Bruce Jenner, renowned for winning the 1976 Olympic decathlon and widely recognized as part of the Kardashian family, recently disclosed a deeply personal endeavor: He has decided to change his gender and finally embrace his true self. He has been fighting internal unrest his entire life.
He recently sat down for an interview with television journalist Diane Sawyer, letting the public in on his journey.
He told Sawyer that ever since he was a young boy, something didn’t feel quite right.”“I hate the term ‘girl stuck in a guy’s body,’” he clarified. “I’m me. I’m a person. This is who I am. My brain is much more female than it is male.”
He recalled trying on dresses in his mother’s closet. “You have no idea what you’re feeling,” he said. “And there’s no place to get any information. I was a very lonely little boy. I’m still a lonely big boy. I don’t socialize a lot. I’m not an outgoing person. I never fit in; when you deal with this issue, you don’t fit in.”
He ran away from his anxiety and identity struggles by training to become an athletic champion. He was portrayed in the media as a manly, macho figure (an irony not lost on him).
Despite Jenner’s tremendous emotional turmoil, he married. He has children and stepchildren whom he loves dearly. However, his ongoing struggle contributed to the end of his three marriages. Jenner was living in fear — of hurting his children with such a revelation, of the whole world casting judgment, scrutinizing and mocking his life.
Ashley Knox, LMSW, spoke with me about the difficulties surrounding Jenner’s decision to reveal his secret.
“Bruce Jenner’s ability to openly disclose his transgender identity may have been complicated from many circumstances,” she said. “One being filling the athletic, manly figure that the public saw him as. The other being filling in the father figure role when Robert Kardashian passed away. These pressures that were either thrust upon him or ones he took himself, may have delayed the process. In many families, when the patriarch of the family passes away, another family member, usually a son or stepfather, will naturally try to fill that role.”
Endocrinologist Norman Spack, MD, co-director of a special gender management clinic at Boston Children’s Hospital and a professor at Harvard, spoke to Sawyer about adolescents and young adults who encounter these painful and tumultuous gender identity issues.
“Untreated and unevaluated teenagers and young adults between the ages of 16 and 25: Forty-five percent will attempt suicide,” Dr. Spack noted.
Jenner earnestly hopes that by sharing his experiences, he will be able to help others in great distress as well.
This honest and heartfelt interview is significant. This conversation can open doors, ignite additional dialogues, raise awareness and alleviate stigma regarding what it means to unequivocally battle with gender.
When Sawyer asked if there was a particular question she should ask, Jenner relayed that she should ask if he’s going to be okay.
“Are you going to be okay?” she said.
“Yeah, I hope I’m gonna be okay,” he replied. “I feel like I’m gonna be okay. 2015 is going to be quite a ride. Quite a ride.”
At 65 years old, Bruce Jenner is courageously knocking down barriers. It’s brave. It’s admirable. It teaches us that it’s never too late to be who you are.