Recently, Spirit Halloween, home of the Sexy Indian costume, unveiled a new costume: the Unisex Call Me Caitlyn costume. Said costume comes with a curly blonde wig (which isn’t even the right hair color), white shorts, white padded top, and a sash that says “Call Me Caitlyn” just so everyone can know who you are. And it’s being modelled by a chubby guy with a good deal of body hair. Classy.
Almost instantly, the costume generated conflict within the queer, trans, and allied communities. A petition has already gone up calling for the removal of the costume. Addison Rose Vincent, the transfeminine genderqueer activist who initiated the petition, says that “To make a costume out of a marginalized identity reduces that person and community to a stereotype for privileged people to abuse.”
Some, including Spirit Halloween, disagree and can’t see why it matters. I admit to grappling with this issue myself, not because I didn’t think it was in poor taste and shouldn’t be a costume, but because I wanted to understand why this was so. After all, anyone could don a Richard Nixon plastic mask and go around rumbling, “I am not a crook!” with impunity, so why is a Caitlyn Jenner costume inappropriate?
The answer lies in how we as a society treat transgendered people. Transgendered people are still a marginalized and mistreated segment of society, forced to go through absurd hoops to change their legal identification, often denied jobs, homes, or loans because of their identity, and even killed because of their identity. They are forced from teaching jobs and subjected to absurd bathroom bills. People won’t respect their identification and say things like, “I don’t care what Bruce says. He is still and always will be a man,” which is completely disrespectful and completely disregards a person’s right to self-identify. Sexual abuse and suicide are very high among transgendered people, and we as a society still don’t understand that transitioning has very little to do with a person’s physical expression.
You can see this lack of understanding in how Spirit Halloween chose to market their product: with a man wearing it. That picture reinforces how many people see Caitlyn Jenner: as a man dressing like a woman. Perhaps if they’d modeled it with a woman there would be less controversy, but Spirit Halloween would still be called transgenderism a costume and downplaying what it means to be trans. The whole thing is just unnecessary.
In putting out this costume, Spirit Halloween was trying to be funny. I get that. They were also hoping to cache in on some of Caitlyn Jenner’s fame and get a sales boost. I also get that. And, to be fair, they put out this stupid costume in what was probably the most tasteful way they knew, remembering to call Caitlyn “she,” which is much better than most people who make fun of Caitlyn. But it still wasn’t appropriate. It wasn’t cool. And it shows a complete lack of understanding for what trans people go through, what Caitlyn Jenner goes through, and how selling and wearing this costume will affect the trans community. I would hope that most people understand it’s not right to wear transgenderism as a costume, but I have a feeling that we’ll be seeing a lot of these outfits come Halloween.