Was it just me? Or, did the other 17 million people watching the riveting Bruce Jenner interview in which he came out as a transgender woman on 20/20 with Diane Sawyer find Bruce Jenner to be the kindest, bravest and gentlest soul in the universe?
Unfortunately most people didn’t hear of Jenner until watching the public spectacle that is “The Kardashians,” America’s own famous-for-being-famous family. But I have been a Jenner fan since I was barely a teenager. I was glued to the TV as I watched him win the decathlon in the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics and thus becoming the best athlete in the world. I was the first on my block to bolt out and buy the Wheaties box with his photo on the front, and I didn’t even eat Wheaties. I had a poster of Jenner hanging in my room, and he inspired me everyday to be my best. To me he will always be the archetypical Olympic hero who rocked the world with his athletic abilities.
When I discovered that my son Sam was dyslexic, I hung a photo of Jenner in his room, because he too is dyslexic. I read one of Jenner’s books in which he said that he hated school. But in the 5th grade he discovered he could run. And run Bruce did for years and years away from himself…until he stopped running and sat in front of Diane Sawyer.
The irony of Jenner’s story is that the Kardashians were trying to run with the big dogs and doing a whole lot of nothing but shopping –were trying so desperately to to be the story. But Bruce stated, “I had the story…the one real, true story in the family was the one I was hiding and nobody knew about.”
That’s when the interview hit a real nerve with me. Even if you can’t relate to his specific situation, everyone knows what it’s like to have a family dynamic drastically change and how scary it is to realize that nothing is ever going to be the same. If you strip away the reality show headlines the Kardashians are just a close-knit family, granted a crazy mess, but they love each other and like the rest of us are not above dealing with the complicated issues. The family’s acceptance of Jenner, and the enormous influence they have on our culture, along with their hundreds of millions of social media followers, provides an extremely powerful platform.
Jenner told Diane Sawyer, “We’re going to do some good here,” and I admit he certainly changed my views of what it means to be a transgender and the agonizing decisions they must face, the ridicule, and the harassment. I wonder how many of us could face such mockery? There was a statistic during the interview that stated 80% of Americans know someone who is gay but only 9% know someone who is a transgender. Jenner has changed that forever. We all know Jenner now. He opened up his chest cavity and showed us his soul – which, as he said, was that of a woman. I hope we all will collectively stand by Jenner and others who are battling with this difficult decision. I know that is my plan.
Jenner has gone form Olympic superstar, a Playgirl cover, author, and reality show character and now he has strong-armed his way into our hearts with his tenderness. Thirty-nine years after winning the title of strongest athlete in the world, he continues to show world-class strength. He reminds us that nothing is stronger than gentleness.
Bruce Jenner I applaud you. I commend you. I want to be just like you. Courageous. Kind. Strong. And above all else, honest. Jenner has taught us all that one person can change the world, just by living his story. I wonder what the world would be like if we all did the same.