On Friday, ABC
aired Bruce Jenner’s much anticipated interview
. He sat down with Diane Sawyer to talk about his life and his coming out as transgender. I have never in my life seen an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians
, but I have so much respect for Bruce Jenner
. It was mentioned how there’s an age divide in how we know Bruce, older folks having seen him in the Olympics, and the younger generation seeing him on the reality show. I’m sure people tuned in for many different reasons, because they’ve been aware of the media attention he’s recently had, because they’ve heard the rumours and wonder if they’re true, because they like reality TV and this is a sort of extension of it, because they’re generally curious and want to learn more about transgender issues. I thought the interview was very informative and very important.
I remember reading some of the comments on an article about the interview, and someone had responded with “Who cares?” I generally don’t care about the lives of celebrities either, but this interview was so important for so many reasons. Many people do not have a clear understanding about issues like gender identity and sexuality. Watching the interview was very informative, and even more so because it came from a person who has lived it. I think Bruce did such a good job explaining the difference between sexuality and gender identity, stating that “sexuality is who you go to bed with, and gender identity is who you go to bed as.” I recall Diane Sawyer looking really confused about it, but having not seen very many of her interviews, I realize that could just be her natural facial expression.
Sometimes it’s difficult for me to realize that not everyone is as informed and educated about certain matters. I’ve taken Psychology courses and Gender Studies courses that deeply explored the topics of sexuality and orientation. I’ve watched TV shows and documentaries about these topics. I have friends and acquaintances who have different sexual orientations. It baffles me how things like same sex marriage are still illegal in many parts of the world. As society has come a long way in becoming more accepting of gay rights, the transgender community has not really received that same level approval. But I still found myself wondering why Bruce Jenner coming out was so shocking to so many people. Apart from the fact that it was him. Why is the fact that any individual comes out as transgender, such a big deal in 2015?
The reason I asked that question, is because Bruce Jenner isn’t the first celebrity to come out as transgender, although I think he is definitely the most famous person to do so publicly. My point is that it’s not something that’s new, even if many people may not be so knowledgable about it. I tried to think of other transgender celebrities. The main person who came to mind was Laverne Cox. I have never seen Orange is the New Black, since I don’t have Netflix. Tragic, I know. But I did see her on an episode of The Mindy Project and I loved her. But I don’t really know much about her, as I never heard about her coming out. When I first heard of her, she was already out, so there was no surprise. In terms of other celebrities, I thought of Chaz Bono. We heard all about it when he came out and transitioned. But I don’t recall any big memorable interview or anything. Nevertheless, it was still in the media, so anyone paying attention would have heard about it.
There was also a few years ago where there was a news story about a pregnant man. It was a female to male transition. Thomas Beatie was transgender, but had not had surgery, so was still able to have a baby. That was a big story for a while, but then everyone forgot about it. I remember watching a CSI episode several years ago, where the victim was transgender, and they explored the transitioning process and the surgery, and everything that was involved. I remember watching a documentary several years ago, about three people who were married with kids, who were coming out as transgender. I can’t remember which channel it was on, or how widespread it was broadcast, since they weren’t famous people. They were middle aged, but I think slightly younger than Bruce Jenner, and had come to the point where they didn’t want to hide who they were anymore. They were all male to female transitions. One of the wives stayed with her partner, saying that she had fallen in love with the person, not the gender. She joked with the interviewer that maybe people would consider her a lesbian now, since her husband had transitioned and they were figuring out their sex life.
In terms of sexuality, Bruce Jenner tried to explain to Diane how it was different from his orientation. There are questions that arise like are you gay and he explained that he has always been attracted to women. In terms of pronouns, Bruce has asked that we continue to use he and him, until he officially transitions and comes out as a woman. A lot of people have trouble with this and base the pronouns on whether you have a penis or a vagina. You have to take into account that a person’s sex and gender are two different things. When I was younger, I assumed that for a male to female transition, you would call the person he before surgery, and she after surgery, and vice versa. But this is not the case. Even if a person has male genitalia, if she identifies as a woman, you should use she. Unless, like in Bruce’s case, he has specifically requested a certain pronoun be used. Too bad we didn’t follow Sweden’s example and come up with a gender neutral pronoun. That would make things so much easier, not just regarding gender issues, but for language use in general.
