I Don't Think Caitlyn Jenner Deserved the Woman of the Year Award

When Caitlyn Jenner officially came out to the world and announced that she was transgender, I applauded her. I was the first in my group to correct anyone who mistakenly used her previous name, or male pronouns. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community who has a transgender aunt and several transgender friends, I was infuriated by anyone who purposely misgendered Cait, or used her previous name.

I still don't think she deserves to have been named Glamour's Woman of the Year


I disagree with the responses that Rose McGowan and Moira Smith's husband had toward Jenner's winning the award. James Smith, the husband of Moira Smith, was transphobic in his critcism, and purposely misgendered Caitlyn, using her name in quotation marks to make a mockery out of her identity. There was more truth to what McGowan had to say, and she hasn't been the only one to criticize Cait's acceptance speech for this phrase: "The hardest part about being a woman is figuring out what to wear.” Photo series that depict women during diffcult times—undergoing abortions, serving in war zones, being sexually assaulted—with Cait's quote plastered across them have gained traction on social media as a sarcastic critique of her speech.

Many of those who believe Caitlyn was undeserving of the award think so because they don't think she's really a woman. My issue is that she is absolutely a woman—who did nothing in 2015 that was exceptional beyond coming out as transgender. That was an incredibly brave personal choice, given the stigma and danger of being an out transgender woman. But in my opinion, that doesn't warrant this award on its own.

"Caitlyn Jenner has helped shine a light on the problems faced by transgender youth and given voice to a community that is often unheard," a spokesperson for Glamour said in an interview with The Huffington Post

Jenner may have raised public awareness about the transgender community simply because of her existing fame, but transgender people existed long before she came out, and they were already fighting for a voice. Orange is the New Black transgender actress Laverne Cox Produced Free Cece!, a documentary about a black transgender woman who went to jail for defending herself and friends from an attacker. Chaz Bono has been a gay rights activist since 2009, and became more invovled with the LGBTQ+ rights movement after coming out as transgender. His memoir, Transition: Becoming Who I Was Always Meant to Be, was a New York Times Bestseller. 


The simple fact is that Caitlyn is not the first celebrity to come out as transgender, and many others have joined the fight for LGBTQ+ activism in a way that Cait has not. Many members of the LGBTQ+ community were upset by her dismissal of same-sex marriage, including Ellen DeGeneres

I think it's wonderful to see a transgender woman receiving Glamour's award. It proves that we've come a long way in terms of supporting and understanding the community. But I also think that the recipients of the award should be chosen based on more than just being a figurehead for an oppressed community; they should also be actively engaged in advocating for that community. From the way that Jenner uses statements like, "The hardest part about being a woman is figuring out what to wear," it seems that she's trivializing the experiences of all women, not just transgender women. She's not using her celebrity status as a platform for positive change. 

Other recipients of this year's Glamour award include Elizabeth Holmes, for revolutionizing blood tests and becoming the youngest female self-made billionaire; Misty Copeland, for being the first black ballerina to reach her level in the American Ballet Theatre; and Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, for standing her ground during the fight to defund the organization. 


What do the other women on Glamour's list have in common that separates them from Jenner? All have recently completed incredible feats, and are turning their attention to national and global issues affecting other women. One could argue that Jenner is an Olympic athlete and certainly deserving of her own accolades for that, but the fact of the matter is that Jenner's athletic performance is not new. She was recognized as Woman of the Year for coming out as transgender, and nothing else. 

“Thanks to Caitlyn Jenner, the stories of thousands and thousands of trans people—in all their glorious, messy, contradictory struggles—are at last becoming known,” says Jennifer Finney Boylan, transgender activist and cochair of GLAAD's board. That is completely true, and it's something that I'm grateful for. Jenner has a level of fame that many other transgender celebrities do not have, and it brings these issues to the forefront in a way that they previously weren't. 

If Jenner had not been nominated for the award this year, I would have loved to see her take the next year or so, after the life-changing decision to come out, and make positive differences for transgender people nationwide. I would have loved to see her at the forefront of the advocacy battle along with other transgender activists, and then I would have loved to see her being handed this award. I just don't think she deserves it this year.

The one reason I'm excited to see Caitlyn receive the award is simply because of what it means for the rest of the transgender community. Next year, or three years from now, it could be Laverne Cox or another transgender woman receiving this award, and that may not have happened without Cait. 

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About The Author

Alaina Leary is an editor and activist in Boston. She's a social media editor for We Need Diverse Books and has an MA in publishing from Emerson College. When she's not busy playing around with words, she spends her time surrounded by her two cats and at the beach. She can often be found re-reading her favorite books, watching Gilmore Girls, and covering everything in glitter. You can find her at alainaleary.com or on Instagram and Twitter @alainaskeys.