Everyone is familiar with the Bruce Jenner story by now. Olympic gold medal-winning decathlete and international celebrity turned reality TV star. And unfortunately, father to the Kardashian clan (only by marriage, so he’s still cool with us). Wait, but he married Kris the soulless pimp… I digress.
Anyway, after watching the interview with Diane Sawyer (and vowing I wouldn’t watch for weeks leading up to it) I was blown away to put it simply. It was a heartbreaking story to hear, and I have to admit that while knowing next to nothing about his story outside of the mainstream media I was skeptical as anyone has a right to be of anything coming out of the Kardashian “camp” if you will.
As soon as the interview was underway, I could tell it was all real. But the thing that amazed me more was that as he navigated his way through life with this struggle and monkey on his back, he could never be truly happy. I like everyone else assumed that it was only in later (and more recent years) that he really came to have this struggle which is incredibly naïve. More to the point, I thought at least while he was training and winning the decathlon and experiencing the sudden celebrity that came with it that he was at least happy then.
He wasn’t. And not only was he not happy, but maybe the most surreal takeaway from the interview was Bruce acknowledging that once he won gold and that part of his life was over [competing], that he was truly terrified at the thought of living the rest of his life as is. This has to be crushing to anyone. As much as everyone has joked about his transition from male to female and all of the bizarre media attention it has attracted, once you hear the real story it becomes the opposite; human. It becomes real and about an individual not a running water-cooler narrative a la Charlie Sheen, Tiger Woods, etc.
Now more than ever I have the utmost respect for Bruce Jenner. It was hard for me to understand, as Diane alluded to in the interview saying “Why now?”. I found myself wondering this too. If you’re going to do it at all how do you get stopped? Not to get too dark, but one would think there are a few scenarios that come out of wanting a sex change; you either do it early, never, or commit suicide.
But as the story unfolded I quickly realized it was a story of how life itself complicates things. Without fame or family, Bruce could have done this a long time ago as he even admitted his first inkling of being different came at age 9. This only got stronger as time went on, to the point where one of his three wives and his sister knew the whole story for many years but kept quiet.
Bruce talked of how once he had kids and they started to grow up he felt an obligation to never hurt them or burden them. Until now, it was the ultimate sacrifice for family and his cross to bear. However, it turned out to be quite the opposite. All of his kids that were interviewed were nothing but understanding and loving in the truest sense of the word. They were genuinely at ease with his decision.
As Bruce moves forward with his life, yes as a woman, the battle is not ongoing it’s over. It’s been fought his entire life. His situation can only shed light on the fact that three quarters of a million Americans are transgender and in many ways progress has been slow to come by over the years. Bruce feels as though he can provide a platform not previously allowed his new community, although that is not his goal. But he knows the statistics; of murders, suicides and the daily struggle many transgenders encounter on a daily basis from stereotypes and ignorance to accepting their own identity.