From Bruce Jenner to Caitlyn: Will it really make a difference to anyone?

Under the glam, the make-up, the surgically enhanced or changed everything is still the mind, the soul, the person. Changing the exterior may not be the only answer.

Bruce Jenner after surgery.
"Still Life with Surgery." The former Bruce Jenner on this month's Vanity Fair cover. (Via Vanity Fair YouTube video)

LOS ANGELES, June 5, 2015 — The announcement of Caitlyn Jenner’s unveiling in the July issue of Vanity Fair magazine has been met with much fanfare and praise in every major media outlet known to man. In the event you have been living under a rock, “Caitlyn” was the champion athlete formerly known as Bruce Jenner, who won the gold medal in the 1976 Summer Olympics games. Bruce was married to Kris Jenner, the mother who spawned the famous for being famous Kardashian clan.

Back in May, Bruce informed Dianne Sawyer that he was undergoing gender reassignment surgery to become a woman. Enter Vanity Fair, who decided to put Caitlyn on its next magazine cover. With photography by Annie Leibovitz and a detailed interview by Buzz Bissinger, Vanity Fair unveiled Caitlyn like a debutante at a ball.

The wholesale elimination of Bruce is now complete.

Read Also: Caitlyn Jenner, a hero for our times?

Behind all the heartfelt congratulations from celebrities, politicians and everyday Americans, there is a publicity campaign to milk this transformation for all it is worth. Apparently a documentary series on Bruce’s journey to become Caitlyn is in production, along with fresh story arcs for Caitlyn on “Keeping up with the Kardashians,” which stars the aforementioned spawn: Kim, Kourtney and Khloe, along with Kylie and Kendall Jenner, the children produced by Kris when Caitlyn was still husband Bruce.

Online magazine India Today reported that Caitlyn is now getting offers to represent cosmetic lines and may have settled on representing MAC Cosmetics. This is part of a wholesale media push to show that Caitlyn is living the high life as a woman and to ensure she remains in the spotlight.

But is this a healthy way to integrate into a new gender?

Aside from the naked opportunism of entertainment companies and some deeply stupid commentary (I’m talking to you, Mike Huckabee), there is also concern that this may not be quite the triumph Caitlyn and the liberal media are making it out to be.

Chomping at the bit for its share of the pie and throwing caution to the wind, ESPN immediately followed the Vanity Fair reveal with its own announcement that it will award Caitlyn Jenner its Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at its 2015 ESPY awards. Caitlyn was chosen over individuals with more recent profiles in sports and who exemplified courage under circumstances they did not choose, including

  • Lauren Hill, a college athlete who played basketball for Mount St. Joseph while battling a cancerous brain tumor. She not only showed up on court while fighting her disease, but raised more than $1 million for cancer research before she finally succumbed to the tumor.
  • Army veteran Noah Galloway who lost his left arm and a leg to a roadside bomb in Iraq. Fit with prosthetics, he now competes in Cross-Fit events and marathons. He competed in the 58-hour Death Race, and most recently was a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars.” He, too, was passed over for this award.

Many in the Twitterverse weighed in on ESPN’s choice and called the cable sports network out on its desperate grab for Caitlyn’s coat tails:

Lest you think this is purely male ire, plenty of females weighed in as well:

However anyone feels about the Caitlyn transition, it would appear ESPN has jumped the shark on this one.

While combing through all the Facebook praise and plaudits for Bruce’s transformation, one particular post caught my attention. A user writing under the pseudonym “Nick Perkins” offered a takedown from his perspective as a marketing professional, opining on how Caitlynn/Bruce is merely a cash-cow publicity stunt, not a profile in courage or a new ally for the transgender community:

“My favorite line from [the film] Dreamgirls was the moment Lorell told Effie, ‘Even though my man throws confetti in my face, still don’t make it no party.’ All day I have read the overwhelmingly supportive posts about Caitlyn Jenner, all the usual superlatives: ‘amazing,’ ‘courageous,’ ‘awesome.’ What I have failed to read is an ounce of truth and honesty. This was no day to celebrate or send out praise.”

