Bruce Jenner — the Olympic gold medalist turned reality star — has finally announced what has been speculated on for more than a year. Welling with tears, Jenner told Diane Sawyer of ABC News, "My brain is much more female than it is male."
"Are you a woman?" Sawyer asked.
Jenner answered simply, "Yes. For all intensive [sic] purposes, I am a woman."
After making the initial announcement, Jenner seemed to relax somewhat. As for why this was happening now, after turning 65, Jenner said, "Bruce lives a lie. She is not a lie. I can't do it anymore."
The two-hour broadcast was far-ranging, and in addition to the main interview, attempted to educate viewers on transgender issues as it unfolded. Though it was personal, and Jenner expressed a range of emotions, its tone was not sensational. Sawyer did not make the same mistake Katie Couric did last year when interviewing Laverne Cox and Carmen Carrera. After being asked one too many questions about surgery, Cox politely but firmly shut Couric down, saying, "The preoccupation with transition and surgery objectifies trans people." Sawyer let Jenner take the lead on questions about what body changes he may undergo, and Jenner made clear that being transgender does not have to do with his sexual orientation. (Jenner has not expressed a preference for female pronouns, so this story uses male pronouns.) "I'm not gay," Jenner said. "I am, as far as I know, heterosexual. ... I've never been with a guy." Later in the interview, Jenner said he's "asexual...for now."
Jenner shot down the idea that this very public announcement had anything to do with the Kardashians, Jenner's stepfamily, who are known for seeking publicity. "What I'm doing is going to do some good and we're gonna change the world," he said. "I really firmly believe that." Later in the interview, the religious Jenner spoke of a revelation in which he thought "maybe this was my cause in life" and mentioned the high "suicide rates, murder rates" among transgender people.
Jenner embodied the American male ideal after winning a gold medal in the decathlon in the 1976 Olympics. But the athlete, who often used the third person in the discussion with Sawyer, said, "Bruce Jenner is — I would say I've always been confused about my gender identity since I was this big." Jenner said he yearned to wear dresses from the time he was a young child, and would try on his mother's and sister's dresses when no one was home.
Jenner told both Chrystie Crownover and Linda Thompson, his first and second wives, about these feelings. Thompson, with whom Jenner has two sons, suggested therapy, as she recounted for the Huffington Post. "My gender was a big part of the breakup," Jenner told Sawyer.
After divorcing Thompson, Jenner took hormones for five years in the 1980s, but decided not to transition then because of his children, public image, and religious beliefs. "You've got no guts," Jenner remembered thinking.
The interview also delved into Jenner's life with the Kardashians. Kris Jenner, Bruce Jenner said, always knew what was happening, in part because Bruce had breasts. "If she would've been really good with it and understanding, we'd probably still be together," Jenner said of his marriage to Kris and her reaction to his being trans.
When Keeping Up With the Kardashians started in 2007, Jenner's fame, which had ebbed, exploded once more. It was an ironic sort of celebrity, Jenner said: "The one real, true story in the family was the one I was hiding and nobody knew about. The one thing that could really make a difference in people's lives was right here in my soul. And I could not tell that story."
With fame came cruel public speculation as Jenner began to transition again a year and a half ago. When news of his tracheal shave leaked, Jenner said he considered suicide. "I thought, 'Nah, I can't do something like that. I wanna know how this story ends,'" he remembered thinking. The bifurcated existence Jenner has lived for 65 years came through while answering Sawyer's questions. When Sawyer asked how Jenner came out to his six children, he said, "As much of your upbringing was 'her' as the 'he' side."
Jenner's four older biological children took part in the interview. Brandon Jenner told Sawyer that "when I see my dad as a woman, it might be a little shocking at first," but that he is wholly accepting and understanding. "There's a thread throughout his life — the life he was longing to live," he said. "I'm just honored and more proud than ever to be a part of the family," he added, looking at his dad.
Jenner said that of the Kardashian children, Khloe has been having the toughest time with the transition. Jenner said that Kim was the first person in the Kardashian-Jenner family who knew what was going on — because she caught Jenner in a dress. "It was like this big secret in the family, and we never talked about it again," Jenner said. After some time passed, "I told her all my issues." And then Kim never asked about it or brought it up. Jenner asked whether she was OK with what they had talked about. "I just thought it was one of these subjects I couldn't talk about," he remembered Kim saying. She came to Jenner recently to say that her husband, Kanye West, had helped her understand what Jenner is going through, explaining to her, "I am nothing if I can't be me, if I can't be true to myself."
Jenner's daughters with Kris — Kendall and Kylie — first saw Jenner in a dress when he went in their bedroom to look at himself in the only full-length mirror in their house and was recorded on the girls' computer security camera.
Sawyer asked Jenner whether he has a name she goes by as a woman. Jenner declined to give it, because, he said, then the media wouldn't leave him alone about it. When Sawyer asked Jenner what his aspirations are as a woman, he said to keep nail polish on long enough that it chips off — an allusion to the life he has had to live in private. And when asked how he hopes people respond to his coming out as transgender, Jenner said he hopes people will be "open-minded." "I'm not this bad person," Jenner said. "I'm just doing what I have to do."
Jenner's older sister Pam joined the interview at one point, and ABC News had also taped Jenner's 89-year-old mother saying, "I want you to be happy. I love you." She added: "I was very proud of you when you stood on that podium in Montreal. I never thought I could be more proud of you. But I'm learning I can be."
At the end of the interview, Sawyer asked whether Jenner felt like he was saying good-bye to something.
"I'm saying good-bye to people's perception of me and who I am. I'm not saying good-bye to me," Jenner answered. "Because this has always been me."
As the interview was airing, E! announced the docuseries it has been filming about Jenner's transition but had not confirmed until Friday. It will premiere on July 26 and will be eight one-hour episodes. The title has not yet been announced. A source close to the show told BuzzFeed News the project has been a tightly held secret, and has been referred to internally as "The Malibu Project."
Kate Aurthur is the chief Los Angeles correspondent for BuzzFeed News. Aurthur covers the television and film industries.
Contact Kate Aurthur at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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