I’ll admit it. I’m terrified.
The moment Caitlyn Jenner erupted from the long shadow of the Kardashian Clan to formally announce her transition, she’s courted controversy. From her skimpy reveal on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine and her public feuds with family to her titular reality show that demonstrated her shocking support for Donald Trump and complete lack of awareness on transgender social-political issues and a series of disastrous public statements an appearances such that deeply uncomfortable interview with Ellen Degenerous, Jenner has been justifiably criticized by members and allies of the LGBTQ community.
The 70 year old former Olympic gold medalist is making her first return to television in the live British reality television show “I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!” The series, airing on iTV, features a group of 10 moderately famous celebrities entering the Australian Jungle where they will endure sparse food resources, extreme conditions and arduous trials such as being buried alive and covered in rats, wearing a cone on their head that is slowly filled with wolf spiders and drinking pig semen. Those who embark on such trials are chosen by the viewing audience and broadcast across the nation as it happens. Similarly to Big Brother UK, those watch the show telephone in to vote for which celebrities stay in the Jungle and who leaves the show until finally a winner is revealed.
Jenner is arguably the most famous figure ever to appear on the annual series which will see her enter the remote camp in a live premiere on November 19th.
Historically, audiences who vote for the celebrity that will undergo the heinous challenges each week have a tendency to choose the most vulnerable- or simply the most entertaining of the cast to watch suffer. In 2015, We saw the first intersex contestant, Lady Colin Campbell, a 70 year old British Socialite, experience that first hand as viewers consistently chose her to undergo rigorous, often dangerous challenges due to her extreme, flamboyant reactions. The production was accused by some of promoting bullying conditions and allowing her to be subject to excessive cruelty by the public. Campbell abruptly left the show shortly after she refused to endure her third trial in a row.
77 year old television presenter and virtual meme Queen Kim Woodburn was treated to the same fate by viewers who were entertained by watching the posh woman with the tight top-knot nearly vomit repeatedly as she was forced to down raw kangaroo testicles.
Katie Price, who has been hailed as the British Kim Kadashian, also famously quit the show after being elected by the public for the physically and psychologically draining challenges seven times in a row.
It is safe to assume that audiences are likely going to target Jenner immediately, forcing her to shed her fashionista image and any illusion of dignity.
While it may be fun for viewers to put Jenner through the wringer, many who will likely do so explicitly because she is the most famous, most wealthy and unquestionably because she is transgender, many in the community are concerned about what Caitlyn will say between the trials that will certainly be caught on the 24 hour live cameras that may only further embarrass transgender people and further perpetuate toxic myths and stereotypes.
In the past, patience with Jenner has worn thin, leading her to go extremely quiet over the last two years. She has previously made reckless and altogether irresponsible remarks that led many leaders in the community feeling it necessary to correct her for the record.
For example, she claimed the hardest part of being transgender was “Deciding what to wear.”
In an interview with TIME Magazine, she seemed to make disparaging statements regarding transgender people who don’t “Pass” as well as Jenner’s extensive feminization surgeries afford her the privilege of.
She said; “I think it’s much easier for a trans woman or a trans man who authentically, kind of, looks and plays the role. I try to take [my presentation] seriously. I think it puts people at ease. If you’re out there and, to be honest with you, if you look like a man in a dress, it makes people uncomfortable.”
She quickly recanted her statements and issued an apology.
Last year, she made headlines again after being confronted on tape by another transgender woman, activist Ashlee Marie Preston, at a Trans Chorus of Los Angeles event. Preston challenged Jenner on her dangerous political stance, dubbing her “A fraud” in a video that went viral. Since then, Jenner has apologized for supporting the politicians who have legislated discriminatory policies that have threatened the safety of transgender people including impeding our ability to thrive equally alongside our cis counterparts.
Ultimately, the majority of those in the trans community regret that Jenner has been granted the extraordinary platform she has. For most Americans, Jenner is the only trans person they‘ve heard of and perhaps that fact was a burden too heavy to bare as a newly emancipated woman still coming to terms with the implications of her high profile.
Today the climate in both the US and the UK is especially hostile toward transgender and non-binary individuals. Hate crimes have risen dramatically in the last three years and trans women of color are being murdered in alarming numbers with the New York Times calling it an “Epidemic.”
Producers of reality television in the UK have been chasing Jenner for years, primarily hoping to get her to divulge private details of her life with the Kardashians. She was approached multiple times to participate in the UK edition of Celebrity Big Brother but declined every time, leaving Channel 4 to settle for casting Kardashian friends Jonathan Cheban, Malika Haqq, and Kim Kardashian’s former boyfriend and sex tape co-star, rapper Ray J.
The trans community is hoping to stay below Jenner’s radar during her tenure on “I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!” Instead, hoping she’ll give audiences the Kardashian gossip they crave rather than continue her string of inaccurate, blanket comments that don’t represent the reality or views of the wider trans community.