Since your Vanity Fair cover debuted, you have been the subject of many comments. Some of them were welcoming, some were flattering, but some were fetishizing and objectifying, and still others were plain vitriolic. I’ve spent the better part of the last 24 hours attempting to combat the vilest of these, but I’m sure you can imagine how effective I’ve been. Instead, I have decided to address you personally and I hope that this somehow makes its way to you. I want you to know where I stand on the things some people are saying.
“That is not a woman.”
You are absolutely a woman. For better or worse, the good and the bad, you are one of us and I welcome you. I will not relegate you to a sub-woman (or sub-human) status. I will not exclude you from feminist spaces. I will not presume to speak for you, but I will absolutely speak up for you. I will be your ally the best way I am able.
“How dare she call herself a mother?! That’s an insult to the sanctity of motherhood!”
I am a mother and I am a birth mother. You identifying yourself as a mother does not threaten me in the slightest. And, really, why should it? It’s not like we’re BFFs. We don’t even know each other. And even if we did, your parental identity does not impact my parenting ability in any way, shape, or form. No, Caitlyn, I am not bothered by you calling yourself a mother. You know who bothers me? These mothers. Some sanctity, huh?
“I’m so sick of hearing about this. All she wants is money and attention.”
You know what? We need you to get attention. We need to have more trans* people visible in the media and in daily life. So many people end up being erased, so if you being in the spotlight helps to prevent trans* erasure, I’m ok with that. Use your spotlight wisely, though. That’s all I ask of you.
“I have a friend like this and she doesn’t experience violence. That used to be a problem but not anymore.”
Yes, someone actually said this to me. And in part, this is why it’s so important for you to be in the spotlight. Trans* people experience much higher rates of assault, rape, and murder than the general public. You are famous, and beautiful, and wealthy, so you may not experience this. I sincerely hope you never, ever experience this. Unfortunately, too many trans* people do. When a group goes unseen, the violence done to them tends to go unremarked upon. You have the opportunity to show your heart to the world, to show us who you are as a woman and as a human being. Maybe if we can start seeing trans* people as human beings, we could finally start treating them like human beings.
“She isn’t brave! Our veterans are brave!”
Yes they are. You know what? So are you. Bravery is knowing the path you need to take is filled with dangers and pain, but it’s what you need to do so you do it anyway. You did that. That makes you brave.
“I’d fuck her.”
The people actually saying this one think they’re paying you a compliment. They are not, and as a woman, you will need to adjust to this reality. Being a woman means constantly combating the idea that we become community property when we enter public spaces. Men will catcall you. Some may try to grope you. Some may start to follow you if you don’t acknowledge their lewd comments. Ok, being wealthy and famous might cut down on that a lot. I wouldn’t know, as I am neither. Still, these aren’t compliments. In fact, reducing you down to whether or not you are an acceptable sexual partner is objectifying you and fetishizing you. That’s not cool. What makes this even worse is that I have seen women participating in this. You’d think, seeing as how we deal with this kind of behavior fairly regularly, that women would know better and do better. But no, some women don’t. It reduces you to sub-woman status, and that isn’t cool either.
“She only looks good because she had surgery. Otherwise, she’d just be playing dress up.”
You do look good, but let me be very clear. You would be a woman whether you had surgery or not. Whether you had hormone replacement therapy or not. Wore women’s clothing or not. We don’t have the right to dictate your femininity. You will be the woman that you want to be, and it might look different than how other women want to be women. That’s ok. Whether you decide to wear evening gowns and red lipstick or sweatpants with a messy ponytail, you are the woman you want to be. No one else gets to define that for you and no one else gets the right to validate your identity. Fuck those people.
I am cisgendered, so I will never be able to know what your experience is like. All I can do is offer my hand in sisterhood and welcome you to the fold.
Best wishes for a happy future,
Erin R. Britt
P.S. You don’t look gorgeous because you had surgeries or could afford expensive clothes. You look gorgeous because you look so fucking happy and free. Keep being happy.