The day that Caitlyn Jenner announced to the world her truth was a day full of change for anyone who had ever heard of Bruce Jenner before. The public seemed mostly unsure of how to accept this news. A person who historically had represented the pinnacle of an American male, in both physique and in accomplishment was finally telling the world how that she had been struggling for years. “Bruce Jenner the winner of the gold medal in the decathlon in the 1976 Olympics, a symbol of masculinity as interwoven into American culture as the Marlboro Man.” (Vanity Fair 2015). I chose to answer the questions of what visual cues do we use to determine someone’s race or gender? And, what has shaped your ideas of race and gender that inform how you perceive someone’s racial or gender identity?
My experience may be slightly different than others when it comes to identifying people’s gender. I believe one of the major cues we use to identify people’s gender is the clothing that they wear. I grew up around people who dressed androgynously. Which lead me to some confusion to which my family explained that you could wear whatever made you comfortable. I was reminded of this instance during Ruby Rose’s “2015 Access Hollywood Interview” when she mentioned that she considers herself gender fluid. Before her transition Jenner used to wear womens clothes because they made her more comfortable. “He also secretly wore panty hose and a bra underneath his suit, so he could at least feel some sensation of his true gender identity.” (Vanity Fair 2015)
Other ways that people try to understand people’s gender could be identifiers such as the tone of their voice or the way that they walk or hold themselves physically. Jenner begun taking hormones early in life before she made the complete transition. “Jenner had actually gone through various stages of transition once before, in the mid- and late 1980s. He took hormones that resulted in breast growth and had his beard removed through an incredibly painful two-year regimen of electrolysis” (Vanity Fair 2015.) An individual’s appearance is often the number one indicator for people that gives away the gender they identify with. However, structures such as gender are often fluid, and can often times be hard to distinguish. The subject of gender is very complex and one of the ways of explaining gender is through “anticategorical complexity because it is based on a methodology that deconstructs analytical categories” (McCall 2005.) Antecategorical complexity is more favorable over the options because it gives options for everyone. It does not have a set systematical system, it allows for the diversity of a society. “Social life is considered too irreducibly complex—overﬂowing with multiple and ﬂuid determinations of both subjects and structures—to make ﬁxed categories anything but simplifying social ﬁctions that produce inequalities in the process of producing differences.” (McCall 2005.) There are people who identify with different genders throughout their life.
The idea of intersectionality applies to Caitlyn Jenner’s story. Part of the definition of intersectionality is “social categorizations such as gender as they apply to a given individual or group overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.” (from the Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English) This is important because the intersectionality of Jenner’s life as Bruce and Jenner’s life as Caitlyn. There is subject that some people bring up of not being a “true woman.” However, “there is a common misperception that such surgery is somehow “required” to be a transgender woman or man, akin to a certificate from the Transgender Licensing Board.” (Vanity Fair 2015) This could be connected to the social role that a man or woman is expected to play. This referral to Caitlyn Jenner as not a “true” woman can be considered discrimination. There is role that people expect celebrities to play, and Caitlyn is playing her own role and being true to herself after so many years. There is also the fact that “their female identities are not my female identity.” (Burkett 2015.) I agree with this statement that two people who identify as female most likely do not have the same female identity. A good example is Caitlyn Jenner. As someone who was born female and identifies as female my social situations are not the same as transgendered women would be. This mean that even though you identify as the same gender, your identities themselves could be drastically different. Which leads to the question of what cues could one use to identify someone’s gender? A good answer is there probably are not many.
Bissinger, B. (2015, June 25). Caitlyn Jenner: The Full Story. Vanity Fair. Retrieved from https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2015/06/caitlyn-jenner-bruce-cover-annie-leibovitz
Burkett, E. (2015, June 6). What Makes a Woman? The New York Times. Retrieved August 2, 2018, from https://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/07/opinion/sunday/what-makes-a-woman.html
McCall, L. (2005). The Complexity of Intersectionality . Retrieved August 2, 2018, from http://anthropology.msu.edu/anp270-us18/files/2015/05/The-Complexity-of-intersectionality-McCall-2005.pdf