Why This Caitlyn Jenner Halloween Costume Has Upset Many

August 25th 2015

Laura Donovan

Halloween season is already here, and many are up in arms about a new Halloween costume depicting Caitlyn Jenner as she famously appeared on the July cover of Vanity Fair. Spirit Halloween, the retailer behind the outfit, ultimately pulled the costume off its website after many complained online that it was wildly offensive and disrespectful to the trans community.

Trisha Lombardo, the company's head of PR, previously told the New York Daily News in a statement that the costume was intended to embrace Jenner.

“Caitlyn Jenner has proven to be the most important real-life superhero of the year, and Spirit Halloween is proud to carry the costume that celebrates her,” she said. “We create a wide range of costumes that are often based upon celebrities, public figures, heroes and superheroes. We feel that Caitlyn Jenner is all of the above and that she should be celebrated. The Caitlyn Jenner costume reflects just that.”

Jenner’s representative Alan Nierob declined to comment to the New York Daily News on the costume. Nevertheless, many have reacted negatively to the costume. Most share the opinion that trans people should not be used as creative costume material:

Vincent Villano of the National Center for Transgender Equality told the Huffington Post late last week that the costume is concerning.

"There's no tasteful way to 'celebrate' Caitlyn Jenner or respect transgender people this way on the one night of the year when people use their most twisted imaginations to pretend to be villains and monsters," he said.

Before Spirit Halloween took the costume off its website, an individual named Addison Vincent started a Change.org petition calling for the brand to halt production of the costume. The campaign received more than 3,000 supporters.

"Yes, as your PR and marketing head Trisha Lombardo stated in an interview, Caitlyn Jenner is a hero and celebrated in modern day culture, but that doesn't excuse the exploitation and transphobia you'll be committing this Halloween," the petition reads. "To make a costume out of a marginalized identity reduces that person and community to a stereotype for privileged people to abuse. In this case, if you follow through with production of a Caitlyn Jenner costume, cisgender people will purchase it to make fun of her and our community."

"At a time when trans women and GNC folx, especially black trans women, are being murdered at such a high rate, and homelessness, unemployment, and inaccessibility to healthcare run rampant in our community, making fun of one or all of us is utterly insensitive and deplorable," the petition continues.

Trans violence and suicide.

Some were offended by the costume given the fact that trans people are at a higher risk of violence and suicide than their non-trans counterparts. In the first episode of her reality series "I Am Cait," Jenner acknowledged the vulnerability of many trans people and that she understands she comes from a privileged position as a wealthy and famous individual.

"People are dying over this issue," Jenner said in the episode. "I have a tremendous responsibility because I have a voice and there are so many trans people who don't have a voice. I have that privilege status but I hope I'm in a position to turn around and help this community."

"Suicide is a permanent solution to a very temporary problem and most of these people at risk are young kids," Jenner continued. "I've had some very dark moments. I've been in my house with a gun and said lets just end it right here. No more pain, no more struggle. That struggle, it's real."

During the segment, Jenner visited the home of Katharine Prescott, whose trans child, Kyler, committed suicide earlier this year. In the installment of "I Am Cait," Prescott noted that young kids aren't the only ones who bully trans teens. Adults are very much responsible, too. She wrote about this in a blog post for Jenner's website as well.

"People usually assume that the teasing is from other teenagers, but that wasn’t the case for Kyler," Prescott wrote. "He had a lot of friends. The only real disrespect was from adults—and that was pretty severe, like referring to him as 'she,' even when it had been made very clear that he was a he. He had already had his name and gender changed legally, yet there were adults who were very disrespectful of his gender identity."

Jenner came out as trans in the spring during an interview with ABC News' Diane Sawyer. After gracing the cover of Vanity Fair, breaking President Barack Obama's record of gaining a million Twitter followers in five hours, and announcing her reality show "I Am Cait" for E!, the former athlete spoke at the ESPYs to accept the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.

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"If you want to call me names, make jokes, doubt my intentions, go ahead," she said. "Because the reality is, I can take it. But for the thousands of kids out there coming to terms with being true to who they are, they shouldn't have to take it."

For more on issues facing transgender Americans, check out our video on the battle for gender neutral bathrooms:

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