A famous Jenner is transitioning into a woman, and it is playing out in the public eye. Hair is suddenly much longer and fuller. The body has been implanted and shaped by needles, knives, and tweezers to give a more ideally feminine appearance. Flat comfortable shoes give way to heels.
To many, this doesn’t seem natural or appropriate.
She is only seventeen.
But Kylie Jenner has transformed quite suddenly into a very glamorous, womanly female. The media and public comment obsessively on her developed body parts and cosmetic procedures. They judge, but in the same clickbait breath, they reward: “She’s too young. But she looks great!” “What has Kylie done to her face? Is she the hottest Kardashian now?” She clearly covets the attention: she exists mostly in public as a series of mysterious Instagram selfies.
No disrespect, Kylie. You are one brilliant precocious drag queen.
Meanwhile, across town, in a lonely, seaside mansion, Kylie’s father Bruce has been undergoing a slower transition into womanhood, while desperately avoiding media documentation– so desperately that he contemplated suicide when one of his surgeries was discovered by the paparazzi.
Both Jenners are radically feminizing their appearances. The parallels and differences are striking. The major difference is that nobody is saying that Kylie is committing a crime against nature or the Bible, or that her actions are incomprehensible.
Granted, she is not changing her biochemistry… unless she is taking birth control. Which hormonal supplements are sanctioned by nature and God?
The bigger question is, who earns the right to be called a woman and embody womanhood in public? For me, there was something so honest and hard-earned about Bruce Jenner’s journey, as describe during his 20/20 interview with Diane Sawyer, that we should just give him the female medals already and stop debating it, particularly if his daughter earns all of the privileges of womanhood without any struggle. It’s akin to not letting a long-term gay couple marry but letting Britney Spears marry and divorce her friend for fun on a weekend.
During the interview, Bruce’s hair was grown out but untended. No extensions, no make-up. Ms. Sawyer kept asking questions like, “But how will you look as a woman?” She seemed to dumb herself down to play the “aw shucks, I’m just confused” voice of the perceived general public.
But the answer was obvious. There sat Bruce the woman, speaking her truth in an voice and manner so much more authentic and confident than during his awkward Kardashian show appearances.
Bruce let his truth paint the woman he is becoming — all story, emotion, and change. She is unfinished and imperfect, so different from the usual Kardashian model of femininity– voiceless, doll-like, flawless.
One detail of Bruce’s concept of womanhood stood out as particularly telling (and moving): He described wanting to be free to wear nail polish long enough that it would start to chip off. The authentic woman, to Bruce, was living a busy life, “blending in.” She doesn’t wear permanent nail gels that never chip or have a make-up artist touching her up every few hours.
Bruce 2.0, the woman, is almost six decades in the making, an expression of the most private, brave, and honest thing about him, however unresolved. I’m still trying to figure out what is less natural or normal about that then a girl suddenly turning into a human doll.
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