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Bruce Jenner interview has transgender activists 'holding our breath'

Bruce Jenner interview could be milestone in how media consider transgender issues, advocates say

With Bruce Jenner’s highly anticipated interview hours away, many transgender advocates are waiting anxiously for what could be a milestone in how the media consider transgender people and issues.

“We’re all holding our breath,” said Drian Juarez, with the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Transgender Economic Empowerment Project. ”It seems like the community is really tuned in for this.” 

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For months, speculation has swirled around Jenner, the former Olympian who has been the subject of tabloid fodder that he was transitioning to live his life as a woman. It is widely believed that in Friday night’s interview with Diane Sawyer on ABC’s “20/20,” Jenner will discuss his gender identity. 

Juarez, a transgender woman, said that while there have been numerous positive images of transgender people lately — including the success of transgender actress Laverne Cox and the Amazon series “Transparent” — the Jenner interview is a huge pop culture moment, no matter what happens. 

“There hasn’t been anything like it,” she said. 

Many transgender advocates have been alarmed by the speculation about Jenner, saying the gossip and jokes about Jenner’s body and gender identity are profoundly disrespectful and have dragged a serious, deeply personal decision back to an era when it was characterized as a sideshow. 

The coverage has been a sensitive topic. Like others, a spokesperson for the National Center for Transgender Equality in Washington, D.C., on Friday  — a few hours before the interview was to air on the East Coast — declined to comment until Jenner spoke for himself. 

This week, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Assn. published an open letter to journalists covering the Jenner interview, noting that it was “widely believed that Jenner will talk about being transgender” and that “for many transgender people this will be a historic moment.” 

In the letter, the association gave tips on how to responsibly and accurately write about the interview, adding that the story is unique because of the “amount of attention and speculation prior to Jenner speaking publicly about Jenner.” The association suggested referring to Jenner by his last name instead of gendered pronouns. 

In a recent interview with The Times, Parker Molloy, a prominent transgender writer and activist, said that while she was glad to see more transgender people share their stories in the media in recent years, it was important to remember that no one person or celebrity will be a spokesperson for the entire community. 

“If Bruce Jenner is transgender? That’s great, but I don’t know that I can relate,” Molloy said. “I didn’t win the Olympics. I wasn’t on a Wheaties box. A lot of times, how the media represents things is, ‘Here, look what one person says, that’s what these people are like.’ But trans people don’t all think the same.”

This week, Molloy told the "Today" show that having someone in the media “very publicly, openly transgender could have a huge impact on how the country and the world views transgender issues.” 

Others said they had no interest in adding to the debate.

"It's wrong to speculate and gossip about who is and who isn't transgender, so we don't have a comment today about the subject of Diane Sawyer's interview with Bruce Jenner," Nick Adams, an L.A.-based spokesman for GLAAD who is transgender, said Friday.

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times


3:34 p.m. PST: This post has been updated with a statement from GLAAD.

This post was originally published at 2:06 p.m.