By all outward appearances, the Jenner/Kardashian clan handled Caitlyn’s transition to a woman better than could be expected, with supportive words and praise for her bravery.
Turns out, it wasn’t an easy step for every family member to take.
Caitlyn reveals in the first episode of her new show that Khloé Kardashian really struggled with the change. While Caitlyn invited her over to “meet” her in person multiple times, Khloé declined. Rob Kardashian was also one of the last to meet Caitlyn as Caitlyn, though we do see the two having a supportive phone conversation at the beginning of the show.
But most surprising of all was Caitlyn’s mother’s reaction. We’ve seen 88-year-old Esther Jenner publicly support her child, praising her courage and decision to find happiness above all else. Yet, in the show, we discover that coming to grips with Caitlyn’s decision was a huge hurdle for her. To help answer all of Esther’s questions about being transgender, Caitlyn asks a gender specialist to come to the house.
The most poignant question? Esther wants to know how the gender specialist feels about the Bible verse that says a man should not wear a woman’s clothing. Specifically, Deuteronomy 22:5, which reads, “A woman shall not wear a man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God.”
The gender specialist responds perfectly, explaining that in her mind, Caitlyn was always a woman at heart.
In a moment of clarity, Esther reveals that when Caitlyn was a little kid, she never wanted to buy new clothes. And while Esther was trying to get her (then Bruce) to put on the boy clothes, Caitlyn was trying to take them off, signaling that even at a young age Caitlyn was struggling with gender identity.
Yet Esther never knew the battle her then-son was facing because he kept it hidden so well — something the specialist revealed is also common since kids learn at a young age to fit in by adhering to “societal norms.”
And the realism the struggle brings to the show is just as moving as knowing that Caitlyn has the full support and love of her family behind her, no matter how difficult it was for them to accept Caitlyn’s coming out.
But, all in all, despite Esther’s struggle to understand what Caitlyn is experiencing and her decision, the Olympian’s mother said she still loves her with all her heart. It’s important to note that Esther is still working on her proper pronoun usage and still refers to Caitlyn as Bruce in the show.
Esther’s honesty and earnest attempt to understand what Caitlyn is going through provides some of the most emotional moments in the premiere because she’s so real. And her struggle is something that is so relatable. Being transgender is something that’s difficult for a lot of people to understand. But not because it’s something that is incomprehensible, but because people don’t take the time to educate themselves.
Esther may be intimidated by all of the changing circumstances surrounding Caitlyn’s decision to live as her true self, as a woman, but Esther isn’t letting that intimidation stop her from learning about being transgender so that she can more fully accept Caitlyn for who she is. If that’s not the definition of courage, then I don’t know what is. People should definitely take note of Esther’s example and strive to emulate it.
Esther proves that it doesn’t matter how old you are, your religion, where you came from or what you were told was “normal” growing up. Love transcends it all. And even through her admission that understanding Caitlyn’s decision is hard, she also repeatedly and staunchly maintains that she loves Caitlyn with her “whole heart” no matter what.
And we love her for setting the example all parents — young or old — need.