This article is part of an on-going original series written by Caitlyn Jenner for WhoSay called “The Real Me,” which explores issues and people in the LGBT community. Caitlyn Jenner says that before she came out as a transgender woman, she had “totally isolated” herself from the trans community. Meeting others like her, she says, has been “an eye-opening experience.” Touched by their harrowing but often inspiring stories of survival, Jenner, 65, partnered with WhoSay to release a series of editorials called “The Real Me” that shine a light on the issues and people in the LGBT community.
My experience over the last four months has been incredible. Many people have come up to me and told me their stories. It turns out lots of you have friends or family members who are transgender. Who knew? I never would have had these conversations if I had not come out publicly and finally lived my truth. For so long, people – myself included – were embarrassed to talk about transgender issues and now we finally have an open dialogue happening. That’s amazing progress in and of itself.
While I could write a novel on everything I’ve learned over the last several months, here are a few things that I’d like to share:
First of all, I’ve never experienced acceptance quite like what I’ve received from the transgender community. Even though my experience is far from the norm, this group of people has welcomed me with open arms – and I am eternally grateful to them.
The conversations I’ve had with my new friends (many of which you witnessed on the show) are some of my favorite moments that I’ve had since transitioning. Jenny Boylan, Candis Cayne, Chandi Moore, all of the girls …. I have loved getting to know them and receiving their advice. Thanks to them, I have gained so much knowledge about this community. That’s why it’s so important to me that many trans voices are part of I Am Cait. I want viewers to hear many different points of view, and I cannot tell you how much I appreciate their openness.
One of the many lessons that these fabulous women have taught me is that – despite all being transgender – they each feel differently about particular issues. It’s important to have an open dialogue with the trans people in your life about their unique viewpoints and not lump us all together. Just because I think something is funny or appropriate, doesn’t mean that all trans people feel the same way and vice versa. I can only speak from my own personal experience and in no way can I represent the entire trans community. My opinion is just that, my own opinion. There’s no one way to be trans!
Perhaps the most surprising and shocking thing for me has been to learn about the number of problems the transgender community faces. Up until my transition, I had never met another openly trans person. Job discrimination, sex work, ostracism from families, horrific violence …. I had no idea what so many people go through to live as their true selves. It is staggering.
While I’m far from perfect and will make some mistakes along the way, I’ve made it my life goal to help the wonderful people in this community. Trans rights are about 30 years behind gay rights (and look at the incredible progress we’ve made there!). We’ve got a lot more work to do in the trans community, but we’re getting closer. As Chandi reminds me, “We have to save one soul at a time.”
I want to help each of you understand something that I only recently embraced: Being different is okay – in fact, it’s great! But I also understand it takes some getting used to. Like many people, there was a time when I didn’t realize how important it is for gay couples to have the right to get married. But after hearing from my gay friends and learning more about the hardships they faced because of discrimination, it became clear to me that everyone should be able to marry the person they love. I can only hope that by sharing my story, there’s someone out there whose mind has been changed about trans people.
Because regardless of whether you are transgender or not, we all have stuff to deal with in our lives. To have the courage to overcome obstacles and be your authentic self is an amazing process to go through. I want you to believe in yourself and know that you can deal with it. You can be okay.
Many of you have written and asked what’s next for me. I’m going to take breather for a minute. I want to continue to grow as a person. In so many ways I feel like I’m a teenage girl discovering herself! I’m still trying to figure out what it means to be a woman and I will continue that process. Because you know what? It’s a lot of fun!
Let the journey continue…
Until next time, Cait
RELATED VIDEO: Caitlyn Jenner’s Message to Transgender Youth: ‘We Are All Beautiful’
For more information on the transgender movement, see a list of resources at CaitlynJenner.com.
For more on Caitlyn Jenner’s remarkable path to living an authentic life, click here to buy PEOPLE’s The Caitlyn Jenner Story, out now