Caitlyn Jenner’s story of gender transition has captivated the country for the past several months. An 8-part documentary about her life, “I am Cait,” premieres on the E! Network, Sunday, July 26, at 9pm.
Jenner’s transition has been commented upon in a range of media formats—from thoughtful interviews on major broadcast stations to paparazzi assaults on her privacy. However, some of the coverage has been supportive and provided viewers an education about transgender Americans and the concept of gender identity.
Barbara Walters was an early advocate for thoughtful discussion of gender identity and transgender transition. She is particularly passionate about gender transition in children and produced a segment for ABC’s newsmagazine 20/20 titled “My Secret Self: A Story of Transgender Children” featuring three sets of parents and three transgender children.
Despite thoughtful programming prejudice against transgender persons persists. One woman from Texas has begun a Change.org petition to revoke Jenner’s gold medal. Ignorance about gender minorities is common since many people undergoing transition or those who have fully transitioned seek to remain anonymous.
Statistics of transgender Americans are difficult to find. One research technique for identifying the number of transgender Americans has been to study name changes in public records. “Since the Social Security Administration started in 1936, 135,367 people have changed their name to one of the opposite gender, and 30,006 also changed their sex accordingly, the study found. Of Americans who participated in the 2010 census, 89,667 had changed their names and 21,833 had also changed their sex,” reports Claire Cain Miller in the New York Times.
Stories about American families with a transitioning member are finding a home in some surprising media outlets. “Becoming Us,” aired on the Walt Disney Co.’s ABC Family network on June 8th and explores the experiences of Ben Lehwald, a teenager from Evanston, IL, as his father Charlie becomes a woman named Carly.
Acceptance happens incrementally. That’s why it took so long for a transgender character to make an appearance in DC Comics. In “Batgirl #19” Alysia Yeoh confides to her roommate, Batgirl, that she is a transwoman.