Why Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover is so important

Earlier today, Caitlyn Jenner introduced herself to the world as Vanity Fair‘s July cover girl. The Olympian and reality TV star, formerly known as Bruce, is absolutely stunning in the photo, wearing a pale silk, strapless bodysuit and her hair in loose waves. Above all, we couldn’t be happier that she got to introduce herself as Caitlyn on her own terms.

“This shoot was about my life and who I am as a person,” Jenner told Vanity Fair. “It’s not about the fanfare, it’s not about people cheering in the stadium, it’s not about going down the street and everybody giving you ‘that a boy, Bruce,’ pat on the back, O.K. This is about your life.”

Jenner is a woman who was assigned male at birth, and until this point, she had not revealed her chosen name and had asked she continue to be referred to using male pronouns. The cover, shot by the legendary Annie Leibovitz, is Jenner’s first public appearance as a woman since coming out as transgender last April in an interview with Diane Sawyer — and it’s as empowering as it is beautiful.

“If I was lying on my deathbed and I had kept this secret and never ever did anything about it, I would be lying there saying, ‘You just blew your entire life. You never dealt with yourself,’ and I don’t want that to happen,” Jenner told Vanity Fair.

The significance of this cover is not to be underestimated, and seeing a transgender woman celebrated so prominently—not in a speculative tabloid, but on the cover an iconic magazine—remains as important as ever.

As a public figure, her transition has the been the subject of both scrutiny and alarming insensitivity—particularly by certain tabloid magazines. The fact that she’s being given the due respect of other game-changers in Hollywood—via the cover of a major publicationis a giant step in the right direction for both the media and for trans visibility.

While trans visibility has certainly been on the rise thanks to Jenner and others, we still have a long way to go when it comes to how we talk about gender and how we treat those who aren’t cis. There is no one narrative for people who identify as transgender — just like there is no one narrative for any person of any identity, gender or otherwise — but by bringing attention to just one woman’s story there is potential to do immeasurable good. Jenner even joined Twitter today along with the cover’s debut, and had an amazing message to share with the world.

Later this summer, Jenner will debut a docu-series on E!, which she hopes will help bring attention to “rates of suicide and attempted suicide in the transgender community, among other issues.” According to a study by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, 41% of transgender and gender-nonconforming youth have attempted suicide in their lives. The National Center for Transgender Equality estimates that one in five transgender people will be homeless at some point in their lives (and rates of attempted suicide are higher for homeless transgender youth). A report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) estimates more than 72% of anti-LGBTQ+ homicide victims in 2013 were transgender women. There are astronomical, unacceptable, and devastating numbers — and the only way we can begin to reverse them is by bringing attention to the people being affected.

While Jenner’s cover is extremely important on a personal level, it also has potential to do an unimaginable amount of good — especially if it changes just one young trans person’s life, or spurs a conversation about gender identity for one family. It’s amazing that Jenner again has the opportunity to tell her story how she wants to tell it, and we applaud her for continuing to be such an inspiration to so many.

“Bruce always had to tell a lie. He was always living that lie. Every day he always had a secret from morning to night,” Jenner said in a video accompanying the cover reveal. “Caitlyn doesn’t have any secrets. Soon as the Vanity Fair cover comes out. I’m free.”

Watch the video for yourself below, and pick up the July issue of Vanity Fair when it hits stands June 7.

(Images via.)