“I’ve been thinking about this day forever…. What I should do with my life? How do I tell my story? How do I tell people what I’ve been through? And that day is today…?
With tears in his eyes, these were the words with which Bruce Jenner, the former Olympian decathathlete and patriarch of the Kardashian/Jenner clan, began his interview with ABC News Diane Sawyer.
Right at the beginning of the interview, Jenner, 65, confirmed that he is transgender and will transition to being a woman. Saying he can no longer live “the lie,” Jenner explained that his soul has always been more female than male, and that this has been going on since childhood. As a young boy, Jenner would sneak into his mother or sister’s wardrobe and put on some of their clothing:
” I didn’t know why I did it, I just knew it made me feel good.”
Bruce believed that the feelings of isolation and confusion caused by his gender confusion lead him to push himself harder as an athlete, in some way trying “to prove his masculinity to himself.”
His second marriage to Linda Thompson ended in divorce in 1986. Jenner admits that his gender identity issue played a major role in their breakup.
It was now the late 80’s, but with the help of a therapist, Jenner began a physical transition, taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Bruce told Sawyer that right away the “intense daily feelings of fear and frustration subsided.” He had plastic surgery to change his nose and other facial features, and underwent electrolysis to remove the hair on his face and chest.
He stopped HRT after about 5 years, when he met Kris Kardashian, who he later married. He says that Kris knew that he liked to “cross dress,” but that he probably “downplayed” his belief that the gender issue went “deep into his soul.” Kris went on to manage Bruce’s career as well as those of the rest of their family, ultimately leading to the juggernaut which became “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” the reality show with cameras covering nearly every aspect of their lives.
Sawyer asked Bruce his thoughts about the show. Answering, “It’s ironic…. I had the story”
“The entire run I kept saying to myself, ‘Oh my God, this whole time, the one real, true story in the family, was the one I was hiding that nobody knew about. The one thing that could make a difference in peoples’ lives was right here in my soul and I couldn’t tell that story.”
About a year ago, Bruce made a decision, ” I just can’t pull the curtain any longer. Bruce lives a lie. She [how Bruce refers to his true self] is not a lie. I can’t do it anymore.”
That’s when he started to grow his hair longer, started manicuring his nails and separated from wife Kris, moving into his own Malibu house. The paparazzi became relentless, following Bruce and taunting him. Things came to a head when Bruce was planning to undergo a tracheal shave- a procedure to reduce the prominence of his Adam’s apple. The date of the doctor’s appointment was leaked, and paparazzi were waiting for him when he arrived. This was a turning point for Bruce. As he paced the floors of his home that night, he came to understand how others with gender identity issues could go to a dark place where they could contemplate suicide. But he came to the conclusion that this was not to be his course of action:
“I can’t do something like that. I want to see how this story ends.”
Throughout this “coming out” process, Bruce’s main concern has been that he not hurt his family. He spoke to all of his 10 children/stepchildren, his mother, sister, and his ex-wives. Although the news has been difficult for all them, they are all showing their support for the man they’ve consider “Dad.”
Jenner also hopes that his announcement will act as teachable moment. He wishes that people begin to see those with gender identity issues as “just people.” He would like to work with the transgender community to address some of the difficulties facing that group, such as suicide and murder rates as well as legal issues. He hasn’t even ruled out lobbying congressional leaders.
At this time, Jenner has not decided how far he will go in terms of sex reassignment surgery, but it is something he is exploring. Whatever he decides, he hopes to do it as privately and quietly as possible.
In closing, Sawyer asked Bruce if he would now be saying goodbye to Bruce Jenner. He answered:
“I’m saying goodbye to people’s perception of me. I’m not saying goodbye to me, because this has always been me.”
All he asks is that when people think about him is that “they have an open mind and an open heart.”
The Bruce Jenner/Diane Sawyer interview was seen by an estimated 16.9 million people.
According to the World Health Organization: “Sex” refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women. There are a number of indicators of biological sex, including sex chromosomes, gonads, internal reproductive organs, and external genitalia.
“Gender” refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women.
In other words, “Male” and “female” are sex categories, while “masculine” and “feminine” are gender categories.
Examples: A male will have testicles, a female has ovaries. Being nurturing to children is often considered a feminine characteristic. In some cultures, driving a car (or obtaining an education) are considered masculine and are reserved only for men.
Gender identity is a person’s internal sense, and subjective experience, of their own gender. This is generally described as one’s own sense of being a boy or girl/ man or woman.
Gender identity is formed at the age of three as children become aware of the anatomic differences between male and female. They respond to social cues and from the approval they receive from those around them when they behave in a manner consistent with what is considered appropriate for that gender.
According to psychologist Dr. Lawrence Kohlberg, by age 7, children realize that their gender is permanent and at this is when they more systematically imitate the behaviors of those of their own sex.
“Sexual orientation” is the preferred term used when referring to an individual’s physical and/or emotional attraction to the same and/or opposite gender. “Gay,” “lesbian,” “bisexual” and “straight” are all examples of sexual orientations. A person’s sexual orientation is distinct from a person’s gender identity and expression.
Gender expression refers to all of the external characteristics and behaviors that are socially defined as either masculine or feminine, such as dress, grooming, mannerisms, speech patterns and social interactions. Social or cultural norms can vary widely and some characteristics that may be accepted as masculine, feminine or neutral in one culture may not be assessed similarly in another.
Transgender individuals are people with a gender identity that is different from the sex assigned to them at birth. Someone who was assigned the male sex at birth but who identifies as female is a transgender woman. Likewise, a person assigned the female sex at birth but who identifies as male is a transgender man. Being transgender does not imply a specific sexual orientation- transgender individuals can have homosexual or heterosexual or bisexual orientations.
Gender dysphoria (formerly known as gender identity disorder) is a condition in which there is a conflict between a person’s physical gender and the gender he or she identifies with. For example, a person who is physically a boy may actually feel and act like a girl. The person is very uncomfortable with the gender they were born as.
Symptoms can vary by age and are affected by the person’s social environment.
Adults and children may:
Some individuals will find it necessary to transition from living and working as one gender to another. These individuals often seek some form of medical treatment such as counseling, hormone therapy, electrolysis, and reassignment surgery. Some individuals, however, will not pursue some (or any) forms of medical treatment because of their age, medical condition, lack of funds, or other personal circumstances.
We will write another story in the near future outlining what is entailed in sex reassignment surgery.