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Bethanne Kim  

Caitlyn Jenner is a Handsome Woman – NOT Gorgeous!

Frankly, I don’t care about Bruce Jenner’s “gender reassignment”. He’s not my husband, my family, or even passing acquaintance. It just doesn’t impact my life. But it’s been impossible to miss the headlines if you were online at all this week, and the big ones have all been to the effect of “Caityln is Gorgeous!” No. Caitlyn is NOT Gorgeous. Caitlyn is styled and photoshopped.

Caitlyn Jenner has a hair stylist, a make-up artist, a stylist to choose her (very expensive designer) clothing, and assorted other people to ensure she looks perfect. And her $200 bustier is from Trashy Lingerie, which can custom make items based on your measurements. Hardly the same as something grabbed from the rack at the mall. After all that, there are people to retouch her images.

So, no, Caitlyn is not gorgeous. She generally looks like a she (men don’t have breasts like that) – and considering she started out as a he, that’s no small thing. But she looks big boned, because she has a man’s bones and those are bigger than a woman’s. Caitlyn looks like a manly she, not a delicate little flower of femininity. Not “gorgeous.”

Women of a certain age who were still attractive would sometimes be called handsome in times past. “She’s a handsome woman” was not in insult, nor did it mean masculine. I think that usage and adjective are more suited here. Caitlyn is a handsome woman. (Face it: with that much money at your disposal, there is no excuse for not being at least modestly attractive.)

If nothing else, the reality is that “gorgeous” generally applies to much younger women. Once you pass retirement age, and Caitlyn has, the set of adjectives used to describe you shifts.

So what?

So why does saying Caitlyn is gorgeous annoy me?

It feels like political correctness run amok. Again. I can’t for the life of me see why everyone is saying she is gorgeous unless they are afraid that by not saying it they are not being “supportive,” are somehow “bullying” or phobic, or are risking a public backlash (particularly for magazines and websites).

The simple fact is that no person who starts out one gender and either transitions or dresses up like that gender is going to be held up as a shining example of attractiveness for their new gender. Mrs. Doubtfire was not a hot Grandma. Dustin Hoffman as Tootsie wasn’t the biggest hottie around. And Whoopi Goldberg in The Associate was not the World’s Sexiest Man. There will be traces of their old gender that remain, no matter how many surgeries they have. Bone size is just one example. Saying that isn’t bullying or being phobic, it’s just a fact. By definition, only a tiny number of people can be “the best looking” in their gender and saying someone isn’t one of those is not bullying nor is it being unsupportive (frankly, a job of actual friends and family, not the world at large or the internet in general). It’s just reality.

It’s also annoying that they are using the exact same word seemingly everywhere. The English language is a rich one. There are many words to describe an attractive woman. Stunning women abound on magazine covers. Beautiful women adorn many front pages. Stylish, elegant, classy women sashay up and down Fifth Avenue. Dazzling women pose on red carpets.

So why is it the exact same description for her, unless there is a feeling that she must be described a certain way by any supportive adult who is not a trans-gender-phobic Neanderthal bully?

Again, so what?

We shouldn’t have to describe anyone a certain way. We all have different standards and ideals of beauty, and there is nothing wrong with that. Even if all these posts and sites are authentic, by parroting the same headline, it sounds forced and fake. It sounds like something copied from a PR release.

I do not think that Bruce Jenner made a choice to do this for ratings (no one would change their gender for something so ephemeral), but I also think that he was fully aware of the publicity, ratings, and promotional opportunities that would come his way once he did it. If Bruce Jenner had never gone to the Olympics and gone on to reality TV fame, I think he would have died as Bruce. He might not have been happy with it, but he would almost certainly have accepted it because, frankly, without all the things his wealth and fame have gotten for him (including top notch medical care), having this done so late in life probably just wouldn’t have happened. Acceptance doesn’t mean you are happy with something, just that you have accepted that is how it is.

If Bruce had won the Olympics and simply never been on reality TV, I think (and this is just opinion) the probability is that he would have not made this choice because, really, once we reach a certain point in life, most of us simply accept our lot and don’t make major changes. He started down this path in the 80s and changed his mind. As I said before, this doesn’t mean he would have been happy in either general terms or with his gender, but he did make the choice to stop the process once before knowing how he felt.

But he did win, and he was on TV. This gave him a platform to have an extremely public sex change – one he will milk for a large profit, no doubt about it, and he has even all but admitted as much. But perhaps he will be able to do something good with it.

While I personally can’t imagine making that change or having someone close to me do it, I’m not going to judge Bruce or Caitlyn Jener for that choice. Ultimately, it doesn’t seem to have hurt anyone except his ex-wife, and that hurt is between them and God. I am not involved. But most of us have read or seen, at some time, the horrifying statistics about both homicide and suicide, not to mention homelessness, drug addiction, and abuse, among homosexual and transgender people. No matter how much you may believe that either of those are choices and / or wrong, I don’t think most people, on either side of the aisle, are OK with such horrific things being done to them. 

The ESPY courage award (a sports award)

Making this change was undoubtedly hard and involved some self-admitted second thoughts, but she already knew her family supported her and that she would make serious bank off of it, as well as getting monumental publicity. Doing this required far less courage from her than it does for many others who undergo the procedure and do not have supportive friends and family, big bucks to ensure they have everything they need (including special ordered large size shoes) and a security detail to keep them safe from anyone who wants to harm them because they made this change.

People with average incomes (which may be much lower for transgender because of discrimination and other problems they face), families, and lives in general may risk losing their friends, their jobs, their families – everything they love – by going through this process. Caitlyn lives in Los Angeles where rather than her losing those things, anyone who was less than totally supportive of her might risk losing their jobs, friends, etc. Making a major change to your body like that can never be easy, but at the same time, her risks were not as large as many others, and she had huge potential upsides in free publicity and probably improved TV ratings.

Even more  importantly, the Arthur Ashe Courage Award is a sports award and her gender reassignment has not a thing to do with sports. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Noah Galloway is competing in extreme sports despite having an arm and a leg amputated. Lauren Hill played on her team while battling brain cancer. THOSE are sports related accomplishments that required courage – especially Lauren Hill. No one knows who else was actually considered for the award, and it can be given for non-sports accomplishments, but it has been said many times that Caitlyn is a new and different person from Bruce – and Caitlyn has no sports accomplishments.

More to the point, though: if this award is given to Caitlyn instead of another award focused more on human right or some other relevant topic, what award is left for people like Lauren Hill or Noah Galloway to recognize what they are doing.

Honoring Caitlyn with this award is no more appropriate than giving a soccer star a Tony Award or a famed soloist a Pulitzer for literature. There are certainly awards that ARE specifically appropriate for her actions and I would far rather see her receive one of those and someone whose accomplishments are, you know, in sports receive the Arthur Ashe Award.

Final Thoughts.

Seeing all these comments about how “gorgeous” Caitlyn is annoys the beejeezus out of me because, well, I don’t see it. It feels fake and forced. And I feel strongly that there is absolutely no justification for giving her the ESPY courage award. But I do hope that some good comes of this in terms of less violence toward, and more acceptance of, others who go through or consider this process.

One point I want to be clear on: No matter what you think of Bruce / Caitlyn’s transformation, she is still a person and there is no need to be mean. If you wouldn’t, truly, say it to the face of a person you know, how ever slightly, in real life, then you probably don’t need to say it online.

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