Bruce Jenner’s Transformation Promotes Awareness for Trans Community

Awards 2015

The Diane Sawyer 20/20 special had been teased about for months and his gender identity had been a subject of speculation in the tabloids for longer — The various clues: his hair growth, the shaving down of his Adam’s apple, the polish on his fingernails. So when Bruce Jenner sat down, let his hair down, and said, “For all intents and purposes, I am a woman,” it wasn’t a shock. Sawyer’s questioning was respectful and compassionate, and the show pulled away from Jenner at points to offer context on the trans experience. It anticipated criticisms that Jenner’s wealth and privilege—seen most clearly in his ability to retire from society for a time in order to complete his transition before reemerging as what he called “her”—make him a misleading representative of that experience. History teacher, Donald Morton commented, “This is the interview that defines 2015. It has helped the trans community by giving it a face for many Americans who think it to be a faceless issue.”
Laverne Cox, actress best known for her role in Orange is the New Black, believes that lives will be saved because of Bruce Jenner’s transition. Cox has spoken out about Jenner’s choice to become a woman and has said that, “While I’m tired of having to talk about it, I believe people will be helped by his decision.” As Parker Marie Molloy pointed out in Upworthy, misperception among viewers is still a risk, but all-in-all, the special was refreshingly sensitive and enlightening to millions of Americans.
The day before Jenner’s interview, a 23-year-old trans game developer, Rachel Bryk, committed suicide after being harassed by cyberbullies. The day after Obama’s announcement, a 15-year-old named Sam Taub, took his life in West Bloomfield, Michigan. While Jenner’s visibility and Obama’s support may improve conditions in the coming years, Americans needs to move much more quickly in order to save lives so clearly in jeopardy. This is why Obama’s statement against conversion therapy, like Jenner’s groundbreaking interview, must be starting points, not ending ones. Faith Lewis ‘18 said, “After so many lives have ended it’s up to us to stop this madness.”
In a note she posted on Tumblr (since taken down) that sparked a viral online conversation, Leelah Alcorn asked that money from the sale of her belongings be donated to “trans civil-rights movements and support groups.” She was a transgender female living in rural Ohio, whose parents were religious to the point where they didn’t accept their daughter. It underlined the urgent need for organizations that recognize the unique vulnerabilities of the trans community, within the LGBTQ community.
Bruce Jenner opened the eyes of many Americans; specifically those unfamiliar with the LGBTQ issues and those scared of who they are.