Between Laverne Cox gracing the cover of TIME magazine and Ireland legalizing gay marriage, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights has arguably dominated the media spotlight within the past year. In regard to this community, what has been talked about most recently is the transformation of Caitlyn Jenner. I believe that because of Jenner’s role in the transgender community, she can help stop the discrimination of transgender people and help to give this growing group of people the respect that they deserve.

Caitlyn Jenner was formerly Bruce Jenner, the U.S. Olympic gold medalist. A majority of the youth population knows Jenner as the father of Kylie and Kendall Jenner, and the stepfather of Kim, Kourtney and Khloe Kardashian. For someone like Jenner, the way she announced her transition has received a lot of media attention primarily because of her celebrity. I am happy that Jenner has been accepted by both her family and most of society. I applaud her to courageously come out and dictate her own happiness. Caitlyn, who adopted her new identity at age 65, demonstrates to people that it is never too late in their life to be who they always wanted to be.

Jenner has been in the spotlight before after winning the Olympic gold medal in Montreal, setting a new world record for the decathlon in 1976. She represented a universal icon for strength, determination and greatness. Her face was posted everywhere, most notably on the Wheaties cereal box. Post-Montreal, Jenner became a motivational speaker that many closely followed in admiration of her success.

Now in 2015, Jenner is still a universal representation of those qualities except now instead of being on the box of Wheaties, she is gracing the cover of Vanity Fair. Jenner clearly demonstrates a unique amount of leadership that has always served as a motivation to many. For that reason, she is the perfect candidate to invoke change and the proper awareness needed to promote gender acceptance. She should be rewarded for using the influence that she knows she has in order to serve as a figure of acceptance in a community that often has been rejected.

According to the National LGBTQ Task Force, an organization that promotes civil rights for the LGBT community,  it has been reported that transgender people are twice as likely to be unemployed and four times more likely to live in poverty compared to the general population. Jenner’s publicity and fame can aid in drawing attention to the obstacles that the transgender community has to face daily.

It can be argued that because Jenner has lived a life of fame and economic wealth that she cannot truly represent the people who face these forms of discrimination including healthcare, jobs, promotions and even forms of physical violence. However, Jenner is creating what is the new norm in society. If society can accept Jenner, then they may be more likely to accept the next transgender person that they encounter. There have been apparent strides in our society that stemmed from Jenner’s new identity, and we will all be seeing or hearing the celebration of her new identity at next month’s televised ESPYs, as she will receive ESPN’s Arthur Ashe Courage Award.

Jenner is helping our society and older generations realize that the choice of gender reassignment is an acceptable change to those who are struggling with the happiness of their identity. She is breaking the notion that all must follow assigned gender roles. For that achievement, she should be defined as the new hero of our time.

Jenner is shining light on the transgender community as a group of deserving people who should be entitled to the same opportunities to achieve optimal happiness as any other person. On Fairfield’s campus, we share this same initiative and hope to create a welcoming environment for our students. If you are or somebody you know wants to talk about their feelings regarding sexual orientation or identity, do not hesitate to reach out to a counselor in the Counseling and Psychological Services Center on campus. Or, consider joining Alliance, Fairfield’s student-run organization that aims to encourage awareness and acceptance among the LGBT and Fairfield community. Alliance meets Mondays at 8 p.m. in the Barone Campus Center.

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