LGBT activists around the world applauded Bruce Jenner, the former Olympic gold medalist and reality TV personality, for coming out as transgender. Activists noted the brave move, pointing out the added struggle of being trans while in constant public spotlight.
“For all intents and purposes, I’m a woman,” Jenner said when he came out in an interview with Diane Sawyer Friday. Jenner, who says for now he prefers he/him/his pronouns and no name change, described how he felt he has been living a “lie” before coming out.
In a world where transgender people are more likely to be hurt, assaulted, killed, or to commit suicide, visibility is crucial in order to make progress toward acceptance.
Mara Keisling, Executive Director at the National Center for Transgender Equality, wrote in support of Jenner’s announcement.
“Coming out as transgender is probably easier than it ever has been, but it is still really hard. And it can still be shamefully unsafe,” Keisling said in a statement. “So, hello Bruce Jenner. Welcome. You can stop running now. Transgender people are here to stay and I’m glad you’ll be with us. Let’s push this tipping point over together. Let’s do it for all of the trans kids that come after us.”
Janet Mock, a longtime trans rights activist and author of Redefining Realness, a memoir that describes her own difficult path to realizing her truth of being a woman, tweeted in response to Jenner coming out.
“#BruceJennerABC confirms this truth: No matter our age/path, we’re all searching for authenticity, identity, acceptance & (self-)love,” wrote Mock.
Mock interviewed fellow trans rights activist Laverne Cox, star of Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, and heard similar support for Jenner.
“I think a lot of people tuned in expecting to see a spectacle, and they tuned in and saw a profoundly nuanced, complicated, beautiful human being,” Cox said during the interview. “I had spoken to Bruce several months back, and the same person I had spoken to on the phone, who really just loves their children so much and wants their family to be happy, was the person I saw on television last night.”
“I think it’s important to note that this is just one story, that Bruce’s story is very specific,” Cox continued. “Most trans people don’t have that kind of privilege, don’t have the kind of privilege that I have or that you have and at the end of the day the visibility I had last year and continue to have didn’t save Blake Brockington from suicide, didn’t save Leelah Alcorn from suicide, didn’t save the seven trans women who were murdered the first eight weeks of this year. … So, visibility matters, but structural change and policy change is really what needs to happen so the lives of all trans people will be better. That’s when visibility matters, when it can save lives and influence the changes of hearts and minds.”
A docu-series about Jenner’s life as a woman will premiere July 26 on E!
Media Resources: GLAAD 4/27/2015; CNN 4/25/2015; ABC News 4/24/2015; National Center for Transgender Equality 4/24/2015; Advocate 3/24/2015; Autostraddle 12/30/2014; Twitter