Authors Note: Although Bruce Jenner has said that for “all intents and purposes, I am a woman,” FEM is using the pronoun “he” until Jenner explicitly states he wants female pronouns.
To preface this article, I would like to take the time to apologize; admittedly I’ve been weirdly obsessed with the topic. I’m sorry for assuming this was a publicity stunt. I’m sorry for thinking this was hype to promote a reality TV show. I’m sorry for falling into the sensationalism of this story. I’m sorry for laughing along with jokes made about Bruce in the last 2 years.
As Diane Sawyer said, there is a generational divide when discussing who Bruce Jenner is. To some, he is an Olympic gold medalist personifying masculinity, courage, and bravery. On the other hand, I belong to a generation that knows him as the laid back, down to earth patriarch of the Kardashian/Jenner clan in the E! reality series Keeping up with the Kardashians. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t seen the majority of the series. I’ve grown to love Bruce’s role in the show as a complement to the extravagance the show often portrays.
For eight years, we were allowed a glimpse into his high-profile life. I know he enjoys playing golf and model airplanes. I remember moments like Bruce walking Khloe down the aisle, or teaching his two youngest daughters Kendall and Kylie the value of hard work.
However, watching thirty-plus minutes of a highly edited “reality” tv show doesn’t mean we actually know him, his life, or his struggles.
Furthermore, we are not entitled to it. For the past year Jenner has endured harsh and patronizing comments from paparazzi taunting him, whistling at him, stalking his every move, media ridicule, and insensitive tabloids sensationalizing his transition at his expense. As a result, they denied him agency to tell his own story.
This past Friday, Jenner sat down with Diane Sawyer in a two hour special where he declared “for all intents and purposes I am a woman.” He described being a child and putting on his mother and sister’s clothes in secrecy. As he grew older, he felt like he had the soul of a woman. The feelings never subsided. In the 80’s, after the end of his second marriage with actress Linda Thompson, he began to transition, a process he did for five years. However, he stopped his transition after doubts and fears about how it would affect his children. Now, nearly thirty years later, Jenner is ready to share his story and finish that transition he started.
I was initially apprehensive about the interview, judging it as a sensationalized story used for ratings. However, after watching the special, I now admit I was wrong. The impact of the interview is larger than Jenner himself. As he says in the interview, “This is going to do some good”. The two hour special aired to 16.9 million viewers, the network’s largest audience in 15 years. The implications of this far exceed my initial judgments of the special.
For a mainstream network to not only talk about gender dysphoria, sexual orientation, and cross dressing, but differentiate them as three separate things, educates a population that too often lumps them in one category. We can now begin a conversation about transgender rights, homelessness and the discrimination they face everyday.
Since the interview aired, most of the public has been extremely supportive of Jenner and his story, from celebrities like Lady Gaga to his own children tweeting out their support. An Australian radio station spearheaded the hashtag campaign #PaintYourNailsForBruce. People around the world took to social media to show support for Jenner by painting their nails, stemming from the interview where he’s asked what he’s looking forward to about publicly appearing as woman, in which he responds “To be able to have my nail polish on long enough that it actually chips off.”
However amongst the admiration, there are still people criticizing Jenner and he his decision to finally share his story publicly. If anything, this tells us we still have a long way to go before we’ve reached full acceptance of the transgender community and see tangible change.
Although the interview was primarily focused on Jenner, and rightfully so, we can’t deny his association with the Kardashian family and what this means for the transgender community.The Kardashian family is arguably one of the most influential families in the country. That influence can create tangible change and awareness.
Just a couple weeks ago, Kim Kardashian visited Armenia for the 100 year memoriam of the Armenian genocide and used her fame to promote awareness on an underrepresented people. If handled correctly, the transgender community can finally have a voice.
Decades after Bruce Jenner won the Olympic gold medal, he is lauded yet again as an American hero personifying courage and bravery.