Bruce Jenner’s physical transformation has confounded me for years. “Why would such a good-looking man gratuitously undergo surgery to fix what is not broken?” I thought. “He had such a great nose, and now it’s small and looks like that of a woman.” Lastly (and by far the most reprehensible), “Is he mentally ill? What else would explain his obvious addiction to unnecessary surgery?” At no point did I ask whether there was a larger truth lurking behind the curtain. And given the media’s relentless pokes at his physical appearance, they never asked that question either.
After having the privilege of watching Jenner’s extensive sit-down with Diane Sawyer and later reading a moving exposé from his second wife, Linda Thompson, it’s suddenly become clear. Jenner revealed that he began transitioning in the eighties after a life-long struggle with his gender identity. He took hormone medication, removed his body and facial hair, and started to develop breasts. Both Jenner and Thompson agree that this led to the demise of their marriage, and Jenner also revealed that it largely contributed to the demise of his third marriage to Kris Jenner. As for his sexuality, he insists the comparison is “apples and oranges,” given that a gender struggle does not necessarily go hand-in-hand with sexual preference.
Sawyer’s soft-ball style fit well in this interview, especially since Jenner was more than willing to share his very private journey. She got out of the way, suspended all judgment, and provided the public with informational details about transgender struggles, which was beautifully woven throughout the exchange. My lone critique is that there should also be support for parents, friends, and spouses who are often judged for their lack of acceptance. Loved ones will also suffer great loss in this process, as Linda Thompson so elegantly explained, and they too are in need of help. We are all capable of unconditional love and acceptance, but sometimes our tool-kit is missing bolts. Perhaps Jenner’s brave revelations will complete that kit for many.
Bruce Jenner’s story is both sad and inspirational. Had he struggled during a time when society was more supportive and knowledgeable, perhaps he would have felt free to live his truth much sooner. But what better way to make up for past pain than to ease the road for others that suffer?
I appreciate Robert Downey Jr.’s plea for the world to forgive Mel Gibson, and I have always loved Robert Downey Jr., despite his issues. But there’s a major difference between Downey and Gibson’s life-troubles. Robert Downey Jr. was a drug addict. Everyone rooted for him to overcome his addiction, and the public welcomed him back when they felt he recovered. But Gibson’s problems far exceed addiction (though alcohol was clearly involved). America thinks that Mel Gibson is a bigoted wife-beater. The only way to recover from that is to convince the public that he’s changed, and that he deserves a second chance. But Mel Gibson has done nothing to warrant that belief. Does he hate Jews? Is he racist? Did he beat his girlfriend that night? Everyone knows his father is a holocaust denier, yet Gibson never publicly addressed it. When Diane Sawyer asked him to comment, he defensively suggested that the interview was about him and not his father. That’s just not good enough. Unless he’s honest and he can prove that he doesn’t have hate in his heart, he will be forever banned from the industry — whether Robert Downey Jr. likes it or not. My suggestion for Gibson is that he sit-down with Barbara Walters, who is not only a genius at resurrecting careers through tearful truths, but who is also Jewish. It’s a win-win if he’s willing.
I’ve made it clear time and time again how much I detest every interviewer but Barbara Walters, and Diane Sawyer is no exception. There’s a clip below of her interview with Jaycee Dugard, and needless to say, Sawyer stinks. She doesn’t even ask a question. She instead makes a statement of fact and pauses, forcing an uncomfortable silence with Dugard, who is then awkwardly filling in the conversational gaps with what she thinks Sawyer wants to know. Isn’t there a school you go to as a journalist where they tell you that an interview actually involves asking a question, instead of inserting uncomfortable pauses in a conversation? Can Babs please come out of retirement for the big interviews? I realize they both work at ABC, but there’s no excuse for Walters’ absence on this one.