Normally I avoid reality TV shows like the plague. Both out of principle, and from fear that I’ll become addicted to the trashy drama. Despite this, a toxic combination of my feminist values, the media hype surrounding the show, and the absence of anything else on TV got me glued to the first episode of ‘I Am Cait’ one night. I fucking loved that episode. Following such intimate moments as the first time her mother, Esther sees Caitlyn as a woman, and coming to terms with her new identity, it was heart-warming and nail-biting all at once.
In this episode, Caitlyn uses her show to bring attention to the trans community as a whole, including issues of stigma, expectations, and the disturbingly high rate of transgender suicides. She sums up what her goal with I Am Cait is, saying “I just want to be able to create some understanding, so that the next person who comes along doesn’t have to be like me”. I found Cait to be genuinely passionate when she spoke on transgender issues, and the vulnerability she showed was very touching.
Unfortunately, the shows later episodes fall short of its pilots blaze of glory. Despite best intentions, I Am Cait fails in its representation of everyday transgender people. While the first episode was quite documentary-esque, later episodes are an awkward hybrid of reality TV and serious issues. There are some sweet moments of understanding and friendship between Caitlyn and her new friends from the transgender community. This is nice, and it’s great to see LGBT issues entering into the mainstream dialogue. But, when it’s combined with extravagant activities and the token talking-behind-each-others-backs, the charm is ruined. Not quite trashy enough to be a guilty-pleasure-watch, and overlooking the deep difficulties and complexity that transgender people face, the later episodes don’t hook you in.
Perhaps if it had been made by someone slightly more reputable than E!, the show could’ve made a real impact. In my opinion, a one-off documentary or expose would’ve been more effective than just another mundane reality show. I Am Cait is not something I’d watch on the regular, but it’s definitely worth watching at least the first episode to get an insight into the struggles that transgender people face on the daily.