Vanity Fair released its July 2015 cover featuring a glamorously stunning photo of Caitlyn Jenner in her first major media appearance presenting as a woman on Monday. While the image mimics your standard Hollywood-glam magazine cover, there is one aspect to the image that gets to the heart of the matter:
In the last year, multiple transgender youth have ended their lives, with one of the most well-known being Leelah Alcorn, the transgender teen from Ohio who left a note on her Tumblr urging anyone who encountered it to help "fix society. Please."
"The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren't treated the way I was, they're treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better," Alcorn wrote in December. "My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say 'that's fucked up' and fix it. Fix society. Please."
You, too, can grow up happily: At age 17, Alcorn is unfortunately like many trans teenagers who encounter depression and anxiety at higher rates than their nontrans peers. They also attempt self-harm and suicide at alarming rates (estimated to be as high as 50% by age 20).
Trans people face problems even broader than mental illness. They face higher levels of workplace discrimination, poverty and police harassment according to GLAAD. All of these issues feed into the everyday visibility and treatment of transgender people. While this population may be small in number, their issues have largely been ignored until recent visibility has made politicians, LGBT organizations and schools evaluate how to accommodate trans and gender-nonconforming people.
It's also helping young people who may not yet grasp their own gender identities understand that they're not alone. Last year's hashtag, #RealLiveTransAdults popped up in the wake of Alcorn's death to show young trans people struggling with their identities that they can have happy adult lives.
"I know too well what that hopelessness feels like," the hashtag's creator, Red Durkin, told Mic last year. "It made me remember my own childhood. I just wanted to do something that said: 'Hey, kid, I'm like you, but I'm a grown-up and I'm living my life. This is possible. You can do it.'"
So while Caitlyn Jenner's Vanity Fair cover won't singlehandedly fix anything, as Alcorn urged, it does help others understand the humanity of trans people — including trans people themselves.