The famous ABC Bruce Jenner interview in April 2015 drew in 20.7 million viewers. Olympic athlete, Jenner, came out and told interviewer Diane Sawyer that ‘for all intents and purposes I am a woman’.
Caitlyn Jenner, formally Bruce, is now the most famous celebrity transgender woman. After living as a man for 65 years, she finally decided to embrace her gender as a female.
‘My brain is much more female than it is male. It’s hard for people to understand that. But that’s what my soul is,’ Jenner said.
In the two-hour interview Jenner described her very long struggle with her identity. At the age of eight or nine Bruce started cross dressing. He would take clothes from his mother’s closet and wear them while no one was around.
‘I didn’t know why I was doing it,’ she said, ‘it just made me feel good.’ The cross dressing went on throughout Jenner’s adult life and his ex-wives and sister kept the secret. Stepdaughter, Kim Kardashian caught him once in a dress so she was the first of his daughters to be told about his secret.
Jenner took hormone replacement therapy for five years, but stopped when her relationship with Kris Kardashian got serious. Their marriage lasted for 23 years, and in the Bruce Jenner interview, he was frank about his sexuality. He was never gay. He had been married three times and was father to ten children (birth father to six), but has only ever been attracted to women.
Why so much public interest in the Bruce Jenner interview?
Bruce Jenner was born on October 28, 1949, in New York to parents William and Ruth. He had a pretty normal American schoolboy childhood on the face of it. He had two sisters, Pam and Lisa, and a younger brother Burt.
He graduated in 1968 and was given a football scholarship, but unfortunately a knee injury stopped him from playing football. But Jenner showed promise and his Graceland College coach suggested he should try the decathlon. In 1970 he did his first decathlon and came fifth at the Drakes Relays in Iowa.
In 1993, Jenner graduated with a phys ed degree from the college.
In 1974 Jenner became America’s decathlon champion. Then in 1976 the Olympic Games came round and he competed in Montreal. Jenner won the gold medal and set a world record at the games. Jenner was now a public figure and American idol. He featured on covers of magazines, such as Playgirl and Sports Illustrated, and was the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year.
In those days, Olympic athletes were amateurs and were not paid, plus Jenner had a four-year wait until the 1980 games. He decided to make the most of his athletic celebrity status and market himself to the public, like other athletes had done before him. Bruce became a representative of the Wheaties brand and appeared on the cereal boxes as a sports icon. The brand used the phrase ‘The Breakfast of Champions’.
He made some TV and film appearances, but never really became a celebrity until he starred in reality TV shows and then Keeping up with the Kardashians.
Keeping up with the Kardashians
The reality series hit the airwaves in 2007 and featured his wife, Kris, their daughters Kendall and Kylie and his stepchildren Kourtney, Kim, Khloe and Robert. The fame he received meant that by 2015 he was able to bring the transgender issue into the spotlight. In the Bruce Jenner interview, he said, ‘If the whole Kardashian show and reality television gave me a foothold into that world—to be able to go out there and really do something good, I’m all for it.’
It wasn’t easy coming out though. The interview took place at his Malibu home. Jenner was nervous.
‘It’s going to be tough,’ Jenner said at the beginning, ‘I’ve been thinking about this day forever… How do I tell my story? How do I tell people what I’ve been through?’
Jenner said she had had major facial cosmetic surgery, and was on hormone replacement therapy again, but had not had sex reassignment surgery. ‘I have all the male parts and all that kind of stuff,’ she said.
Funnily enough, during the Bruce Jenner interview he called himself both ‘Bruce’ and ‘her’. When he came out to his kids, he told Sawyer, they asked whether they were still supposed to call him ‘Dad’.
During fascinating and frank interview, two of his ex-wives showed their support for Jenner and his transition. His second wife, actress Linda Thompson, explained how she supported Caitlyn and hoped she would be an inspiration to people with gender identity challenges. But when Bruce first told her about wanting to be a woman she took it hard at first.
But, she said, ‘I had to man up, support Bruce and his decisions regarding his own body.’
The Bruce Jenner interview was odd in some ways as Caitlin appeared on the surface as a man, but had long hair and manicured nails. But his excitement about the transition was palpable.
Jenner showed Sawyer a closet of women’s clothes and told her how he hosts girls’ nights at home. He also planned to change his gender identity on his driver’s license.
‘My whole life has been getting me ready for this,’ he said. ‘It’s not just the last few years as the media has been treating me as a joke. My whole life has prepared me for this moment so I want to take advantage of it and do the right thing’.
Support for the transgender community
There are over 700,000 transgender people in the US alone, and most of them are discriminated against in ways most of us would not be able to handle.
During a different Bruce Jenner interview in Los Angeles in July 2015, Caitlyn said, ‘This transition has been harder on me than anything I could imagine. And that’s the case for so many others besides me. For that reason alone, trans people deserve something vital. They deserve your respect. And from that respect comes a more compassionate community, a more empathetic society and a better world for all of us.’
More recent reports are suggesting that Jenner wants to be Bruce again. Writer, Ian Halperin who wrote Kardashian Dynasty: The Controversial Rise of America’s Royal Family believes Jenner is having regrets and wants to re-transition and find the right woman at last.
Caitlyn has struggled a lot with her transition, even though she is pleased to have raised awareness about the LGBTIQ community. There has also been some pretty personal media attention given his ex-wife Kris Jenner’s struggles since their divorce. While Caitlyn has had hair transplants, Kris’s hair is thinning – observers say due to the stress.
Jenner’s show I am Cait continues to document her transition and responses from family and friends. Because of the show, the 67-year-old has also become a strong representative of the transgender community. The second season premiered in March this year.