Bruce Jenner. The name holds more weight nowadays as that of a celebrity socialite, a Kardashian. It’s crazy to think that in the 1970s, Jenner was synonymous with track and field. He set world records in the 1976 Olympic decathlon, becoming an American hero overnight by stealing the gold from the defending Soviet champions in the midst of the Cold War.
With his success came fame; and Jenner capitalized on the opportunity, as most in the situation would. Unfortunately for Bruce, it backfired, prevented future Olympic appearances due to rules preventing the Olympic “amateurs” from seeking pay by means of their sports celebrity. Meanwhile, the USA Basketball Team consists of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and all the other NBA superstar multi-millionaires. But that’s a different story.
From there, Jenner’s career left the field and entered the public eye. His stint as an actor in generally lackluster film and television programs maintained his relevance. Then, in 1991, he married Kris Jenner, having two kids, Kendall and Kylie. Now, along with Kris’s other children—the infamous Kardashians—they star on Keeping Up with the Kardashians. The show is lampooned by many, including myself, as reinforcing celebrity ego and being as tactless as one would expect from a reality show. Once again, different story.
It happens, and we see it all the time. People are famous for being famous all the time. Gawking at famous people is the modern Great American Pastime. Controversies arise, gossip spreads; and whether the gossip is true or false is irrelevant, as the end result is the same: nothing.
But this time around, the situation takes an interesting turn. As you likely know, Bruce Jenner came out as a transgender woman about two months ago, and to put it lightly shit hit the fan. Now Jenner has revealed her transitioned self to the world—Caitlyn Jenner.
Most Americans’ initial reaction was simply “Who cares?” An interesting question. I mean, whether you’re for Caitlyn or against her, she ain’t gonna tell me Chef Curry’s odds taking on The King as we approach the NBA finals.
But when you take a look at the situation, the publicity surrounding Jenner becomes clearer. She comes from a family mired in controversy, but this unlike any of that. After 65 years of life as a man, why change on the back-end? Caitlyn’s coming out highlights a greater trend towards understanding transgender people—something America as a whole is coming to address.
While the media does as it always will and sensationalizes the situation, many people start to seek answers. What does transgendered even mean? Why would an Olympic athlete, a paragon of masculinity, want to become a woman?
Jenner sought to address these questions. A two-part special of KUWTK, which I forced myself to watch, gives her perspective. The program itself sucked, but the underlying message was important: Then identifying as Bruce, Jenner discusses how hard it was trying to ignore who she was all her life. A clear concern is shown for how coming out will affect her family members, who are generally supportive of the transition.
The show gives as insightful a look into then-Bruce’s struggle as you could possibly hope from a program spawned from a Ray J sex tape that typically concerns itself with ratings and nothing more. Jenner’s sincere concern for her family and for anyone going through the same struggle shines through the glamour and BS of the show’s typical nature, actually giving thoughtful insight into LGBT issues as a whole.
Still not enough of a reason to keep the show on television in my opinion, but at least we got to learn something from it this once.
Caitlyn/Bruce stands strong in response to the public backlash. Her new Twitter account exploded in popularity, coupled with the newest Vanity Fair cover on which she revealed her new name to the public.
Jenner picked now as a time to come forward with who she really is, and there’s a reason why. Transsexuality is an oft-ignored topic, but it has come to the table for discussion along with gay marriage and other such social issues, and boy do we still have a lot to discuss. There seem to be many new beginnings to Jenner’s old story, 65 years in the making.
Regardless of name, Jenner is a legendary athlete that’s done no small part to shape the world around us, and isn’t interested in stopping. She may be a former track star, but there’s no more running now. Caitlyn Jenner is here, and she’s here to stay.