Caitlyn Jenner Is Still Confronted By People Who Aren’t Over “The Freak Factor”

As Caitlyn Jenner continues her journey of finding herself and her new identity, so does her show. I Am Cait still seesaws between being a groundbreaking educational/activist program and an E! reality series allowing us to peer even further inside the lives of those ubiquitous Kardashians. It makes sense that the latter is bigger ratings catnip, but the former is what truly makes this show important. Although Sunday night's new episode, titled "Family Interference," had some truly stand-out moments, it was overshadowed by Caitlyn's meetings with stepdaughters Kim and Khloé Kardashian. That's not to say that Jenner's family can, or should be, ignored by her program. They are just as big a part of her life as her transition. In the past two episodes, Jenner opened up about how her relationships with some of her kids has been strained, and that she does't want to hurt them, but she's also afraid to face the music with them. During this episode, she had to start facing the music. It's pretty safe to say the Kardashians are not your run-of-the-mill family, to begin with. But when you watch the likes of Kim and Khloé confronting Caitlyn about how to properly use her fame or that feuds can be solved with a tweet or a group text, it's more evident than ever. In this episode, the sisters met with Caitlyn to discuss their hurt over the famous Vanity Fair article, particularly the negative light it painted Kris Jenner in. Both women staunchly defended their mother, citing that Caitlyn's words and expectations of her reactions were not fair. Still, Caitlyn stayed true to her word, emphasizing she meant what she said and that her estranged wife had made things very difficult for her. In short, it was the kind of juicy reality-TV dirt you'd want, but it just feels so entirely out of place on this show — Keeping Up With the Kardashians, sure, but I Am Cait usually goes far beyond that. Case in point: During this episode, Caitlyn visited an extraordinary support group for families whose children are dealing with gender-identity issues (which also allowed her to meet with fellow trans celebrity and advocate Chaz Bono). In talking to both the parents and kids, Jenner shared with viewers how so many families who initially struggle can find their way and become happy and healthy together. It's not to say we don't want to see the same happen with Jenner and the Kardashians, but they clearly have more work to do and could benefit from such a setting. The support-group segment was particularly inspiring to watch, as was the scene in which Jenner invited over author and gender theorist Kate Bornstein. In a candid and eye-opening chat, Bornstein, who is also transgender, put it simply to Jenner: "We are freaks to a lot of the don't want to be a freak, and who does?" Bornstein urged Jenner to get over the "freak factor" and to simply own it. In addition to thanking Jenner for using her "privilege and position to do good," the author gave her perhaps the most valuable advice she's received on this show yet: "When they rug gets pulled out from under you, jump." There's no doubt that some viewers are more interested in hearing Caitlyn Jenner and Khloé Kardashian talk about eyelashes and handbags and have family squabbles, but if I Am Cait wants to differentiate itself from the reality-television pack and continue to have something meaningful to say, it should keep leaning toward the educational side of programming and, as Bornstein might put it, become a true ally to the trans community.

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