Bruce Jenner redux

June 1, 2015

article-2548269-1B0EFD6A00000578-719_634x520When 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.)

But Bruce?

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.

shutterstock_54963838In 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.)

49 comments on “Bruce Jenner redux
  1. Robin Rue (@massholemommy) says:

    I didn;t watch it, but how odd that he didn’t focus on his entire family.

  2. I didn’t watch the show, either, so I don’t have an opinion about Bruce’s conduct during the interview or his lack of emotional connection…

    You make one very poignant point, though, in that everyone in Bruce’s life is experiencing a loss of some form; they will need to grieve that loss and journey through their own discovery into healing…

    Loss appears in so many forms that are often unrecognized…thank you, Carol, for putting words to that very important fact.

  3. I honestly think that he feels guilty on some level,that he is doing this to his family. He has to know how this is affecting them, he’s been in their lives for 25 years and they see him as a father. At least that’s how it seemed to me, he looked a bit uncomfortable speaking to them about this.

  4. Carla says:

    I didn’t see the program as it is still languishing on my DVR
    Yours is a perspective I had not yet heard.

  5. I have no interest in their family or programme. I do think it’s interesting that Bruce Jenner is having surgery, but ultimately I have no feeling one way or another. While this might sound harsh, I don’t see what difference a person’s gender is , as long as they are a good parent (if they are lucky enough to have children) and are deep down a good person. I wish him the best in the future, but don’t really get what all the fuss is about. He can afford to have the surgery and ultimately it’s what he wants.

  6. Anita Irlen says:

    I think your analysis is right on. The only thing I might add, is a question about how playing this all out on TV affects everyone involved. I think it could actually add to any trauma any of them might be experiencing. A sort of PTSD. Reality TV, just a strange phenomenon.


  7. Sandy says:

    I didn’t watch it. The whole “Kardashian” thing, which Bruce is now forever a part of, has left a bad taste in my mouth.

  8. I agree. I am totally supportive of what he is doing, but I feel as if he just dismissed their feelings as if they simply didn’t matter. I feel so sad for them. I understand he is doing what he feels he must and that’s fine, but I’m sure they feel as if “Bruce” has died and are feeling the effects of that. I look for it to affect both Kylie and Kendall in negative ways in the future and that is sad it could have been handled much differently.

  9. Carol Graham says:

    I watched the Diane Sawyer segment and my heart went out to Bruce and his family. I did not watch the other show and am glad. What I don’t understand is if he/she is an intelligent person why would he/she ostracize his/her family and expose what may be his/her true attitude? He/she is only hurting him/herself. Pronouns to cover the bases!

  10. I feel bad for his daughters because they’ve never even brushed against normal in their lives. This must be sad for them, but the entire clan is sad, truly. I can’t stand this crazy reality tv kind of stuff. We’ve made celebrity millionaires out of vapid self-centered talentless women and it’s sad. I feel for what Bruce is going through, but I have a transgendered friend who doesn’t have the means to go through the real transition and is constantly struggling on every level of her life. Her wife struggles, too. It has to be painful to never feel comfortable in your own skin. Even more painful to go through it in a glass house.

  11. Stephanie says:

    I think the overall outcome of the interview and show has been a positive one, which I wasn’t betting on. I hope all goes well with Bruce and the family.

  12. I don’t watch the show but I believe open communication can help others in a similar situation.

  13. pia says:

    I didn’t watch either—having no love for that family, especially Kim but I always felt for Bruce Jenner. I guess I don’t now!

  14. First of all, I find the whole concept of them having to deal with this in public pretty crazy. It’s hard enough as it is without having the television cameras in their faces! I would think that someone who has suffered so much as he made out in the Diane Sawyer interview would be more compassionate!

    I wonder what parents who put their kids on a reality show are thinking. I realize that I’m wandering down a total different path with my comment, but just saying.

  15. Janie Emaus says:

    That is to true. Everyone around him is involved. I haven’t seen any of the interviews yet. Not that this is the same, but it reminds me of when my stepchildren would come and go from our house to their mom’s. My own daughter was terribly affected (effected?) by this, but no one seemed to understand her situation.

    Bruce should read your blog. Maybe she will!

