Jen Richards on helping queer trans women come to light on “I Am Cait”

AE: Now that’s interesting, do you notice the income disparity the most when you’re hanging out with Cait? You’ve got to right, because she totally has a lot of things afforded her that a lot of trans women don’t–even in terms of passing, with professional make up and hair and all that stuff. It’s got to be noticeable in real life as well.

JR: Yes absolutely, she is given for free, clothes and bags that I would never be able to afford in my lifetime. For free! Because of who she is. [Laughs] Of course I’m envious.


AE: Yeah and just to see her learn about other trans women on the show that have had to turn to things like sex work to survive and things, to see her reaction to that, it’s almost like she is breaking out of two bubbles. The socioeconomic advantage she’s had and transitioning.

JR: In a way the show is about intersectionality and that’s probably the most exciting to me. Because when you talk about it, your gender, your class, and your race intersect. And that’s a very different experience for most trans people. Caitlyn is realizing that.


AE: Totally. I think the only real critique I’ve heard from the show is there’s a lot of focus on the “girlie-ing” of Caitlyn. What do you think about that?

JR: I mean I get it, because the instant reaction is to say oh she’s reducing womanhood to these superficial adaptations, surface issues, but you have to remember it from the other side. Imagine that there’s a set of behaviors and indicators that affirm your womanhood and you’re told your entire life that you cant have them, you can’t access them, you can’t get anywhere near them without feeling shame and guilt and like you’ll be mocked for it. When you’re finally free to indulge in those things, I think those are the first things that you go for.  I know a lot of my lesbian friends talk about how they were forced to wear dresses a kid and how much they hated it because they were tomboys or whatever. And I get that experience. But I’m someone who if I went close to a dress, I would get flushed from the shame that I wanted to wear one. So when I could do it freely, I put a little extra focus on that.


AE: So how do you feel about the way that show is addressing sexuality, including the focus on who Caitlyn is going to date next? Everyone seems to be concerned over whether she’s a lesbian now. She seems to be resisting this label, and any labels on her sexuality really.

JR: Yeah! We obviously, you know talk a lot about sex and dating and love. Very little of it has made it to air. But it is a point of conversation on the show. And as she’s said on the air, she really is not thinking about it right now. She has ten kids who she loves, she has a lot of respect and affection for, she’s kinda focused on getting through her transition that is comfortable and affirming for her. And she’s sort of bracketing off conversations about dating and love. I don’t think she’s even thinking at all about it right now. I guess with the public’s fascination, I guess that’s normal. We’re always interested in other people’s love life, for some reason. And I think its an interesting kind of voyeuristic tawdry question like, this someone who appeared to the world as this masculine man who suddenly becomes a very feminine woman, and will they still date people? And people don’t hear much about trans love stories so maybe they’re trying to figure out where we fit in. So I think it’s interesting, but I think she’s pretty honest about where’s she’s at.

AE: Was there any overlap between Keeping Up with the Kardashians and I Am Cait? Or did you interact with her kids at all in filming.

JR: Well I’ve met several of her kids, her sister, her mom. All very nice people, the ones I’ve met. I had never seen Keeping up with the Kardashians. You might have seen episode three of I Am Cait, where we were  picking out bathing suits and Cait said, “Oh this is one like my daughter Kimberly would pick out, if you know what I mean.” And I said, “I actually do not know what you mean.”


AE: [Laughs] But it’s Kimberly!

JR: Because I didn’t know what that meant! She would often have to explain to me references about her kids.

AE: I almost love that. I bet she really loved that.  So my last question is are you friends in real life?

JR: We are! We hang out off camera and we text regularly.


AE: That’s so great! Because, I like to think that when relationships feel honest on screen, they carry off screen. I root for that anyway.

JR: I truly wouldn’t have done this had I not felt like Cait wasn’t someone I could be friends with.


I Am Cait airs Sunday nights at on E! And check back tomorrow for a piece on her new project HerStory, which we’ll have a story on tomorrow. Follow Jen on Twitter: @smartassjen