Inside Vanity Fair: Trans America, Special Issue on Gender Identity and Expression

I wrote about Caitlyn Jenner at the beginning of the summer following her public affirmation that she is, and has always been, a woman (at the time she was still calling herself Bruce Jenner, hence my outdated title). Since then, Jenner has been featured on the cover of Vanity Fair (July 2015 Issue) and awarded the 2015 ESPY: Arthur Ashe Award for Courage. Both the Vanity Fair article, which was thoughtfully and carefully researched and written by author Buzz Bissinger, and the ESPY award, which was presented to Jenner in front an almost exclusive athletic environment, were groundbreaking moments for transgender visibility in sport (and in general).

The Inside Vanity Fair: Trans America, Special Issue on Gender Identity and Expression features a collection of stories and profiles about famous individuals around the globe who have publicly identified as transgender. Jenner has helped to usher in a more mainstream focus on transgender rights and experiences, but this notion that Jenner has spurned a “movement” or a “moment” is misleading. As the Inside Vanity Fair issue represents, there are individuals from around the globe, and specifically in North America, who have challenged social norms for decades.

Renee Richards is one of those individuals (and also featured in the VF issue). Her story was documented in the ESPN film: Renee, which chronicles Richards life as a successful doctor and a member of the upper-echelons of American society (and a tennis fanatic who was very prominent in the amateur circuit). When Richards transitioned genders and “became” a woman, she also moved her life out west to California where she was officially known as Renee. There she began to play tennis in the women’s amateur circuit and because of her dominance and success, people began to question her gender identity and inclusion in the game. From there, the story gets very public and fascinating, but also stressful and sad for Richards, as she is outed as a trans woman, and thrust into the spotlight. By the way, this was the 1970s! and at that time, transgender rights and visibility was a long ways away from where we are now. BBC recently interviewed Richards – Tennis’s Reluctant Transgender Pioneer – it’s a fantastic read.

Fallon Fox is also featured in the VF issue, and is a well-known mixed martial arts (MMA) competitor from the US. Her experience in MMA has been widely chronicled and debated, with many high-profile people involved in the MMA scene commenting that she shouldn’t be allowed and has an unfair advantage. Her license to compete, after her coming-out as trans, was called into question too. As it stands, Fox continues to participate in the MMA scene, and has become a public speaker and advocate for trans inclusion in sport.

The Inside Vanity Fair: Trans America, Special Issue on Gender Identity and Expression is on news stands until November 2015, and is a wonderful crash course on transgender visibility and activism.

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