Wow. We have someone who is not swallowing the publicity cotton candy or riding the trendy wave. While I am sure there are quite a few out there, Perkins actually had the balls to document his thoughts publicly. He continues:

“Landing on the cover of a magazine that is using her and this moment in time to increase their advertising rates is no reason to think we have reached a milestone. She is not our ally. She has climbed on the backs of so many that did not have the same advantages to recapture another moment in the addictive spotlight fame, a spotlight that she has grown dependent on.“

Perkins went even further, contrasting the transgendered “Orange is the New Black” star Laverne Cox’s Time magazine cover against the Vanity Fair campaign:

“I would ask you to compare the difference in tone and truth between the Vanity Fair cover and the triumphant image of Lavere [sic] Cox on the cover of Time magazine, both tell a very different but accurate truth of the subject. There is no dignity for trans or cis women in that VF cover, the first image of herself uses that same overused and destructive tropes that women are fighting to overcome.”

His words are thoughtfully written, not just an off-the-cuff slam of Caitlyn or her choices. When you get down to it, is this truly a triumph for Caitlyn or just a marketing coup on steroids that will end in a serious backlash?

Apparently Perkins is not the only one warning us to take a closer look. A formerly transgendered female also weighed in on the media train and the potential fallout that may be awaiting Caitlyn after someone else steals the spotlight—and someone always does.

CNN’s Carol Costello hosted a panel that included this formerly transgendered female, now a male. Walt Heyer became a transgendered woman in the ‘80s, then after many years regretted the decision and switched back to the gender of his birth.

Read Also: Campus tales: Manspreading, rape, and Title IX idiocy at Northwestern University

Heyer said to the panel,

“Well, you know, this is really the most exciting time in a transgender’s life. I mean, this is the − this is the debut, all the things that you had hoped and thought about are coming about for Jenner and so this is the time to live it up and enjoy it. I just know from the emails that I get to my Web site and from my own personal experience, this doesn’t always last. It’s sort of like, you know, going down to the bar and you’re having a good time and you drink it up good and then, you know, you wake up with a hangover.”

Heyer has an actual Sex Change Regret website where he wrote a more detailed dissertation concerning his life and choices on the Witherspoon Institute’s Public Discourse page. He affirmed that “Changing genders is short-term gain with long-term pain. Its consequences include early mortality, regret, mental illness and suicide. Instead of encouraging them to undergo unnecessary and destructive surgery, let’s affirm and love our young people just the way they are.”

This information was aired on CNN, yet there was very little additional coverage about it. It seems the driving narrative of a buoyant and beautiful Caitlyn and a world following along in the parade is the story that is deemed newsworthy.

While the other viewpoints have not necessarily been silenced, they are certainly being disregarded.

Indeed, there has been evidence circulating as far back as 2004 that Heyer’s change of mind and subsequent return to his life as a man is not an isolated case. Paul R. McHugh is a University distinguished service professor and was head of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University. In 2004 he wrote,

“The psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Jon Meyer was already developing a means of following up with adults who received sex-change operations at Hopkins in order to see how much the surgery had helped them. He found that most of the patients he tracked down some years after their surgery were contented with what they had done and that only a few regretted it. But in every other respect, they were little changed in their psychological condition. They had much the same problems with relationships, work and emotions as before. The hope that they would emerge now from their emotional difficulties to flourish psychologically had not been fulfilled.

“We saw the results as demonstrating that just as these men enjoyed cross-dressing as women before the operation so they enjoyed cross-living after it. But they were no better in their psychological integration or any easier to live with. With these facts in hand I concluded that Hopkins was fundamentally cooperating with a mental illness. We psychiatrists, I thought, would do better to concentrate on trying to fix their minds and not their genitalia.”

Dr. McHugh resurfaced in June of 2014 with a piece in the Wall Street Journal reiterating his clinical study, “Transgender Surgery Isn’t the Solution.”

“At the heart of the problem is confusion over the nature of the transgendered. ‘Sex change’ is biologically impossible. People who undergo sex-reassignment surgery do not change from men to women or vice versa. Rather, they become feminized men or masculinized women.”

The year 2004 was also when the UK’s Guardian—not exactly a bastion of conservative or right-leaning thought—published an article that essentially supported Dr. McHugh’s views.

“The review of more than 100 international medical studies of post-operative transsexuals by the University of Birmingham’s aggressive research intelligence facility (Arif) found no robust scientific evidence that gender reassignment surgery is clinically effective.”

Only time will tell whether Caitlyn Jenner settles into her new body and female life; or whether, like Walt Heller (and others), finds the psychic struggle is still something that cannot be overcome. Unlike others who have chosen this gender transition, the continued triumph or fallout for Caitlyn Jenner will be as public as the current unveiling − and it definitely will not be as pretty.

Camera angles, makeup and favorable lighting only go so far. When all is said and done, you may have changed your appearance and genitalia, but you still have to deal with yourself.

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