Note: Bruce Jenner said in the interview that although he is transitioning into a woman, he still prefers male pronouns for now. He has not revealed his female name either, he just refers to his female self as “she”. So for the rest of this post I will use the name Bruce and male pronouns.
Last night in America, ABC showed their two-hour long interview with Bruce Jenner where he revealed that he is in fact a woman, “for all intents and purposes, I am a woman”. This highly anticipated interview attracted 17 million viewers and already it has brought in a huge amount of support for Bruce. I knew this was going to be a highly-spoken about topic once the interview aired but I can’t say that I was expecting such a positive response from most people. I’m very glad that he announced it this way and not just in a two-line statement because people needed to hear everything that he needed to say and his interview was important in a number of ways.
For almost two years now, people have been speculating over Bruce Jenner’s possible transition. Everyone was reporting on any update they could get on him every day whether it was true or not. Bruce revealed in the interview that someone went as far as too leak one of his surgery appointments to reduce his Adam’s apple reduced so there was a sea of paparazzi there when he left. He also became the butt of everyone’s jokes on every late night television show in America, not knowing how serious his supposed transition could be to him. Now that he has revealed that he is a woman everyone can stop speculating and hopefully stop making such a huge deal of it because it’s someone’s life, not a punchline, not a news story. Already we can see positive stories and positive tweets about him where there used to be awful jokes.
Being transgender still seems like a fairly new concept to many people. In the interview, ABC said that only 8% of American people say that they know someone who is transgender, so it is quite uncommon. For this reason, it is understandable that so many people were overly curious when it came to Bruce Jenner and his transition as it is something that they rarely heard about. The interview did a very good job of trying to educate people on the matter. They emphasised the fact that being transgender is not a mental illness, as some people may think. They also went through the definitions and differences between transgender, cross-dressing and many more. As well as this, Bruce continuously tried to explain to Diane Sawyer that when someone is transitioning, their sexual orientation does not change along with their gender. This was incredibly important as out of the 17 million people who watched, I’m sure many of them did not know the differences.
Understanding these things is the first step to accepting someone in these circumstances. This certainly was the case for Bruce’s step-daughter, Kim Kardashian. Bruce was of course asked how his famous family reacted to his announcement and they seemed to react very well for the most part. Bruce explained that his step-daughter, Kim, was at first slightly apprehensive. This was until her husband, Kanye West, explained to her, “I can be married to the most beautiful woman in the world, and I am. I can have the most beautiful little daughter in the world, and I have that. But I’m nothing if I can’t be me. If I can’t be true to myself, they don’t mean anything”. After she heard this, she was fully supportive of Bruce. However, not all of his family members were so understanding. Bruce said about his ex-wife Kris Jenner, “if she would have been really good with it and understand, we would probably still be together”. Therefore, from this interview we can clearly see how important a family’s support is to someone going through this transition. It is also clear from this data from The National Transgender Discrimination Survey how important a family’s support and acceptance can be as it shows that transgendered people without family support are more likely to attempt suicide or be incarcerated.
Another thing that we can learn from this interview is that people can begin their transition at any age. Even though Bruce began to dress in his mother’s clothes at the age of eight or nine, he didn’t really begin his transition until recently and he is now sixty-five years old (however, he did take hormones in the 1980’s but he stopped after five years). However, at the other end of the spectrum, one of the doctors featured in this special said that she at children as young as 18 months say that they were not the gender that they were assigned to at birth. There is no ‘right’ age for someone to begin their transition, as this data from The National Transgender Discrimination Survey shows.
The most important thing that everyone should take from this interview is that there is a lot of things that need to be changed. Throughout the interview, we are told stories of transgender people who have committed suicide, or at least attempted it and from beginning to end, Bruce Jenner continuously expresses how much he wants to make a difference. He claims that he is not a spokesperson for the community but he believes that, “what I’m doing is going to do some good and we’re going to change the world… I’d like to think that we could save lives”. I think that this is the main reason why Bruce decided to do an interview rather than a statement. He genuinely wants to make a difference and change how people see the LGBT community. He doesn’t want other people to “live a lie” like he did for his entire life. I really do admire Bruce for doing this so publicly, as people really needed to hear the things that he had to say. I’m going to conclude this post the same way that Bruce concluded his interview by saying, “have an open mind and an open heart”.