When Bruce Jenner sat down with Diane Sawyer and television cameras to tell the world that he was going through a transgender transition, she was met with compassion and support, for the most part. The public seemed to respond to his heartfelt description of the lie he’d lived for 65 years and seemed to be mostly ok with the fact that this epitome of masculinity was actually a female in a male body.
Keeping Up with the Kardashians is not on my viewing list. I find those young women to be vapid and superficial, so I never watched an episode. But their two-part special about Bruce’s transition aired recently and I watched it.
For the most part, the girls seemed to be voicing authentic feelings and so did their mother. (That’s how it seemed, anyway.)
Bruce did himself no favors by participating in this program.
Then again, he might have done the transgender world a favor by inadvertently shining a light on a related subject. Here’s what I mean:
The family expressed love and support. But Khloe was aggressive and outspoken in saying that she felt Bruce had not been honest with his children about his plans to transition. That he had kept them in the dark. She, and his daughter Kendall (whose heartbreak was heartbreaking, itself), pointed out that the people around Bruce were also going through a transition. That they were suffering a loss of their own. The girls were losing the man that was their father, and even though he’d still be in their lives in a big way, it wouldn’t be the Bruce they knew. It would be the woman he will soon show them. This seemed authentic and right on the money. But that’s not how Bruce responded.
Bruce seemed to have difficulty acknowledging that the kids had something to grieve–or even a point. He just couldn’t hear it. He could speak eloquently about himself, his transition, his happiness, but he showed not an ounce of understanding for his daughters.
In fact, he said that the only feelings he was concerned with were those of his two biological daughters, Kylie and Kendall. Say wha???? He’s got sons, stepsons and stepdaughters he’s raised, six are biological, but he only cares about these two girls? Ah, the truth comes out. Bruce is not the saint he seemed to be in the Sawyer interview.
He seemed tone deaf, too, in a segment with his ex-wife, in which she pointed out that he had kept everything but his desire to cross-dress from her for all those years. She said he’d been angry and irritable and while she now understood why, she felt he’d been dishonest in the face of her love and support.
He couldn’t hear any of it. Not her emotions and not the emotions of the girls. He seemed most comfortable giddily showing Kim his painted toenails, his women’s clothes and asking her to style him. That’s not surprising: she was not confronting him with her emotions. Like so many men, he just couldn’t deal with those. Of course, as a woman, he’s going to have to get used to dealing with emotions.
His extreme self-focus made me feel sad for the girls. It’s important for transgender people to get that their loved ones are also undergoing a transition of their own. That even those who are loving and supportive will still grieve the loss of the person they knew. I can only hope that it was as obvious to the rest of the audience as it was to me that Bruce just doesn’t get that. And that it needs to be “gotten.”
Because it’s important to recognize that everyone goes through a big change, not just the transgendered person.
“Maybe they have to be so self-focused to get through their transition,” my husband said.
Maybe. But, a transgender person who purports to want to help other transgenders (as Bruce says she wants to do) needs to understand that the picture is bigger than just them. That it takes in the people around them, too.
This was a “reality show,” I understand. I’m just not sure Bruce got the reality she’d expected.
And I’m not sure she knew that she didn’t.
(I switched pronouns purposely.)