I Am Cait Premiere: A Big Step For Reality TV & The Trans Community

It's rare to think of reality shows or reality stars as beacons of positive change. Inherently, they occupy a place in the industry that thrives on shrewd self-promotion for personal gain. But that could all change with the arrival of I Am Cait, the E! six-part docu-series that premiered on Sunday night. That's not to say that Caitlyn Jenner, a member of polarizing and ubiquitous Jenner/Kardashian clan, isn't a smart player in the fame game — but she's using her status for the betterment of the world. How many stars, particularly in reality TV, can we truly say that about?

In the first moments of I Am Cait, we find a sleepless Jenner up worrying about the responsibility she has toward the transgender community. Now that her transformation is front and center in the public eye, Jenner knows she has to share her story honestly and lend a voice to an often silenced community. It's these instances of self-realization and hard truths throughout I Am Cait that speak the loudest.

For every gauzily lit interview or Hollywood name-drop, there are heartbreaking and achingly human moments, both big and small — like Caitlyn writing her new name on a birthday card or pondering how some of her famous children (including Khloé Kardashian) show their support on social media, but don't actually visit her in person. Then there's Jenner's mother Esther coming to terms with the pain of letting go of the Bruce she knew. Esther may in fact turn out to be the real star of the premiere. (Sorry, Kanye, not even your delightfully low-key, sneaker cameo can beat Esther.)

Jenner's mother is a warm, down-to-earth, loving parent trying to better understand her child's transition. She recalls thinking that she'd never be prouder of Bruce than when she saw him become an Olympic champion. But, she confesses, "I was wrong. I'm more proud of him for the courage he has shown. I love him with all my heart, and I certainly love her with all my heart." We love you, too, Esther.

But as Jenner and the series reminds us, even receiving love and support from friends and family doesn't necessarily make things easier for transgender people, particularly for youth in the community. Throughout the hour, Jenner speaks about the alarming suicide and murder rates amongst transgender teens and the need for a call to action. I Am Cait flip-flops between headline-grabbing moments like Jenner going through her closet with Kim Kardashian, and poignant, important segments like Jenner meeting with the mother of a transgender teen who took his own life. While every aspect of Jenner's story is worth telling, including her famous family, it's her efforts to raise awareness of pressing issues facing the trans community that will hopefully make the biggest impact.

Jenner says, "we have to be able to reach out one soul at a time and figure this [issue] out," and if educating the general public through an E! series is her way of doing that, so be it. If a series like this can show its star telling those in distress that they should "seek help, you just have to get through that day," and provide a number to the Trevor Lifeline number, then it's worth all the media hoopla and magazine covers and Twitter frenzies and famous family cameos. Caitlyn Jenner's story is, without question, a fascinating one, but it's how her story will affect others, that really makes I Am Cait worth watching.
Advertisement