Caitlyn Jenner: Mistress of All Media

Studio 360

When Caitlyn Jenner made her debut on the cover of Vanity Fair this month, she marked the end of a very public transition. Formerly Bruce Jenner in the 1970s and 80s, she was an icon of masculinity --- Olympic gold medalist, Wheaties-box icon, and Playgirl cover model. Later, Jenner became a B-list actor and, more recently, married Kris Kardashian and became the patriarch of reality TV's royal family. But all those years he was living with a secret, as he revealed in a Diane Sawyer interview in April --- she was a transgender woman. Now, as the Vanity Fair article reveals, Jenner has undergone 10 hours of plastic surgery and a difficult series of conversations with family members.

According to screenwriter, playwright, novelist, and humorist Paul Rudnick, Jenner's public transition could be a watershed moment for transgender rights. That's because Jenner was already so famous --- and so famously conservative. "Caitlyn, still as Bruce in the Diane Sawyer special, insisted he was still a conservative Republican --- it will be interesting to see if Caitlyn remains so," Rudnick tells Kurt Andersen.

Rudnick also finds the choice of venue for the big reveal telling. "Caitlyn is a mistress of all media, and she's doing such a phenomenal job of controlling her own narrative," he says. Vanity Fair is "sexy, but it's also elegant," he says. "It changes the story from kind of a tabloid scandal and something possibly seamy and lurid to something that is glamorous, that's sort of old Hollywood." And it also perfectly sets up Jenner's new reality-TV show on the E! network, I Am Cait.

Jenner's transition has raised some awkwardness for people trying to talk about her life as Bruce. According to Rudnick, some transgender advocates see Caitlyn's identity as extending back to Jenner's birth, "so Caitlyn Jenner won the Olympics --- which does seem to me historically confusing," he says. "It's become kind of a wonderful national challenge. Given what transgender people have gone through, it's kind of fun that they now become the arbiters."

Is Caitlyn Jenner's coming-out a big step for transgender rights, or just a very smart publicity move? Let us know in the comments below.

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