“My favorite moment during a show is always the big breakthrough,” says transgender stand-up comic Tranna Wintour.
Described by legendary comedian Sandra Bernhard as “a candle in the window on a cold, dark winter’s night,” Wintour is a sensation in her hometown of Montreal, where audiences flock to see her perform at comedy clubs and comedy nights throughout the city.
Her audiences are mostly made up of “cisgender” people — cisgender being a word to describe those who are not transgender.
“If at the beginning of my set they might be a little reluctant to laugh out loud or don’t know how to react, there often is a turning point when they allow themselves to be entertained by me, and it’s a really great feeling.”
That moment of comfort and acceptance is in some ways symbolic of the journey many transgender people are currently going through in mainstream culture and society.
Caitlyn’s transformation: raising awareness
Caitlyn Jenner — who completed her transition with a 10-hour facial feminization surgery that included a brow lift, tracheal shave, and jawbone reshaping — has brought on a monumental shift in perceptions, leading to heightened knowledge and awareness of transgender issues, plastic surgery, and facial feminization procedures.
“I think the masses still have an old-school vision of what it means to transition,” Wintour explains. “Most people think trans people want to ‘pass’ as the gender they identify with, and see Caitlyn’s transition as the golden standard.”
While the option to fully transform is not available to every transgender person — and isn’t what every transgender person wants — Wintour feels that the media attention garnered by Jenner’s journey has been beneficial.
“Because Caitlyn Jenner is such an A-list star, there’s probably too much attention given to her transition, perhaps at the expense of other voices, but ultimately she has done a lot of good,” Wintour says.
“Jenner has definitely opened up the discussion,” she adds. “There were a lot of things I didn’t know about the different surgeries that she had. I think it’s pretty amazing that we are living in a time where science has become so advanced that these procedures can exist.”
However, she doesn’t feel that the media coverage of Jenner’s procedures has caused members of the transgender community to further question their own appearance.
Plastic surgery: beauty on your own terms
Wintour is a vocal proponent of plastic surgery and glamour — as long as it speaks to one’s higher truth — and appreciates that facial feminization surgery can help people in a society that pressures transgender women to pass.
“It allows those who are transitioning in a more conventional way to appear on the outside the same way they feel on the inside,” she says. “I’m all for individual freedom and for everyone doing whatever they feel is necessary to look the way they want and feel the way they want.”
In Wintour’s opinion, the most important thing to understand is that there is no one way of being transgender, or single beauty standard to abide by.
“I personally find that there is something to be said about working with what you have been given naturally — the beauties I look up to and am inspired by are unconventional beauties and faces that have character. Still, I’m all for plastic surgery. I’m all for people creating their own beauty on their own terms.”
Interestingly, Wintour finds that in some cases it’s cisgender people that are the most preoccupied with transgender people passing.
“From what I see within the trans community, passing has become much less important,” she explains. “I think it’s because people are more comfortable in general when they are able to label somebody, so a cisgender person has a much easier time with a transgender person passing as their identified gender. It’s just easier for them to understand.”
Wintour’s final words of advice — for cisgender and transgender people alike: “Live authentically and be honest with yourself.”
“Every day I am more and more the person I want to be, and I feel I have things to share with people,” she says. “Even as a performer, I feel my job is to encourage people to live the best version of themselves that they can be, to live out loud and not be ashamed.”