Meeting Caitlyn Jenner

| Jul 2, 2018

Claire with Caitlyn Jenner.

In late May, Caitlyn Jenner and her publicist Alan Neirob, spoke to journalism students at the University of Oregon. Thanks to my friendship with the graduate student who hosted the program, I was able to attend both the session with 500 students and a smaller meet-and-greet beforehand.

I know that Jenner is a controversial figure in the trans community, but I was absolutely thrilled at the opportunity to meet her. She’s been an icon and inspiration to me. She transitioned at age 64 with the whole world watching, and ready to pounce on any misstep. I’m doing it at age 58; I’m well-known in my small county (less than 50,000) people, though my transition has been enough of a groundbreaking event to generate statewide media attention.

I recognized her voice as she approached the meeting room. Then she strode in, rocking her stilettos proudly, even though she’s six-one. (Note to self, who is six feet tall: buy more heels.)

We chatted for a couple of minutes. She posed for pictures, signed my copy of her book, and seemed genuinely interested to hear about my impending transition. I told her that I might be the first full-time, paid elected official in the country to transition on the job. “We need more firsts,” she said.

In the larger forum, she talked about her desire to use her platform to advance trans awareness. She cited the fact that a trans woman of color is murdered in this country once every two weeks.

“Can I make a difference in the world?” she said she has asked consistently during her journey. “Can I do this in a way that will make a difference?”

In addition to putting her own money into her foundation, she’s been raising funds from others, and she’s focused on two areas: direct support for organizations helping trans women of color, and research into the issues facing the trans community.

Jenner and Nierob talked about their efforts to shape the narrative of her story. From the selection of Diane Sawyer for her coming out interview, to her selectivity in accepting media requests today, to careful filtering of social media posts (Roseanne, take note), the Jenner-Neirob team has tried very hard to use her platform for good.

Some people have criticized Jenner for her political beliefs, for her naiveté (she didn’t know a trans person when she began her journey) and for the things she hasn’t done. This goes with being a public figure. I prefer, however, to focus on what she has done: helping move us closer to the day with being transgender isn’t seen as sick or abnormal, but just as one more dimension of the human condition.

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Category: Body & Soul, Opinion

About the Author ()

Claire Hall was born and grew up in a large city on the left coast and has spent most of her adult years in a beautiful small coastal community where she's now an elected official in local government after spending many years as a newspaper and radio reporter. In her space time she loves reading, writing fiction (her first novel was published by a regional press a couple of years ago), watching classic Hollywood movies, and walking.

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