In a feverishly anticipated two-hour interview with Diane Sawyer on ABC, Bruce Jenner confirmed tonight that he is a transgender woman. But Jenner made it clear that his transition is not yet completed and that when the interview was filmed, he still preferred the “he” pronoun. He told Sawyer it was the last interview he’ll do where he’s referred to as male before re-emerging, as Jenner put it, “as myself.”
“I’ve been thinking about this day forever,” Jenner told Sawyer, at the start of the exclusive interview, which was filmed in February and whose contents were closely guarded. He added that he struggled to figure out “how to tell my story,” adding, choking up a little, “It’s going to be tough, but today’s the day.”
“Are you a woman?” Sawyer asked, a moment later.
“Yes,” Jenner replied. “For all intents and purposes, I’m a woman. People look at me differently.They see you as this macho male.But my heart and my soul and everything that I in life, it is part of me.That female side.”
He also denied that the interview or his transition was a publicity stunt. “Do you have any idea what I’ve been going through all my life?” he asked Sawyer. (For the time being, until Jenner requests that we use female pronouns, we’ve chosen to do what ABC and Jenner did during the interview and use “he” and “Bruce” to refer to Jenner.)
Besides serving as Jenner’s public announcement, the interview also acted as a very basic primer on transgender issues for the millions of Americans who have never met a transgender person. Sawyer’s voiceover explained the difference between “crossdressing” and transgender people, as well as sexuality versus gender. She also explained that GLAAD encourages cisgender allies — and polite people in general — not to ask about a transgender person’s genitals or surgical status. (Jenner did briefly tell Sawyer that he has not had genital surgery.)
Jenner revealed in the interview that he first began taking hormones in the 1980s, shortly before he met Kris Jenner, but didn’t complete the transition at that time. He said that he’d gotten electrolysis about five years ago to remove his beard and the hair on his chest, as well as surgery on his nose. In January 2014, he had a tracheal shaving procedure to smooth out his Adam’s apple. Information about the surgery was leaked and paparazzi were there to take photos of Jenner when he left the clinic, setting off the biggest firestorm of rumors about his gender identity.
ABC got supportive statements from his first two wives, saying they supported him and wished him the best; the station also said Kris Jenner had declined to comment. In a tweet to Perez Hilton, Kris disagreed:
Jenner made it clear throughout the interview that he was uncomfortable identifying as a boy even as a child, but at the time, without the benefit of the Internet or much information about LGBT issues, it took him time to figure out what that discomfort meant. He also said he spent time “blocking everything else out of my life” with his athletics.
In the interview, Jenner also said he’s a conservative and a Christian, something he apparently hadn’t made public before. His conversation with Sawyer, as well as many of the video clips ABC used, also served as a rebuke to the late night comedians like Conan O’Brien and David Letterman who used Jenner’s changing appearance as a punchline, and to the paparazzi who hound him constantly. ABC said Jenner couldn’t comment on something that happened after the interview was filmed, a February crash in Malibu that left one person dead. The crash occurred when paparazzi were pursuing him; its causes are still under investigation. Jenner did give ABC a statement saying he was “devastated” by the incident.
Jenner said his transition will be gradual; he declined to say whether he’d chosen a woman’s name that he’ll identify by in the future, or when he’ll begin referring to himself as “she.” As the interview drew to a close, Sawyer and Jenner both alternated between referring to Jenner as “he” and “she.”
Jenner described a life of fear and isolation, an overwhelming dread at the idea of getting “found out.” He said he chose to make his gender identity public out of a realization that life is short.
“If I die, which, I could be diagnosed next week with cancer — and boom you’re gone,” Jenner said. “I would be so mad at myself that I didn’t explore that side of me. You know? And I don’t want that to happen.”
Update: Here’s a long clip via Hulu/ABC:
Screengrab via ABC