I Am Cait Episode 2 Recap: Kim Kardashian Teaches Caitlyn About Femininity

Photo: NCP/Star Max/Getty.
Last Sunday, the premiere episode of the E! mini-series I Am Cait, which chronicles the new life of Caitlyn Jenner, debuted to 2.73 million viewers and gained plenty of attention and think-pieces in the process. While I loved the imperfect but important debut episode, I thought the second episode was even more impressive. If the first episode was happy and glossy and shiny (quite literally, thanks to those mood-lit confessionals), then the second episode, titled "The Road Trip," brought everything into a harsher focus.

For the few moments of this week's I Am Cait that felt very cut from the Kardashian/E! juggernaut cloth — including an appearance from Kim Kardashian schooling Caitlyn on "femininity" and lighthearted non-sequiturs — there was an overall tone that this show is actually nothing like that at all. This is a family that shrewdly protects its own name and image, and Jenner is doing just the opposite.

Throughout most of this episode, Caitlyn is put front and center, but not for reasons you might expect. Rather than the fawning and support that's been placed on her thus far since coming out, she was rightly challenged and questioned by others in the trans community for her lack of real-world knowledge and the privilege that separates her. It's hard to imagine that any of Jenner's family on their own shows would willingly allow footage that calls their intelligence and integrity into question without being called "haters."

When Jenner has a girls night that consists of "cis" (non-transgender) friends and incredible transgender women, including Jenny Boylan, an author / professor / co-chair of GLAAD, she's given a rude awakening. While it was lovely to see such an inspiring group of women together in one room, their heartbreaking stories of discrimination from the medical community and lack of acceptance from friends and family are what resonated the most. Their stories are a stark contrast to Jenner's experience, and it's something that audiences needed to see.

Jenner and her new crew took a road trip to San Francisco so that she could visit an HRC chapter and hear, firsthand, more stories from the trans community about the troubles and dangers that are out there. The meeting (which will be continued in next week's episode) featured one woman explaining why sex work is so prevalent in the community, as discrimination in the workplace found her fired from four jobs. In one particular scene, Boylan pats Jenner's shoulder after Caitlyn jokes that she hopes she doesn't have to get into that line of work. It's a subtle moment, but a truly telling one. Jenner clearly meant no harm, but it's no joke, and it shows just how detached Jenner is from the realities of the trans community and how much she has to learn. As one woman at the HRC meeting urged, the attention given to Jenner, be it Vanity Fair covers or ESPYs, is all based on "social, economic status" and that "you're up there…come down and understand with everybody else."

Jenner's "bubble" was a concern throughout the episode, from the fact that she's a conservative to her desire to be a "savior" to the community without having all her right intentions in place. As Boylan succinctly put it, "She's eager to learn, but I'm not sure what gets through to her." While the episode clearly wasn't meant to bash or belittle Jenner, it certainly challenged her perceptions and her newfound status as an LGBT activist.

Jenner herself is still learning, not only about the community, but her own transition. She spent much of the episode worrying about the tone of her voice (something she's addressed in her own blog), as well as finding the courage to wear a bathing suit for the first time. Jenner is still so early into her journey and there is so much ahead, and this episode showed that while it's not going to be an easy one, it's one worth taking. Not only for Jenner, but for all of us watching. Our perceptions of Jenner will be challenged, but that's a good thing, really. She can be a hero, but she can also be a flawed human being with plenty to learn. I Am Cait is not only educating the masses, it's stripping away at the celebrity facade and getting to the core. If this series continues to do that, it'll do more good than perhaps any other reality show.
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