In a two-hour television interview with Diane Sawyer tonight on ABC, Bruce Jenner did announce that he is, for all intents and purposes, a woman. The man once proclaimed as the “greatest athlete in the world,” Olympic gold medal-winner of the Decathlon at the 1976 Games in Montreal, hopes that his coming out as transgender will do some good in the world for the estimated 700,000 transgendered individuals who routinely face loss of family and friends, bullying, even murder, all of which push many of them to suicide. What Jenner asks of everyone is to keep an open mind and an open heart.
For those who expected to learn everything there is to know about his personal life and to see him dressed as her – well, as they say in TV land, stay tuned – film at 11. Jenner’s fame as an athlete from the 1970s and 80s has been eclipsed by his more recent fame as part of the Kardashian clan’s reality show and its many spinoffs. As he has made changes in his appearance over the last year and a half, he’s been hounded even more unmercifully by the paparazzi. So for those expecting the reality TV details of his new private life, they’ve been disappointed. We seem to have forgotten that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness should also come with a measure of personal privacy for individuals, even those who are public figures.
Saying that he’s always been very confused about his gender identity since he was young, it’s clear that Jenner is certainly not doing this for publicity for the reality show. His need to live his life as the person he’s always known he was is life-changing for him. He says he’s lived a lie his whole life about who he is and he can’t do it anymore. But he’s not ready to reveal everything yet. To his credit, he’s not willing to be rushed into anything, including using female pronouns to describe himself as herself yet. He says he has the soul of a female and currently refers to his true self as “her.” What he did say was that this interview is Bruce Jenner’s farewell.
It was heartwarming to see his mother, sister, 10 children, even his three ex-wives ultimately be loving and supportive of his need to finally live true to himself. I admired Jenner as a gold medal-winning Olympian. But I admire him even more now at age 65 to finally have the courage to live his own life true to himself! Because of my work at Compete Magazine, I know a number of transgender athletes so I’m aware of the terrible turmoil they’ve experienced trying to figure out how to live an authentic life.
Some in the transgender community have been afraid that his interview would sensationalize what it is to be transgender, afraid that it would erode the hard-won legitimacy the community is just beginning to realize. But Bruce Jenner is basically a good human being and he is determined to use his coming out as part of a positive change in the world. His purpose for the interview, summed up in one sentence is to provide understanding and tolerance for all people.
It’s not easy for people to understand that being transgender isn’t a phase or a mental illness. It’s hard for many to understand what it means, what it feels like – that it goes far beyond, far deeper than simply saying you know with all your being that you’re trapped in the wrong body. But I’m convinced that the woman Jenner chooses to be known as will change the world for the better. And you and I can help accomplish that by filling his request to keep an open heart and an open mind!