Release Date: June 2, 2015
BUFFALO, N.Y. – Caitlyn Jenner cannot be compared to anyone else in history, and that is what makes this moment so remarkable, according to pop culture expert Elayne Rapping, University at Buffalo professor emerita of American studies.
“In the past these women were treated as freaks of nature and people found them repulsive or treated them as jokes,” she said. “Jenner is being treated largely with respect and taken seriously. This is a milestone moment.”
Jenner is building on a wave of changing attitudes toward transgender issues, Rapping said. Recently, several transgender actors have been featured in major films and television shows, and now Jenner is adding to this cultural trend.
“This is an astonishing moment in American cultural history, not only for transgender people, but for issues of gender identity in general,” she said. “The willingness of more and more Americans to open their minds to our changing gender politics in a positive manner is an amazing development for a country that has not always been receptive to issues of gender and sexuality.”
There is no denying the fact that Jenner’s transition will continue to bring attention and visibility to transgender people, said pop culture and celebrity expert David Schmid, UB associate professor of English.
But Jenner’s celebrity status sparks several questions.
“Are we only interested in trans-issues when they apply to famous people? Will all this media coverage benefit or harm ordinary people who are already transgendered or considering transitioning?” Schmid said. “Celebrity is a famously double-edged sword, both for those who live in its glare, and for those whose lives are not considered worthy of media coverage.”
To find UB faculty experts on other topics — including issues trending in the news — visit UB’s Faculty Experts website.
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