Me­dia ex­perts find much to ad­mire in Cait­lyn Jen­ner’s Van­ity Fair re­veal.

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Lor­raine Ali, Stephen Battaglio and Tre’vell An­der­son

por­trait for Van­ity Fair rep­re­sents a wa­ter­shed mo­ment in the trans­for­ma­tion of Bruce Jen­ner — and a break­through for the trans­gen­der com­mu­nity.

The new cover of Van­ity Fair fea­tures a glam­orous woman you’ve never seen be­fore, yet she’s al­ready be­come one of the most fa­mous faces in Amer­ica.

Cait­lyn Jen­ner made her de­but in public Mon­day, pos­ing in a clas­sic pinup shot by Hol­ly­wood’s fa­vorite pho­tog­ra­pher, An­nie Lei­bovitz.

“As soon as the Van­ity Fair cover comes out, I’m free,” Jen­ner, 65, said in a video on the mag­a­zine’s web­site. The short film was teas­ing the re­lease of the Jen­ner is­sue on June 9.

Reemerg­ing as Cait­lyn is the sec­ond most re­cent wa­ter­shed mo­ment for the for­mer de­cathlon Olympian, who re­vealed dur­ing an in­ter­view with Diane Sawyer in April that she was trans­gen­der. Jen­ner, who asked to be re­ferred to as “he” at the time, said that the tele­vised “20/20” in­ter­view would likely be the last time he’d ap­pear pub­licly as Bruce.

The Van­ity Fair mo­ment also rep­re­sents a break­through mo­ment for the trans­gen­der com­mu­nity, of which there are an es­ti­mated 700,000 in the U.S.

“It’s won­der­ful Cait­lyn Jen­ner is able to be her­self and show the world the woman she has al­ways

known her­self to be,” said Nick Adams, direc­tor of pro­grams, trans­gen­der me­dia at GLAAD, an LGBT mon­i­tor­ing group that ad­dresses dis­crim­i­na­tion. “But it’s also im­por­tant to know that this mag­a­zine cover is not the mo­ment she be­came a woman. She was al­ways one; it’s just she was the only per­son who knew that.”

In re­cent years, films and TV shows that fea­ture trans­gen­der ac­tors or char­ac­ters, in­clud­ing “Dal­las Buy­ers Club” and “Or­ange Is the New Black,” have sig­naled a change in me­dia per­cep­tions about the trans com­mu­nity. The Sawyer in­ter­view, and now the forth­com­ing 22-page Van­ity Fair fea­ture, are the lat­est ex­am­ples of trans­gen­der sto­ries be­ing told re­spect­fully in the main­stream me­dia.

Alan Nierob, the ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent at Rogers & Cowan who is be­hind the com­mu­ni­ca­tions ef­fort for Jen­ner, was not avail­able for com­ment on Mon­day. But public re­la­tions spe­cial­ist Howard Brag­man, a pi­o­neer in ad­vis­ing celebri­ties who go public with their sex­u­al­ity, said he’s in awe of how well the tran­si­tion from Bruce to Cait­lyn Jen­ner is play­ing out in the press.

“It’s been han­dled mas­ter­fully,” the chair­man of the com­mu­ni­ca­tions agency Fif­teen Min­utes said Mon­day by phone. “I’m jeal­ous I didn’t get to han­dle it.”

In a mat­ter of hours, Jen­ner gar­nered more than 100,000 likes on a new Face­book page she set up. And af­ter she set up a new Twit­ter pro­file (@Cait­lyn_Jen­ner), Jen­ner set a Guin­ness World Record for the fastest time to reach 1 mil­lion Twit­ter fol­low­ers, a ti­tle she seized from Pres­i­dent Obama. Within min­utes of her first two tweets, she had more than 190,000 fol­low­ers. Within hours, she had more than 1.03 mil­lion fol­low­ers and

sup­port­ive com­ments from Katy Perry, Maria Shriver and other celebri­ties, as well as most of Jen­ner’s chil­dren and stepchil­dren. “Free­dom! Stunning!” tweeted Kourt­ney Kar­dashian.

“Most peo­ple do this very dis­creetly and pri­vately,” said Brag­man, who ad­vised Chaz Bono when he re­vealed he was a trans­gen­der man. “It’s not some­thing that plays out in public. The ques­tion is can you play it out well and taste­fully and help move the is­sue along in so­ci­ety? That’s what Cait­lyn is do­ing. Most im­por­tantly, she is pro­vok­ing dis­cus­sion.”

Jen­ner went through pre­vi­ous strug­gles to hide her gen­der iden­tity, mir­ror­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence of many trans­gen­der peo­ple. But her phys­i­cal tran­si­tion is not as typ­i­cal.

As a celebrity, she has re­sources that al­low her to ac- cess hor­mone ther­apy, coun­sel­ing, sex­ual re­as­sign­ment surgery and fa­cial fem­i­niza­tion re­con­struc­tive surgery if wanted — treat­ments and pro­ce­dures that can run well into the hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars.

“The im­por­tant thing to re­mem­ber is ev­ery­one’s tran­si­tion process is dif­fer­ent,” said Drian Juarez, pro­gram manager of the Los An­ge­les LGBT Cen­ter’s Trans­gen­der Eco­nomic Em­pow­er­ment Project. “She has a lot of priv­i­lege. She is eco­nom­i­cally in a po­si­tion where she can tran­si­tion in ways that ev­ery­one can’t.”

The abil­ity to ap­pear more fem­i­nine is a touchy sub­ject among trans­gen­der women. To some it comes eas­ily. For oth­ers, they’re eas­ily iden­ti­fi­able as trans­gen­der and, there­fore, more vul­ner­a­ble to ha­rass­ment, dis­crim­i­na­tion and phys­i­cal vi­o­lence.

Jen­ner says that she un­der­went hor­mone ther­apy and re­cently at least 10 hours of fa­cial-fem­i­niza­tion surgery; the “Keep­ing Up With the Kar­dashi­ans” re­al­ity star also had a breast aug­men­ta­tion.

“The typ­i­cal per­son who’s tran­si­tion­ing doesn’t end up on the cover of Van­ity Fair,” said Dr. Jef­frey Spiegel, a lead­ing plas­tic sur­geon in the area of fa­cial fem­i­niza­tion surgery. “But there are many of my pa­tients who are mod­els and end up in Van­ity Fair, just un­known as trans­gen­der.”

While the exit of Bruce and the roll­out of Cait­lyn has been sur­pris­ingly re­spect­ful and con­trolled as me­dia cam­paigns go, it’s per­haps a re­sult of ex­pert han­dlers and the clout of be­ing part of E!’s “Keep­ing Up With the Kar­dashi­ans,” one of the top-gross­ing re­al­ity shows ever. In July, Jen­ner will be the sub­ject of her own eight-part E! do­cuseries that will chron­i­cle her tran­si­tion.

But don’t ex­pect a bar­rage of Cait­lyn Jen­ner in­ter­views just yet. Brag­man said the over­all pos­i­tive im­pact of the Sawyer tele­vi­sion chat and the Van­ity Fair story lessens the need do more press.

“You don’t need to do a lot of in­ter­views now,” he said. “It’s not about ‘how many can we do?’ It’s about how well can you do it.”

lor­raine.ali@la­ stephen.battaglio@la­ trev­­der­son@la­ Times staff writer Rene Lynch con­trib­uted to this re­port.


JEN­NER opened up to Diane Sawyer in an in­ter­view in April.

Mladen Antonov AFP / Getty Images


Twit­ter site had plenty of traf­fic Mon­day with its post­ing of Cait­lyn Jen­ner’s pho­to­graph.


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