Who is Caitlyn Jenner? A beloved athlete, America’s hero, a successful businesswoman, a parent, reality TV star, and a trans-rights activist. Caitlyn Jenner is a lot of things, but among them she is also an imperfect human being. Who makes mistakes and struggles through hardships. . . Just the same as we all do.
However her struggles with gender identity have been made even harder. – By a life spent under the scrutiny of the public eye. Even her trans peers scrutinised and devalued her battle. They see Jenner’s transition coming from a ‘place of privilege’. But she came out the other side of the trans tunnel better, stronger and whole lot more glamorous than before!
On the Road to the Olympics
Before the medals, the fame and the spotlights Caitlyn Jenner was known as Bruce Jenner. The son of an ordinary couple who lived right outside of New York City. Since he was a child, Jenner had expressed a strong interest in various sports.
His athletic career began as early as high school. Participating in gridiron football, basketball and athletics. On the side, he independently took waterskiing. Jenner was a natural, exceling in every discipline he was competing in. He became East Coast all-over champion in 1966, 1969 and 1971.
He was accepted into university on a football scholarship but due to a knee injury, was restricted to basketball and track. This is how he got recognized by the track coach who encouraged him to switch to decathlon. Thus began his journey to a Olympic gold medals, glory and fame.
Life as an Olympian
At the 1976 Olympic games in Montreal, Bruce Jenner secured the gold medal with a world-record score of 8618 points. Mere seconds after, he was proclaimed as an American hero.
For a period of time three major Olympic disciplines – basketball, the 100-meter dash and decathlon – had a long history of American success. But until the games in 1976, they had been won by Soviet athletes. This served as a great shame among the American people, especially during the Cold War. So, when Bruce Jenner came on the horizon as the new decathlon champion, America triumphed.
Following his victory, Bruce Jenner became a public figure. Similarly, to Johnny Weissmuller and Sonja Henie who became big screen stars following their gold medals. Jenner also capitalized on his success by appearing on television in character roles and reality shows.
His first movie role was in the 1981 comedy Can’t Stop the Music. It was followed by a guest appearance in the sitcom Silver Spoon, where his personal struggles with dyslexia were uncovered. Jenner was even taken into consideration for the role of 1978 Superman.
Body Dysphoria and Gender Identity
However, as fabulous and enthralling life under the spotlight may seem, it is far from perfect.
For much of his youth and adulthood Bruce Jenner struggled severely with his gender identity. When he was only 10 years old, Jenner would walk in his mother’s closet, try on some of her dresses and walk around the house. At such tender age, he couldn’t understand what was happening. His younger self was just “fascinated by it all”, without realizing that what he was experiencing was, in fact, gender dysphoria.
He could, however, understand that his experiences and desires weren’t considered “normal” by societal standards. Men weren’t supposed to be effeminate, let alone desire to be feminine. So, he hid that part of himself, burying it deep down where no one could find it. He hoped that the gender issues would go away on their own.
They didn’t, so Jenner found an outlet in sports. On multiple occasions he had expressed how they had helped save his life. He didn’t become determined to excel in his sports career just because he was gifted. Sports also served as a way for him to prove his masculinity, a diversion from the realization that he identified as a woman. Though, sometimes, even that wasn’t enough.
A little-known fact about Bruce Jenner is that during the toughest times of his gender crises, he would wear bras underneath his suits. I was all in the hopes of feeling of sensation of his true identity.
His fame and success certainty didn’t help. The constant pressure and social expectation of being the top male athlete and proclaimed American hero were making matters worse. Bruce Jenner was alone and isolated in his battle with gender identity.
Coming Out to the World
In April 2015, Jenner came out officially as a trans woman and debuted her new name Caitlyn Marie Jenner.
The public’s reaction was mostly supportive, congratulating her on her bravery. Her announcement was accompanied by an exposé done by Vanity Fair where she talked about her coming out story. When the article was released, Caitlyn became the first openly transgender woman to be featured on the cover of the magazine.
The same year, Glamour awarded Caitlyn ‘Woman of the Year’ for the impact she had on the LGBTQ+ community and the representation and acceptance of transgender women she brought.
However, as anything else the Jenner family does, this pivotal moment was also criticized and scrutinized by many. Though, their reaction wasn’t unprovoked. In an interview when asked what the hardest part of being a woman is, Caitlyn Jenner answered that it is “figuring out what to wear”. This quickly spiked negative reactions among public figures such as author Germaine Greer and actress Rose McGowan, who stated that women have been through more than enough hardships throughout history to be ‘reduced’ to just cloths.
And just as the Jenners always do, Caitlyn never let the negative comments and reactions (although justified) bring her down.
Trouble in Paradise
In June 2015 Caitlyn Jenner released her own reality showed titled I Am Cait, where she talked about her struggles with gender dysphoria and how it had affected her entire life.
A particular big segment of the documentary was dedicated to her coming out to her former wife; Kris Jenner and how that affected their relationship. For the most parts Kris Jenner recounts that she wasn’t made aware of the gender issues. The problem was never fully discussed, so Kris was left with the impression that Caitlyn’s desire to cross-dress was just a phase. Caitlyn shared she was allowed to explore her gender identity whenever she was traveling on her own, but not when her and Kris were together.
Years of hiding and keeping this side of herself a secret, led to Caitlyn’s inability to comfortably and openly talk about the issues that tormented her. Not knowing how to properly address her gender dysphoria to her then wife hurt not only their relationship but also them as people. This miscommunication was what drove the couple apart and led to their unfortunate divorce.
However, learning from her mistakes, Caitlyn Jenner put her children first when she decided to transition fully for the second time in 2015. She made it her priority to inform them of her decision and to make sure that all of them were financially independent and won’t be directly affected negatively before coming out publicly.
Putting in a shift
She may divide opinion and not always get things ‘right’ but who does?. Love her or hate her, you can’t deny the level of courage and strength she has shown to the world in becoming who she was always meant to be. And at the age of 72 Caitlyn Jenner is still thriving as a businesswoman, a mother, a grandparent, and a celebrity. All whilst continuing to shift the perspective on transgender people to a more positive one.