transgender symbol

In Other News: Caitlyn Jenner & Gender Identity

A look at a current news item through the lens of different titles available on GVRL to find research inspiration.

By Michelle Eickmeyer

When Bruce Jenner sat down with Diane Sawyer, he openly discussed a battle he has been fighting for most of his life. And on 24 April, he let the world in on his secret: Bruce Jenner, American hero athlete and reality pseudo-star, is transgender. Though Jenner is an actual stranger to most of us, many people do feel that they know Bruce. They may have seen him on TV, or on a magazine cover. They may have rooted for him all those years ago as he seemed to embody America’s battle against the USSR. Because of this unique position and circumstance, Jenner’s revelations and transition are special. For the first time, perhaps ever, most of the country (if not the world) can truly say they know someone who identifies as transgender. On ` June, the world said goodbye to Bruce, and hello to Caitlyn Jenner. She is who she has always been, and is now sharing her battle to be herself, and her appearance, with the world.

Caitlyn is the most recent in a growing list of main-stream transgender people. In 2007, Candis Cayne turned heads as Billy Baldwin’s mistress for 11 episodes on ABC’s Dirty Sexy Money, marking the first time a trans character appeared for more than a single episode on prime time American television. Chaz Bono began his transition in 2008, after suffering for years with the press. Laverne Cox, one of the stars of Orange is the New Black, became the first transgender person to appear on the cover of Time Magazine (May 2014) for an article titled “The Transgender Tipping Point.” Andreja Pejic (Instagram) was the first transgender model to appear in Vogue magazine while Hari Nef (Instagram) signed with modeling agency IMF earlier this year, a first for the powerhouse agency. There are others, famous and not, making changes every day.

Less 1/3 of 1% of the U.S. population identify as transgender (Source). Historically, this group is the recipients of an extremely disproportionate amount of violence, 20% of murders and 40% of violence by police. (Source) More recent statistics for the first quarter of 2014 show that 10% of violent crimes were committed against trans kids under 18. Kids.They were beaten, stabbed, stoned, shot, hanged, strangled, and dismembered. (Source) Sometimes by strangers; sometimes by family. Too often, they kill themselves.

Here are five titles that address gender identity from different perspectives:

Proud Heritage: People, Issues, and Documents of the LGBT Experience, 1st Edition. ABC-Clio, 2015.

In 1983, Karen Ulane, a transgender woman and decorated Vietnam War vet, was fired by an airline which doesn’t exist anymore. She sued her former employer for violation of her Title VII rights, per the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The arguments were largely centered on one key question – does protection against discrimination include the transgender community? In the early 2000s, many states quickly voted to adopt anti-gay legislation to prevent “the spread” of gay marriage. But a lot has changed in social, cultural, and even religious views in the last decade. Get timely information in this new ABC-Clio story, including state-by-state information.

Michigan Manual of Plastic Surgery, 1st Edition. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2015.

A real and important part of identity is feeling and looking like “yourself.” For the transgender community (and, let’s be honest, a lot of the rest of the world), that often involves plastic surgery. If you’re looking for first hand information on techniques and methodology, this new title is for you.

Stability of Happiness, 1st Edition. Academic Press, 2015.

Most conversation surrounding the Jenner transition has been around being true to one’s self and to living an honest and happy life. The concept of “happiness,” however can be extremely complex. If happiness a fluid, changing thing? We all know that the kinds of things which bring us happiness change often during life, but what about finding and keeping personal happiness? Is that different, and how? Take a deep dive into the happy place with this new title.

Education Reference Guide: Gender & Sexuality Issues, 1st Edition.Salem Press, 2014.

For many, the concepts of transgender, gender identity, and gay are amorphous and confusing. For members of the LGBT community, they are entirely separate ideas. Gain clarity, comfort, and an important vocabulary with this Salem Press title. This series is designed to help educators and other working with students, using real-world scenarios and situations including Title IX and gender in sports. dispensing birth control, gender disparity in testing, and more.

Gender History Across Epistemologies, 1st Edition. Wiley-Blackwell, 2014.

What we believe to be “manly” or “feminine” is largely based on what we’ve been told or have seen ourselves. This new Wiley-Blackwell title examines the assumptions and stories behind many long-held societal beliefs and norms challenged by the transgender, and to some extent the gay, community.


photoAbout the Author

Michelle is an “anytime!” traveler and language enthusiast. She has degrees in talking from Central Michigan and Michigan State University. She is currently becoming a runner and used to play golf in high school.



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