  16. Ellen Dolgen says:

    Memorial Day weekend, I watched the interview. You are so right, everyone around Bruce is in transition from his transition. I have a friend who has a daughter that is transitioning to a man. The transition does not happen over night. It is a very long, often very difficult process for ALL. Everyone needs to come from love and try to be supportive and understanding of each other. Your husband hit the nail on the head, my friends daughter/son is extremely self-focused and often does not acknowledge what the rest of the family is feeling.

  17. It’s something that clearly affects the whole family. This was the first time Bruce’s family seemed to be honest about how they feel.

  18. I do not have an opinion on this since this is a personal choice of a person. Respect, appreciation and value of a human being is what counts.

  19. Laurel Regan says:

    I didn’t watch the show, so thank you for your interesting and thoughtful observations. It is certainly a complex, emotion-laden situation.

  20. You mean Caitlyn, of course. This is a new take….and a very well spoken one. I absolutely see your point….the girls are losing their dad…and gaining a new momma.

  21. Joan says:

    HI Carol, I enjoyed this interesting post, along with the many great comments.

  22. One thing that I think is being overlooked (I haven’t read all the comments, so forgive me if this repeats anything): These shows are heavily, heavily edited. They can take a nice person and make them look awful, and an awful person and make them look saintly.

    I don’t watch the Karwhatevers, because I hate the entire genre, but from interviews I’ve read/seen with people who have been on other “reality” shows, the editing is brutal. They want to entertain, and they seem to think that ‘entertainment’ = people shouting and being mad at each other. Again, I haven’t seen it and don’t intend to, but I have to wonder if it has been chopped up and left Bruce purposefully cast in a negative light because…well, we’re talking about it.

  23. I did not see the show. Such a complex issue, I can’t begin to imagine what it would be like for any one of them, Bruce included. I hope that time will help all of them grow through the many transitions.

  24. Amy says:

    I’m worried about what the final outcome will be. I’m afraid that now that he has done the reassignment surgery he will have some serious regret and now there is no way back.

    • By the time someone gets this far and after a lifetime of being in the wrong body I would be very surprised if he had regrets. This isn’t a fun thing to do–he is righting a biological wrong.

  25. Mary says:

    I haven’t seen any of the shows with regards to Bruce. I can’t imagine not focusing on all of my children for something this important, although we are talking about “Reality TV” and the wonders of editing.

  26. Roz Warren says:

    TERRIFIC analysis. Something about this ongoing story had bugged me, but I couldn’t put my finger on it till I read this. Rings true for me. Great job!

  27. I still cannot shake the idea that this truly is some sort of a stunt. Bruce getting back at Chris for always bossing him around. I keep trying to shake it but I can’t.

  28. Adela says:

    When people experience transistion in their life, the often cannot focus on others. This is a traumatic time for Bruce. That said, I know counseling is part of this process. Surely someone has brought up the transition everyone else is going through.

    It’s a big change for everyone.

  29. Britney says:

    This is very interesting! Thanks for sharing!

  30. Alana says:

    The interview is also still languishing on my DVR – perhaps I should just go ahead and delete it. I just had an interesting mini-discussion with my husband and – I never thought of it in that way, but you are right – he is just not “getting it” the way a woman would. My husband had the same thoughts “she” (quotes intentional) did. I had glimmerings of that realization when I read an interview she gave somewhere (People magazine?). Sexist of me saying she is still thinking like a man? I don’t think so. Or, perhaps I am just jealous at how this 65 year old woman looks on that magazine cover. As someone who is 62, I wish I had the money to hire a stylist like that. (retracting cat claws).

  31. Ines Roe says:

    I watched the Diane Sawyer interview not the other show. As a psychologist I have worked with an individual who had the surgery and was living in the different gender. I saw the internal turmoil that everyone involved goes through. It is a hard time for everyone and Bruce sharing his transition has allowed for a national dialogue about gender and the meaning of transition.

  32. I watched the Bruce Jenner interview and was deeply moved. I can’t imagine what he’s gone through all these years and wish Caitlyn only the best.

