Bruce Jenner said Friday night that he's transitioning from male to female, plainly telling ABC's Diane Sawyer, "Yes, for all intents and purposes, I am a woman."
The much-anticipated interview kicked off with the 1976 Olympic gold medal winner and reality TV celebrity reaching for a tissue even before the questions began. "I've been thinking about this day forever and what I should do with my life and how do I tell my story," Jenner said.
After revealing a lifelong struggle with gender identity, the "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" father discussed how that affected each of his three marriages, shared details about his 1980s attempt to transition and told what it was like to bring his six children and four stepchildren up to speed on the secret he had been keeping.
"I've always been confused about my gender identity since I was this big," the 65-year-old explained, gesturing a few feet above the ground. It was, Jenner said, as if God had put a little boy together, adding smarts and athletic ability and more, and then said, "Let's give him the soul of a woman and see how he deals with that."
Jenner wants to continue to be referred to as "he" and "him" for the time being, Sawyer told viewers. During the chat, Jenner referred to the person he's becoming as "her" and "she," not mentioning a specific name. "If I did," he said, "the media would go crazy."
Media pressure has been significant: The night after a surgery to reduce the size of his Adam's apple made headlines thanks to a paparazzo's picture, Jenner said, he briefly thought about how easy it would be to end his life and "go to a better place." Then he realized he couldn't do that, because he had to see how his real story ended.
Jenner said his gender identity issues hadn't played a role in the breakup of his marriage to Chrystie Jenner, nee Crownover, in 1981, but were behind the split from his second wife, actress Linda Thompson, in 1986. He went as far as taking hormones for five years in the 1980s and had plastic surgery on his face before giving up on transitioning, in large part because he was concerned about hurting his family. Kris Kardashian, who would become Kris Jenner, learned early on about his gender confusion, he said.
"She goes, 'OK, so you like to wear women's clothes some?' I downplayed it," he said. She "didn't say much" after that, he said, and they never went to therapy about it. Speaking highly of Kris, who as his manager had revived his career with infomercials and then the "Kardashians" juggernaut, he said he had a wonderful couple of decades with her.
"Not only was I able to call him my husband for 25 years and father of my children, I am now able to call him my hero," Kris Jenner said on Twitter after the show aired.
Brandon Jenner was the first child Bruce shared his story with, months ago, and the four oldest Jenner children appeared on the program.
"The way he [told me] wasn't perfect," Brandon Jenner told Sawyer. However, he said, "I feel like I'm getting an upgraded version of my dad." Daughter Cassandra Marino said she asked her father what he wanted to be called. "He said, 'I'm Dad. Call me Dad. I'll always be your dad.' "
Kendall and Kylie Jenner provided a supportive statement to ABC. Kourtney, Kim, Khloe and Rob Kardashian didn't appear on the show.
"Kimberly has been by far the most accepting. The easiest to talk to," he said, while easygoing Khloe has had the toughest time.
Jenner said he has been on hormones for a year and a half and planned to have surgery done on his face and breasts. He has no idea what another marriage might look like, declaring himself "asexual" for now. Though Sawyer didn't bring it up, he told her he hasn't yet made a decision about sexual reassignment surgery. If he took that step, he said, he would do it "so quietly" that nobody would know. No cameras, no TV shows.
During the broadcast, however, the E! network — which airs "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" — announced an eight-part series that would show Jenner's "new normal" living as a transgender woman. The show premieres July 26.
"Today, millions of people learned that someone they know is transgender," Sarah Kate Ellis, president and chief executive of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, said in a statement. "By sharing this story, Bruce Jenner has shined a light on what it means to be transgender and live authentically in the face of unimaginable public scrutiny. Though Jenner's journey is one that is deeply personal, it is also one that will impact and inspire countless people around the world."
"Every transgender person's journey is unique, and by choosing to share this story, Bruce Jenner adds another layer to America's understanding of what it means to be transgender," said Nick Adams, GLAAD's director of programs, transgender media. "We hope that after hearing Jenner's story, people will want to learn more about the issues and challenges facing their transgender friends, co-workers, and family members. Stories like these will help create a world in which everyone can express their gender identity without fear of discrimination and violence."
Jenner said a perfect day would be one in which he simply blended in. He wanted to be able to keep nail polish on long enough for it to chip.
One more revelation: Jenner is, he said, a Republican — one who would be happy to talk with party leaders in the future about transgender issues.
The interview was his last as Bruce Jenner. "She," Jenner said, would be the next to speak publicly.
"I'm not saying goodbye to me. This has always been me."
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