Bruce Jenner makes a change

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Olympic champion and reality television star Bruce Jenner is no stranger to media speculation. For the past year, one of the most shocking rumors to ever face a member of the Kardashian clan has been making headlines on magazines everywhere. Bruce Jenner is transitioning into a woman. On Friday, April 24, Jenner put the Kardashian platform to good use by confirming the rumors.

A two-hour interview special with Diane Sawyer aired on ABC, where he formally announced his decision to transition and told the story behind it. Before the Kardashians, Jenner rose to fame both by being an Olympic gold medalist and by his attractive, masculine image. But according to Jenner, he always felt like he was living a lie. Unknown to anybody, besides his three ex-wives and his sister, Jenner had been struggling with his gender identity since he was a child.

Throughout the interview Jenner referred to himself in the third person to give the audience a better understanding of the duality that he’s been feeling his whole life. The person that everybody has seen for years, he said, is “Bruce,” while the person he has always felt inside is “Her.”

“My brain has always been much more female than it is male,” he told Sawyer. “Bruce has lived a lie his whole life … I just can’t do that any longer.”

Some people question why it’s a big deal that one person has announced his transition publicly when they already know transgender people exist. But the problem is many people do not realize or accept transgender people exist. What Jenner has done is given the community representation in a very mainstream way.

This story is unique because Jenner isn’t a breakout star like Laverne Cox, who rose to fame after her transition. Nor is he Chaz Bono, whose mother Cher probably helped his transition make headlines. Jenner is somebody whom people have known and loved for generations — as both the “greatest athlete in the world” and the average retired dad who liked to golf. To hear Jenner describe himself as never once feeling like he was a man makes even a skeptic sit back and think, “wow, absolutely anybody I know could be experiencing this.”

While Jenner admitted he didn’t intend to be a spokesperson for the transgender community, he educated viewers on many aspects of the LGBT experience that aren’t often made clear in the media.

For one, gender dysphoria, or the feeling of being born into the wrong gender, could happen to anyone. The gender you feel inside does not always coincide with your sex organs. Beyond that, he made it clear that gender identity and sexual preference are completely different.

In his interview, Jenner squashed the notion that he was gay. He said he’s always been attracted to women and never to men. Although he felt his soul was female, he considered himself heterosexual.

Sawyer asked Jenner once he transitions into a woman and dates a woman whether he would be considered a lesbian, and Jenner said they were discussing “apples and oranges.”

Understandably, Jenner said dating was one of the last things on his mind right now and for the moment you could consider him “asexual,” or without a sexual preference.

He also said, for the moment, we can all still refer to him with the familiar “he” and “him” pronouns, as well as the name “Bruce” until he publicly identifies otherwise.

The part of the interview that touched my heart the most was the decades of inner turmoil Jenner experienced was met with overwhelming support from all his children. This was something Jenner said was his number one concern.

“How do I do this without hurting my children?” Jenner rhetorically asked Sawyer. “I can’t let myself hurt them.”

He said he sat each of his children down one by one to break the news, and was terrified every time. While some are allegedly still working through it, when it came to Kim Kardashian, Jenner said she grew to be the most supportive of his choice — but not at first. What really inspired her to fully embrace Jenner’s transition came from an unlikely source — Kanye West.

“He says to Kim,” said Jenner, quoting West, “‘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 — I have that. But I’m nothing if I can’t be me.’”

This spoke to me because if somebody very much stuck in their ways, who our nation’s President once called a “jackass”, can come out in support of a walk of life that most people can scarcely imagine, that means our world is changing.

And when Jenner said, “we’re going to change the world,” I know he meant it.

Jenner’s interview special gave him the opportunity to speak for himself and define everything he was going through in his own terms — something rarely granted to trans people. And beyond that, the special highlighted several important issues rarely discussed in the media, such as trans suicides, homicides and violence — especially to trans women of color.

I am cisgender, meaning I identify with the gender I was assigned at birth. I am not a part of the transgender community. But I am gay, and on behalf of the LGBTQIA — Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer Intersex and Asexual — community as a whole I do feel more represented in the mainstream media thanks largely in part to Jenner.

Although he isn’t a spokesperson for the trans community he’s given a voice to anybody who feels confused about their identity and afraid to be honest about it.

More than his willingness to do this in the public eye while likely defying Kardashian matriarch Kris Jenner’s wishes, the bravest part of Jenner’s choice to transition is that he’s doing it now, at 65 years old. Countless people in his generation who belong to the LGBTQIA community simply never come out and take their secrets to the grave. Jenner has lived a full life with several accomplishments, marriages and children, but he has sent the message that you will never be satisfied with your accomplishments until you’re brave enough to be true to yourself.

A total of 17.1 million viewers tuned in to watch the interview. While he’s inspired millions of people just by coming forward, his public transition has only just begun. Jenner said Sawyer’s would be the last TV interview he does as “Bruce” and will reemerge as the as-yet-nameless “her,” and will be documenting his transition, and new life as a woman, in a reality series on E! this summer.

My hope for the future is this interview inspires people to transition who have previously felt like they couldn’t. Whether you are a teenager, your family doesn’t support you, or you think you might be too old, Jenner has proven you can do whatever you damn well please as long as it makes you happy.