  33. I did not watch this. I just can not relate nor do I understand. I am not judging him but I do not get it.

  34. I have trans friends, I have no idea if they have transitioned all the way through the surgery or what the levels of hormonal supplements they are on, or if they are trans persons who choose to live their life as a woman without all that except for to dress as a woman because that is how they are comfortable, or whether they do the later because they have a woman’s brain. I did not watch this show because I don’t watch this show. From what you have said it sounds like he has a man’s brain and acts like an American male. He doesn’t want to be a woman, he isn’t a woman, he just wants to be recognized as one, in my humble opinion. But what do I know?

  35. Carolann says:

    I saw it and agree with your assessment. I also saw her Vanity Fair cover today which, to say the least, was shocking. I think because you can clearly see he still has his “man” parts. I don’t know why they didn’t wait for the cover until his surgery was completed. I love the quote, cluelessness is not an excuse. I’d like to get that tattooed somewhere.

  36. STEPHANIE says:

    I don’t watch the show but I am happy that it is bringing the issues surrounding gender identity into the public discourse. I even had a conversation with my dad about transgendered issues when Caitlyn Jenner was introduced.

  37. This is the most insightful thing written about this. And I shared it immediately on Facebook as I think it was written thoughtfully and not politically correctly driven. I know you are a very embracing non judgmental woman so I was anxious to read your blog on this. Incredible insight. Simply profound. When my husband showed the cover to me this morning I was so uncomfortable, although I don’t really care what he/she does, the picture was jarring. Your blog went beyond the circus of this and right to the heart of the matter. Perfect and profound

  38. Lena Blair says:

    I absolutely cannot stand the whole Kardashian Klan, but I agree that he should have included the feelings of all his kids, step or otherwise and understood that they too are going through a transition. He is making it all about him and thats just not the case at all.

  39. Laura says:

    At the time of the Diane Sawyer interview I was a little angry that this was all a publicity stunt because Bruce Jenner was alway eclipsed by his wife and flamboyant step daughters. If it is/was a publicity stunt he is doing a disservice to all the trans people who feel akin to him and his journey. If it isn’t in many ways I feel he is exploiting his transsexuality. He claimed he has struggled with this for many years and until very recently transgendered people were ignored and maligned by the lesbian and gay community. I can understand his inability to intimately share with his children and I can understand their hurt and confusion. I can’t imagine sharing with my children I know I was born in the wrong body. It was hard enough when I had to share with them I was in love with another woman. Despite my suspicions the rest of his family and children won’t exploit this tremendously difficult path he has taken at 65, I only hope for the best for Caitlyn and hope he doesn’t allow his oldest step daughters to turn this into a freak show about them.

  40. I think he was only worried about Kendall and Kylie since they are the youngest. It may have been a thoughtless moment but I am sure as parents we are all thankful that our thoughtless moments weren’t recorded for all of the world to see.

  41. perhaps the same reason why his wife did a magazine pose showing how beautiful she was. i guess that’s the problem of rich and famous, they have so many problem in their own life.

  42. Liz Mays says:

    I haven’t seen any of the lead-up, interviews or anything so it’s hard for me to comment intelligently. But I’m thinking that he’s had the chance to adjust to his transition now and is ready to go forward, but everyone else in his life is still back at the stage of adjusting to the whole idea. They need time too.

  43. M from The Stay-at-Home Life says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if they edited things to make him look bad. The Kardashians are NOT nice people.

  44. Kerry says:

    I just wish this stuff wasn’t still so new because if people felt comfortable being who they are from the start, wives and children would not be pulled into bad situations to begin with. I only have limited experience with this, but I hate that people marry someone and stay with them for years, which just causes even more pain and hurt after the truth finally comes out. I don’t know how I would handle it if I had a family member reveal this to me. You speak extremely well on this subject. He wants sensitivity from others, but he needs to work on it herself too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Follow Carol


Here you’ll find my blog, some of my essays, published writing, and my solo performances. There’s also a link to my Etsy shop for healing and grief tools offered through A Healing Spirit.


I love comments, so if something resonates with you in any way, don’t hesitate to leave a comment on my blog. Thank you for stopping by–oh, and why not subscribe so you don’t miss a single post?


Subscribe to my Blog

Receive notifications of my new blog posts directly to your email.