Courage, understanding, and tolerance are definitely the message of the past week – starting with comedian Michael Pritchard’s strong message in on one of the most powerful anti-bullying videos I’ve ever run across on social media to Bruce Jenner’s long anticipated and incredibly daring interview with Diane Sawyer on Thursday night (below), as he greeted her with voice trembling, “… it’s going to be an emotional roller coaster.”
I can’t begin to fathom the guts it took to be as open and vulnerable as he was in that interview about gender dysphoria. It’s been so hush hush until now that most of us do not understand what gender dysphoria means? Ignorance breeds fear, and fear breeds intolerance, so I applaud his raw honesty dispelling so many of our misconceptions.
Being transgender is about identity, not sexuality. Furthermore, it is not a choice, but simply who that person happens to be. The imbalance between ones outer genitalia and internal gender identity do not constitute a mental illness. However, the anxiety and depression that often accompany the condition are of major concern with an exceptionally high 25% suicide rate reported. With the medical means and support available, don’t we all have a right to live authentically? Don’t we all strive to be comfortable in our own skin, and ultimately live happy lives?
Having said that, my mind is still running on overtime trying to process the sheer magnitude of it all. My heart aches for the turmoil a young transgender must experience, their often dark and exhausting path; but also for the ramifications for their families. Parents, siblings, spouses, and children inadvertantly forced into their own challenging journey of self- discovery, often cloaked in secrecy to protect their loved ones.
That’s why above of all the noise on the internet since the interview, How Living With and Loving Bruce Jenner Changed My Life Forever held the most powerful insights for me. A characteristically loving and eloquent account by Bruce Jenner’s second wife, Linda Thompson.
You see, I’ve met Linda Thompson on several occasions. While I wouldn’t say we are bosom buddies, I usually remind her of our mutual friend Jimmy before she places me, but she has always been one of the most gracious and genuine people I’ve had the pleasure of conversing with in Hollywood.
Her description of the early years with Bruce in the article seemed so idyllic, especially after the tragic loss of fiancee Elvis Presley just a few years before. “It should be noted that Bruce was a very secure man, because the music I chose to walk down the aisle to was Elvis Presley’s “Hawaiian Wedding Song,” and she then goes on to say “Those were the happiest days of my life. I had a wonderful husband, who was the most athletic, high-spirited, energetic, easygoing, manly man imaginable. I had two beautiful, healthy baby boys. I had two great stepchildren. Life was just about as good as it gets.”
As one might imagine, reconciling that life, with her husband announcing one day that he identifies as a woman was quite a rug pulled from beneath her. Not to mention the challenges that would lie ahead in figuring out how to raise their young children under unusual circumstances. Although there are inferences to challenges along the way, judging from how truly loving and supportive the older Jenner children seemed to be in the interview – well, I think it speaks volumes about the adults who raised them.
“So as much as this is about Bruce, it’s not all about him. The sharing of my experience is meant to enlighten and inform — to lend a modicum of comfort and support for all those disenfranchised, struggling, discriminated-against, searching souls.” – Linda Thompson. Amen to that sister, and to a more loving, supportive, and accepting society for all.