Over the past 24 months, the LGBTI community has made leaps and bounds in its fight for freedom and equality. Whilst there is still a long way to go, a new role model made it to the forefront of mainstream media yesterday, and sparked a conversation online that shows great hope for the future.

Caitlyn (formerly Bruce) Jenner made her official reveal to the world this morning as her Vanity Fair cover shoot was revealed. Instantly she was met with support and appreciation for her bravery and openness. Online, records were broken as people retweeted the image, and followed Caitlyn’s Twitter @caitlyn_jenner. Many celebrities, family members and fans showed their support in many various ways.

It’s not the first time that a transgender person has been on the cover of a mainstream media magazine; think back to Laverne Cox gracing the cover of TIME magazine last year. However, Caitlyn’s reveal has been met with discussion and reaction like never before – most likely stemming from the large following that Jenner and her family has.

This public display of bravery has bought the question of transgender rights – and what being transgender really means – to the forefront of social media. It has also bought the topic to light for many youth and for people that may not ever have been exposed to it.

Though, with a background in high-profile sports and then reality TV, she may not be your ‘average’ person, I think it’s great to see Caitlyn so proud and open in a world full of hatred and judgement. However, I also find myself questioning Vanity Fair’s motive for putting Jenner on their cover, and publishing this story. Are they there to support Caitlyn and the entire transgender community in its push to be “free” as they put it, or is there something else behind the feature?

Jenner herself was quoted as saying she is a businesswoman, and would be dumb to not make money from her situation, and that’s completely understandable, especially considering what it would take to do what she has done.

We all know that most media exists to make money. Without a profit, your business can’t survive, but is Vanity Fair being ethical by using Caitlyn’s newfound freedom and image for profit, without giving anything back? Such a magazine will be making a killing off an exclusive like this, but will the transgender community see any of this income, and will any of the income go towards making a positive change in the world?

The answer is probably ‘no’. Whilst there are many transgender and LGBTI communities that Vanity Fair could promote and support with this article, I doubt that they do. Would it be difficult to donate a percentage of profits to charities, or use them in a way that will benefit this community?

It seems like an obvious choice. If anything, more people would want to buy the magazine if they saw that it was supporting charities and this community. I think it’s unlikely that any of their usual readers would decide to not buy the magazine because they didn’t want to donate to the charities. If they felt like that, they probably wouldn’t buy the magazine anyway.

The article doesn’t mention giving back. It barely touches on the struggles of the LGBTI community, in fact it barely touches on the community outside of Jenner, and it doesn’t mention charities or how society can help.

I just don’t see how an in-depth piece on a privileged person who has had one of the easiest transition scenarios possible – outside of the media attention – and has experienced few of the struggles most transgender people face – is going to help show society the true reality.

Don’t get me wrong, I am excited and pleased to see the amount of attention this is getting, but I just find myself questioning; is this going to help affect a positive change?


Here are some New Zealand and worldwide charities that focus on LGBTI youth:

Rainbow Youth
It Gets Better
Lost-n-Found Youth
The Trevor Project

Photo: Annie Leibovitz/Vanity Fair/AP