NEW YORK — In the 1970s, Bruce Jenner was a symbol of American masculinity as an Olympic champion. Nearly 40 years later, in an extraordinary television interview, Jenner told the world that he identifies as a woman and has felt gender confusion since he was a little boy growing up in the New York suburbs.
Jenner let his hair down – literally loosening a ponytail and letting his hair flow past his shoulders – in a symbolic moment at the start of his two-hour interview with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer that was televised Friday. “Yes, for all intents and purposes, I am a woman.”
For the transgender community, it was a moment as significant as Ellen DeGeneres’ coming out as a lesbian was for gays nearly 20 years ago. DeGeneres tweeted support to Jenner, saying the former Olympian was “saving lives and opening minds.”
“My whole life has been getting me ready for this,” said Jenner, 65, known to a younger generation as the patriarch of television’s omnipresent Kardashian clan. “It’s not just the last few years as they’ve been treating me as a joke.”
The interview was filmed in February in Los Angeles and New York, before a fatal car accident in which Jenner was involved.
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Jenner said he self-identifies as “her,” not a specific name. But he told Sawyer he felt comfortable using the pronouns “he” and “him,” a designation that is an important issue for many in the transgender community, which believes that transgender people should be referred to by the pronouns with which they choose to identify.
Article continues belowJenner said his “brain is more female than it is male.” He said he began gender reassignment therapy in the 1980s – taking hormones, having surgery to make his nose smaller and having hair removed from his face and chest – but gave it up.
As Jenner got older, he realized that if he got sick and faced death without facing up to this issue, “I’d be so mad that I didn’t explore that side of my life.”