Using the correct pronoun based on the gender a person identifies as is important, especially since not every transgender person decides to have surgery. Just as you would not ask a cisgender individual about what’s between their legs, it would similarly be inappropriate to ask this of a transgender individual. Unless you’re in a sexual relationship with the person, it doesn’t need to be a matter of discussion, unless it’s something that they choose to bring up.
I love that Bruce Jenner is able to acknowledge and appreciate the humour in the situation. He even acknowledges the irony that he, of all people identifies as a woman, since he’s regarded as the world’s greatest athlete, having won the decathlon in 1976. Many viewed him as this strong, macho man, and I guess that’s part of why it’s so surprising to so many people. He addressed the fact that people had speculated that this was all for publicity and to draw ratings for the show. He laughed at how utterly ridiculous those accusations were. As if he would really go through all this, just to draw in ratings.
He talked about when he was a child and growing up, and how this has been a part of him his whole life. When questioned about why he waited until now, at age 65, to finally come out, his main reason was that he didn’t want to hurt his family. He loves his children and didn’t want to do anything that might cause them to be hurt, which is totally understandable. Him deciding to come out in such a public way will hopefully help foster understanding and encourage other transgender individuals to embrace who they are and have the courage to come out without fear.
I remember reading one of the comments on one of the articles and someone asked will he have to give back his medals? Why? Why would he have to give back his medals? I see no reason for this. He competed and won, as a man. He wasn’t on hormones at the time. I wonder though, how they would handle a situation in the Olympics today, if a young transgender individual were to compete. What category would they be put in? Because with the Olympics and sporting events, it’s physical, and I assume the fact that there are separate categories for men and women, is due to the fact that we are physically built differently. If a person is built like a man, but identifies as a woman, which category would she compete in? There has always been such a gender divide in athletics, so I don’t actually know how they would address this if it were a person who, at the time of competing, was currently out as transgender. Bruce, at the time of his Olympic success, had the physicality of a man, even if he inwardly identified as a woman, so I see no issue with his win. Apparently they interviewed the Soviet man who he beat in the decathlon who is supportive and also joked about how he can’t believe he was beat by a woman. My first thought was, who cares whether or not that guy approves?
I remember Bruce Jenner saying that of his family, Khloe was the won who had the hardest time dealing with it, and I thought, who cares what Khloe thinks? But as her stepdad, I’m sure it meant a lot to Bruce. One of the most shocking things about the interview to me, was that Kanye West, of all people, was the one who helped Kim Kardashian accept Bruce Jenner’s coming out. I’m not a fan of either Kim or Kanye, especially not Kanye, since he always seems so arrogant and so full of himself. I mean this is a person who got mad at a guy in a wheelchair for not standing during one of his performances. Who knew he would actually say something good? I remember seeing a tweet from Perez Hilton saying that Kris Jenner refused to comment to ABC, and then Kris Jenner replied his tweet, getting mad at him and saying she was watching the documentary with Bruce at that moment. I’m not at all a fan of Kris Jenner. They showed some clips from the show, and there was one where she was getting mad at Bruce about the way he was dressed, and told him that he looked like a grandpa. And I thought, but, he is a grandpa… So what’s the problem? Maybe she seems overly nasty for the show, or maybe she’s even worse in real life? But it’s not about her, so who cares?
I know this has nothing to do with anything, but speaking of Bruce Jenner’s family, his son is kind of hot. Two of his sons, actually Brandon and Brody. But anyway, it’s so great that his family is so supportive and accepting. He’s really lucky, not just because he’s famous, but because those closest to him are able to offer support. He is also lucky that he has the money for hormones and to have the surgery if he chooses to. Soon after the interview, much of what I read in the media was very positive. But I then started noticing new comments from people who were still making fun of the situation and calling him gay and generally not understanding. I guess that’s to be expected, as no matter what you do or who you are, there will always be people who judge you for it. While there will always be ignorant people in this world who are unable to wrap their heads around things they don’t understand, I believe that this interview has probably helped a lot of people to further understand and be open to accepting the transgender community.