The former sports star and Kardashian dad came out as transgender in a groundbreaking move for trans visibility
Bruce Jenner is transitioning to a woman and wants to share his journey with us, the world, and anyone with access to social media and an open heart. The Olympic gold medallist braved a two-hour ABC television special with Diane Sawyer to let people know what’s really going on (after all, it’s kinda hard having privacy being part of the Kardashian clan).
The interview was aired during a primetime slot, and kudos to ABC for doing it, adding weight to Time magazine’s recent contention that we have arrived at a trans tipping point. It was, you could say, major. Our grandchildren will be talking about this. Here are ten crucial moments from the interview.
Note: Jenner did not express a wish to be referred to in female pronouns, so for now we’ll use his current name and male pronouns.
“ARE YOU A WOMAN?”
“Um, yes, and for all intents and purposes,” said Jenner. “People look at me differently. They see this macho male, but this female side is part of me, it’s who I am. I was not genetically born that way.”
Bruce continued, referring to himself in the third person: “As of now, I have all the male parts and all that kind of stuff, so in a lot of ways we’re different, OK? But we still identify as female. And that’s very hard for Bruce Jenner to say. ’Cos why? I don’t want to disappoint people.”
BRUCE EMBRACES THE HAIR
At the beginning of the interview, Jenner asks Sawyer, “Shouldn’t I take the ponytail out?” From Sawyer’s POV, we see her hand reach out, implying ‘totally’. “Yeah, why not?” he adds. “We’re talking about all this stuff. Yeah, let’s take the damn ponytail out.”
Bruce’s wavy hair drops, and there you go. Free! “A symbolic moment after 65 years,” Sawyer’s voiceover intones. “In a sense, we start again.”
“HONEY, WE'RE A LONG WAY FROM MALIBU”
That’s what Jenner tells Sawyer when he takes her back to his childhood hometown in Sleepy Hollow, New York. With the blistering snow and heady winds, they definitely weren’t sipping vodka martinis with their toes in the sand.
“This is the parking I learned to drive in,” Jenner tells Sawyer. It’s a fine moment where we see Bruce Jenner not in sunny California but rather his old stomping grounds which he left many, many years ago for a life on the west coast.
“I would say I’ve always been confused about my gender identity since I was this big,” says Jenner, remembering going through his mother’s closet and wearing dresses when he was nine years old. Even now, he says, he struggles with feelings of loneliness: “I’m still a lonely big boy.”
THE PAPARAZZI AND THE DAMAGE DONE
When the interview touches upon the damaging nature of public humiliation (SNL jokes and all) and the papparazi’s invasion of his privacy, the tone shifts drastically. Jenner opens up about considering the idea of ending it all. The roughest paparazzi incident, he says, happened when he was caught at the doctor’s office for a tracheal shave.
“That night, I thought, ‘It’s over.’ I was walking up and down this hall back and forth all night long. Heart pounding. I thought, ‘Wouldn’t the easiest thing to do right now be to go in the other room, get a gun. Pain is over. Done. Go to a better place.”
Fighting back tears, he continues: “If I die, I would be so mad at myself that I didn’t explore that side of me. I can’t do something like that. I want to know how this story ends.”
KANYE WEST HELPED KIM UNDERSTAND BRUCE ON HIS JOURNEY
When discussing his family’s reactions, Jenner IDs “Kimberly” (daughter Kim Kardashian) as being the most supportive. When she caught Bruce wearing a dress, she was later advised by husband Kanye. As Jenner tells Sawyer: “He says to Kim I could be married to the most beautiful woman in the world, and I am. I could have the most beautiful daughter in the world. I have it. But I am nothing if I can’t be me.”
Jenner later admits that Kardashian will be alongside him during this transition and that she’s since told him, “Girl, you gotta rock it and you gotta look good. If you’re doing this thing, I’m helping you.”
WHY WEAR MAKE-UP?
At one point, Sawyer gets confused about why Jenner would be so excited for his future of getting primped every day, from make-up to a dress to whatever else Jenner might fancy. Seriously, Diane? Um… “For me, it’s new. You’ve been doing it for a while,” Jenner tells Sawyer. YESSS! This is the kind of perspective America needs to see on primetime television. But this is also when I wish Barbara Walters had been the interviewer. #sorrynotsorry
Then something incredibly enchanting happens: Diane Sawyer accepts the invitation to come over for dinner. We get a glimpse of one of Bruce’s favorite “chic” little black party dresses as he jokes, “And you know what, (Diane)? You won’t be the tallest girl in the room.”
JENNER WAS THE FIRST SPORTS STAR
The first modern athlete who became a major marketing star? Bruce Jenner. Back in the 70s, the track and field sportsman broke the long streak of Soviet athletes winning Olympic gold with his record-breaking decathlon victory at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, turning him into an American hero. A montage of clips from the height of Jenner’s athletic fame features plenty of videos, photos and that classic Wheaties commercial. Frankly, we were impressed by all those training videos.
YEAH, HE KNOWS HOW GROUNDBREAKING THIS IS
If you’re wondering why the coming out of someone better known as a reality show star is so revolutionary, consider this. Thanks to his status as part of the Kardashian clan – probably the most-watched family in history – Jenner has instantly become one of the best-known trans people in the world. And he knows just how much power and responsibility that entails.
“We’d done 425 episodes, I think, over almost eight years now,” says Jenner. “The entire run I kept thinking to myself, ‘Oh my god. This whole thing. The one real true story in the family was the one I was hiding and nobody knew about it. The one thing that could real make a difference in people’s lives was right here in my soul and I could not tell that story.”
“What I’m doing is going to do some good,” he says later on in the interview. “We’re going to change the world. I really, firmly believe that – that we’re going to change the world with what we’re doing. If the whole Kardashian show and reality television gave me a foothold into that world to really go out there and do some good, I’ve got no problem with that.”
so very proud of you, my hero.— Kendall Jenner (@KendallJenner) April 25, 2015
“ARE YOU GOING TO BE OK?”
Sawyer starts talking about gender reassignment surgery, which requires extensive medical approval. “Two referrals – already got them,” Jenner replies, with impeccable timing. “Way ahead of you.”
Then Sawyer turns the tables, asking: “If I were you, what question would you ask me?” To which Bruce replies, “Are you going to be OK?”
He continues: “(Surgery is) so far down the road, it’s like the last thing in the world. I can’t figure that side of it out. I just want to have a free soul and have a lot of great friends. I’m 65. It’s not like you want to go out and get it on all the time. I just want to enjoy life.”
“Those are all things out there in the future for me to explore,” he says. “There’s no rush for that and I would do it so quietly nobody in the world would ever know. I’m not shooting any of this. I’m not filming anything. To me, it’s very degrading. At this point, as far as the term SRS, sexual reassignment surgery, (that) would be down the line.”
THE EMOTIONAL END
Towards the end of the interview, Jenner walks into a hotel room filled with fluorescent lights and rolling cameras, and sits next to his sister, Pam. Sawyer brings out a surprise. It’s a Bruce Jenner collector’s item from when he won the Olympics; an action figure, if you will. “This is a farewell to a Bruce Jenner we thought we knew,” Sawyer said.
The interview concludes with Jenner’s words: “Please be open-minded. Have an open mind and open heart. I’m not this bad person. I’m just doing what I have to do.”
Send the message of love, people. Let’s give it up for Bruce!