her own show, and as she learns, the less informed and experienced members of the audience learn with her.

It also affords Caitlyn the opportunity to still feel an untarnished hope and anticipation for the future, something that occasionally eludes her counterparts who’ve been fighting the good fight for longer than she has.

It’s this enthusiasm that spurs her to take Candis with her to a camp for transgender youth. At Camp Aranu’tiq, Candis and Caitlyn find renewed faith in the future, as being around these youth who’ve found a safe place to be themselves is deeply inspiring.

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But as hopeful as Caitlyn is for the future, she is skittish when it comes to matters of the heart. In talking with friend Jenny Boylan, Caitlyn admits that there is an appeal to having a man treat her like a “real” woman, and Boylan is dismayed. It’s not that Caitlyn is admitting a sexual preference, but rather that she feels as though a man will legitimize her as a woman -- a trap, Boylan points out, that all too many cis women fall into as well.

“We look to men to give us self worth. You have gone to such trouble to be a woman; don’t be a stupid one,” Boylan says, laying it all on the line. While Caitlyn seems to take her point, she also waves off the idea of love, saying, “I’ll play that card someday.”

What the show (and the tabloids, as far as that goes) want us to believe is that there is a blossoming love connection between Candis and Cait and, thanks to the fact that the “reality” the audience is viewing could likely be created in the editing room, it’s hard to pin down. Candis even goes so far as to joke about it at one point in the episode.

If anything, it seems like the affection Cait feels for Candis, which goes above and beyond friendship, is rooted more in that gratitude that often comes when you meet someone who understands who you really are.

In a way, the pressure to get Cait into the dating world is surprising, as transitioning feels like a delicate time, vaguely similar to the first period of sobriety for addicts. The focus should be on you and how you feel about yourself as opposed to trying to put yourself out there before you’re ready.

Toward the end of the episode, both Cait and Candis meet with a matchmaker who, though he’s never had a client from the trans community, is confident that he could place them both, being that they’re such successful, accomplished women.

The results of their meeting reveal that Cait is the kind of person to date their best friend and, given her three previous marriages and yearning to go through the rest of her life with a partner, this comes as no real surprise. The only real question, then, is whether Candis is the friend to fill that role.

In the end, the women marvel over the positive review of the “I Am Cait” that appears in that morning’s Los Angeles Times, with Candis pointing out the beautiful picture of Cait used on the review and Cait being relieved at this bit of positive press.

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She then surprises Candis with the use of a Lamborghini while her car is in the shop, saying in a separate interview that thanks to her contacts in the auto industry, it was easy for her to hook her friend up.

“I don’t want Candis to give up on herself,” she says. And it looks like Caitlyn has no intention of giving up on her either.

Follow me on Twitter at @midwestspitfire


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