In July of 2015, Caitlyn Jenner graced the cover of Vanity Fair, sharing her newly feminine presentation with the world. One month later, a Caitlyn Jenner Halloween costume hit the Internet, and over a year later people are still asking the question: Is it ever okay for a man to dress as Caitlyn Jenner for Halloween?
The short, medium and long answers are: No. Absolutely not. It's outrageous that this is a still a question, and says so much about how far we still have to go when it comes to understanding and respecting trans identities as a culture.
BuzzFeed reported on the costume in an August 2015 article. Manufacturer Spirit Halloween, said their costume was meant to "celebrate" Jenner. But really what it was meant to do was capitalize on Jenner's incredibly public and brave transition.
Caitlyn Jenner isn't perfect, in fact she's a divisive figure within the trans community. She's incredibly privileged; she's a Republican who supported Ted Cruz; she's a Kardashian. Her reality show I Am Cait highlighted these flaws, and yet she also used it as a vehicle for trans folks like Jenny Boylan and Chandi Moore to educate Jenner (and her mainstream audience) on the issues facing the trans community.
Jenner may be the most famous trans person alive, but her gender is still not a costume. When a man dresses up as Caitlyn Jenner for Halloween, the implicit joke is that Jenner herself is merely a man in a costume, playing at being a woman.
Trans folks are doing the incredibly taxing labor of educating cisgender folks — people who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth — about the vicious cycle of gender presentation. Cisgender society forces trans people to conform to cisnormative standards of beauty in order to be deemed acceptable, and then criticizes them for that very presentation, calling them men in dresses. The Caitlyn Jenner Halloween costume is a perfect example of this.
While gender itself might be a costume, an idea gender nonconforming folks are pioneering, someone's personal gender identity and expression are not.
While gender itself might be a costume, an idea gender nonconforming folks are pioneering, someone's personal gender identity and expression are not. It's fine for a woman to dress up as Jenner, if it's in the spirit of celebrating her rather than mocking her. However, a man dressing up as Caitlyn Jenner for Halloween is transphobic. Being trans is an identity, not a costume.
If you're unimaginative enough that you can't come up with a better, less offensive Halloween costume, just be a sexy cat. That's not hurting anyone.