Months of speculation came to an end this month when Bruce Jenner confirmed what everyone had been wondering: he is transitioning into becoming a woman. This official declaration was part of the highly publicized and anticipated interview with Diane Sawyer that aired on April 24. The event caused an uproar, both positive and negative, on Twitter and around the world. #BruceJenner was trending worldwide within minutes, and the interview drew in a massive 16.9 million views, garnering the week’s number one ranking for viewers 18 to 49 years old.
While some commended his bravery for speaking out, others had a different opinion. Many critics said it was a publicity stunt for Jenner’s reality show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, while others attacked his sexuality and gender identity. Although not all of the comments were completely supportive, the “Twitterstorm” did start healthy conversation on transgender issues.
Jenner’s struggles have been plastered in gossip magazines since last year, but what surprised viewers was how long he has been hiding his true identity. Jenner explained that when he was eight or nine, he would try on his mother’s dresses. “I marked the closet so…I wouldn’t get caught,” said Jenner in the ABC interview. “And, at the time, I didn’t know why I was doing it besides it just made me feel good.”
Since then, Jenner hid behind his masculine image as an Olympic athlete in the 1970s. In the 1980s, he finally started taking female hormones and told his second wife, Linda Thompson, about his situation. Even though Jenner started his gradual transition thirty years ago, he still kept his story a secret until now.
During the interview with Sawyer, Jenner spoke about putting his fame to good use. “We’re going to make a difference in the world with what we’re doing,” said Jenner, “and if the whole Kardashian show gave me a foothold into that world, I [have] no problem with that.”
Jenner’s public announcement had good timing; transgender people are starting to have a voice due to advocates like Orange Is The New Black star Laverne Cox, a transgender woman who speaks openly about trans issues. Additionally, new television shows like Transparent and Becoming Us focus on the lives of transitioning or already transitioned people, storylines that have never been pursued on television before.
Jenner’s interview also cleared up misconceptions about transgender people. He told Sawyer that he knows where people’s confusion is coming from, but he hopes to change that. “My brain is much more female than it is male,” said Jenner. “It’s hard for people to understand that, but that’s what my soul is.”
Although he is becoming a woman, Jenner clarified that he is not gay; he is still attracted to women even though he is transgender. He also fielded questions about how his family reacted and what he sees in his future, saying that he has not decided in which female name to go by as of yet. “I look at it this way—Bruce always telling a lie,” said Jenner. “He has lived a lie his whole life about who he is. And I can’t do that any longer.”