The first part of the two-part Keeping Up with the Kardashians episode devoted to Bruce Jenner’s transition aired Sunday night. In the episode, the family dealt with the timeline of Bruce’s shift; though they all said they’d known for some time, in varying stages, that he didn’t full identify with being a man, there was a great deal of confusion depicted about when and how his change into a woman would be made.
The episode began with title cards set to serious music explaining that some of the scenes that would follow would depict the family (sans Rob Kardashian and Jenner’s son’s from his previous marriage) looking and sounded less than open-minded:
Families of trans people often feel like they need to grieve the loss of the person they thought they knew.
My family’s feelings are included here in the hope that other families will know that they are not alone, and to show that families move on from grief.
Today my family loves, supports and accepts me as I am - and I am so grateful. - Bruce Jenner
(As Bruce has not yet suggested he’d like to be referred to by a different name, or a female pronoun, we’ll refer to him as we have been for the time being. During one brief scene between Khloe and Kim, Khloe struggled with how to refer to Bruce, correcting herself mid-sentence, her eyes flicking briefly to the cameraman filming her: “He said he doesn’t have enough, she doesn’t have a lot of shoes.”)
The timeline of the show was, as always, a little confusing. Most of the footage was allegedly shot in January — in fact, one scene was a continuation of a scene from last week’s episode where Kylie, Kim and Kendall discussed their body issues.
“I don’t know if I’m saying the right thing, if I’m using the right terminology, if I’m offending somebody,” Khloe said in her interview. Despite the fact that when most of the episode was purportedly shot the family had already been told by Bruce that he considered himself a woman, it was clear that they were still uncertain of what that would mean, in part because Bruce hadn’t been entirely explicit about the “when” of it all. Certain sisters didn’t know that the Diane Sawyer interview, in which Bruce came out as a trans woman to the public, was happening at all, mere days before he planned to sit down with Sawyer.
There were some harsh words; Bruce told Khloe, whom he has known since she was four, that he was mostly just concerned about telling the details of his transition to Kylie and Kendall, which was obviously hurtful to his step-daughter. Khloe and Kendall in particular seemed to struggle with the idea of Bruce “being gone,” explaining that it felt like Bruce hadn’t been fully honest about when and how his transition would take place.
“I don’t think it’s fair that you don’t tell us how close this is in the near future,” Khloe told him, shortly after she’d brought over boxes of high-heels in his size. (“Now I don’t know her taste yet, so I’m trying to figure it out,” she said to Bruce. “Well, to be honest with you, I don’t know her taste yet either,” he replied.)
“If you’re so concerned, shouldn’t [Kendall] and Kylie have the opportunity to say goodbye?” she asked him. “But I’m not going anywhere,” he responded. In a later conversation, Kim was seen telling Bruce that he would have to be explicit with the rest of the family about his plans so they could understand it and prepare.
The communication issues seemed born of the fact that Bruce was nervous to talk about the topic and upset his family. Though he’d been planning further facial surgeries for the spring, Khloe said none of his surgeries had really been explained to them. (No details about other potential physical changes were discussed, though Khloe referenced research she’d done online about the process of transitioning and what it entails.) “I’ve only really gotten mad when I’ve found out things he didn’t tell me,” she said during a family discussion, before writing this text and showing it to Kendall:
But despite all their hesitation, the family tried to be loving and supportive about something they’d known about in some form for a long time. “I just remember being little and not really knowing what was going on,” Kendall said, explaining that she and Kylie found makeup as kids and thought their father was having an affair. As has been previously reported, Kim said she once walked in on Bruce fully dressed as a woman and kept it a secret from her mother for 12 years.
But the burden has, of course, weighed the heaviest on Bruce.
“There’s just little things you can do that make you feel better about yourself,” he said about painting his toenails and wearing socks around the house to hide the color. “I’m so tired lying about my life, about everything.”
“The worst days of my life are the days that I’ve had to get my hair cut. The haircuts for me have been the most traumatic things in life,” he said, as the camera cut to footage of the girls giving him a hard time about his long hair on previous episodes of the show. “I want my hair to be longer, but society says, ‘you’ve got to cut your hair because you’re a guy.’”
“Does it look better on Bruce? Yes. But it doesn’t look better on my soul.”
The second part of the episode—which airs tonight—looks as though it will reveal more of Kris’s feelings on Bruce’s change, and Kourtney’s struggle to explain Bruce’s transition to her children. Ultimately, Bruce’s intent was almost beautifully real for reality television: he wants to be happy himself, and to try to help others as he does so (the episode ended with a title card directing those who have questions about being transgender to visit GLAAD’s website). “I’m not doing it for ratings or anything, I’m trying to do that because it’s the right thing to do in my life,” he said.
But as is the case with this family, as real as they’ll get, they wanted the story to be presented according to them, which is why they said so little about Bruce before this episode aired. “I can’t let the stupid tabloids out there controlling your message,” he told Kim, in a funny slip of the tongue. Even Kendall touched on how Bruce’s honesty could actually help the popularity of his motivational speaking.
“The last thing I want to do is hurt any of you. That is not my intention. If I’m not honest because I’m afraid to talk to you about this subject because I know it hurts. I understand that,” Bruce said.
“Am I doing it right Khloe?” he asked in a moment when she expressed her frustration with his lack of honesty. “You can never do this right. There is no right way to do this.”
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