Why Caitlyn Jenner Will Never Grow Out of Her Privilege

Caitlyn,

You recently posted a picture of yourself and several other women meeting with Hillary Clinton, and as much as I'm no Hillary fan, I can only hope it's meant to indicate a step away from a political party that seeks our extermination. All the same, what caught me most wasn't the image, or Hillary, It was the hashtags: #learningfrommygirls, and #willingtolisten, attitudes you've expressed every time you've gotten caught with your redbottoms in your mouth, which seems to be becoming a habit of yours. To be honest, we're all tired of hearing it. We've all been trying, so hard, to be patient, but you keep missing the one most important fact:

You have a lot to learn, and you will never learn it from a life of privilege.

You benefit from your class, wealth and whiteness. No one hates you for that, but it blinds you to the reality of the negative consequences the rest of us suffer just for being trans. If you want a surgical procedure, you can get it done. If your whole family had rejected you, you still wouldn't have faced homelessness. If someone wanted to murder you for being trans, they'd have to do so knowing that they'd never get away with it. The only way anyone can really hurt you for being trans, is if you allow their words to hurt you, and you've made it clear that you have a stronger backbone than that.

It's great that you're willing to learn, but the only way to do that is to start learning from us: the underprivileged trans women of color who face the brunt of institutionalized transphobia.

I'm not talking about Laverne Cox, or Janet Mock or any other names you know (even though both are great role models and very strong and amazing trans women of color), I'm talking about the rest of us down here who who still actually have to face the realities of institutionalized discrimination and unemployment. 19 percent of us end up homeless, 30 percent will be incarcerated, we have 50 percent chance of suffering violence at the hands of our own families and friends, a 66 percent chance of being sexually assaulted, a 1 in 12 chance of being murdered just for being transgender and all of the other things that your privilege will prevent you from ever experiencing.

While it might seem like a fairytale for you to finally be your genuine self, for us, it's a nightmare of necessity. There's nothing glamorous for us, it's a daily struggle for survival. I lost my home, my family and nearly everyone I ever knew. I was beaten and thrown into hospital for nearly 2 weeks until a trans rights group rescued me, and we're still working to rehabilitate me from the mental anguish I lived through at the hands of my own family and friends, which will probably never really go away. Since then I've survived sexual assault, verbal assault, had many near misses with physical assault, yet I'm one of the lucky ones.

If you want to learn about being trans, these are experiences you need to learn from, because that's what being trans means. It means losing everything but your beating heart just to be who you really are, and 1 in 12 of us don't even get to keep that.

You can get up on a stage and mention Mercedes Williamson, and the tragedy of her death at the hands of a romantic partner, but when that happens only a couple of counties away, I get to mourn someone I never knew, whom I immediately wished with all my art that I could have known. Someone who I wished I could have saved, someone who we actually could have saved if only we had more people in your position with your visibility, but who had actually lived through everything the rest of us have lived through to help bring the awareness that we need to save trans lives. I'm left here to console those friends of hers who've found me on social media while I'm still trying to console myself, grieving over someone I never got the chance to know, who will never have the chance to live the life she deserved. I'm left at trans day of remembrance, struggling to maintain my composure during triggering performance pieces I've practically lived through, knowing later that I'll have to still maintain that composure as I have to read and hear the names the names of every single one of the nearly 240 transgender women who were murdered worldwide last year, and the countless more trans youth who took their own lives in a world that seems hopeless.

And then I get to come home, and wonder when I'm going to be next.

That's the reality the rest of us have to live with, and while you may not be responsible for the actions of those who make this our reality, you do have a responsibility to learn from those of us who suffer through the worst of it, and to make the most of your visibility by educating yourself and taking a stand against the tragedies we have to face, and that means a lot more than getting up on a stage, or having a TV show or visiting a family that's lost a trans child. It means acknowledging your privilege, getting down here with the rest of us, and sharing that privilege with those who need it most by uplifting our voices, and maybe keeping your own mouth shut for a while, so that maybe, just for once, the nation can finally hear the voices of the girls like us, who are literally dying just to be heard.

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