Bruce Jenner, a former world-renowned track and field athlete better known in recent years from the reality TV shows of his step-daughters, the Kardashian sisters, described a lifelong struggle with gender identity in an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer on Friday night.
“For all intents and purposes, I am a woman,” Jenner said. “I was not genetically born that way … as of now I have all the male parts. As of now we’re different, but we still identify as female.”
Jenner described trying on women’s clothes and leaving the house in them in the 1950s, when he was 8 or 9 years old.
“Very lonely little boy,” Jenner said. “I’m still a lonely big boy. I don’t socialize a lot. … When you deal with this issue, you don’t fit in.”
Jenner took hormones for five years in the 1980s after the breakup of his second marriage, as well as getting facial surgery, and electrolysis to remove his facial hair — but he says he lost his nerve, worrying about the public spectacle and the impact on his children.
Jenner said he’s struggled recently, as questions about his gender identity have become public and he’s been hounded by paparazzi — and that, after it was leaked that he’d scheduled an appointment to have his Adam’s apple reduced, he had thoughts of suicide.
Sawyer asked Jenner, 65, why now felt like the right time to make his struggle public.
“I just can’t pull the curtain any longer,” Jenner said. “Bruce lives a lie; She is not a lie.” (He said that he wasn’t prepared to announce a new name yet for the female identity he is embracing, and referred to “her” and “she” throughout the interview.)
Sawyer said this would be the last interview Jenner would give as Bruce, but that he was still most comfortable with male pronouns.
Jenner also says he always has been attracted to women, but may consider himself asexual “for now.”
“I’m not gay; as far as I know I’m heterosexual,” Jenner said. “I’ve never been with a guy.”
Jenner told Sawyer that he hoped that being public with his identity and struggle might help change perceptions and increase acceptance of transgender individuals.
He also said that, as a political conservative, he would be happy to approach top Republicans to discuss transgender issues with them. After the interview aired, the Log Cabin Republicans released a statement congratulating Jenner on his courage and welcoming him to join their community.
Later in the show Sawyer spoke with Jenner’s children from his first two marriages, who all expressed support for their father, with his son Brandon praising his courage.
Jenner said that when he told his children and step-children from his marriage with Kris Jenner, they cried and were protective of him. Kris herself declined to comment for the ABC interview, but voiced her support online Friday night, as did several of Bruce Jenner’s children.
Kim Kardashian has been the most accepting, Jenner said — something aided by her husband, rapper and producer Kanye West, who he says told Kim that little in his life would matter if he didn’t feel free to be himself.
And Jenner’s elderly mother, whom he described as deeply conservative, said that while she never thought she could be prouder of him than she was when he won gold in Montreal, told ABC that she now was finding that wasn’t true.
NPR’s Frank DeFord wrote earlier this week about his experience covering Jenner’s drive at Olympic gold during the 1976 Montreal games, where he saw hints of Jenner’s careful management of his public persona.
“As the public awaits his presumed revelations, Jenner is still invariably and glibly identified by his paternal connection to the Kardashian clan. It’s presented almost anecdotally that he won the gold medal for the Olympic decathlon — the 10-event classic of track and field athleticism — in 1976. But back then, he was a glorified champion and called ‘the world’s greatest athlete.’
“Today, few people even know what the decathlon is, but I was with Jenner in Montreal that summer, writing about him when his new life began as the champion.
“Jenner knew that Olympic gold medalists had one brief chance at cashing in. So he carefully plotted his path as if he were to win the gold. That context can help us to understand how savvy he is in approaching what appears to be a second great upheaval in his life: his alleged transition to becoming a woman.”