Bruce Jenner’s story hits close to home for me

I am a butterfly, not a caterpillar.
I am a butterfly, not a caterpillar.

I am uncertain at what point during the Bruce Jenner-Diane Sawyer tete-a-tete that I first reached across my coffee table to fetch a piece of tissue paper. I just know it was not a one-off.

Fortunately, Kleenex is not in short supply in my modest home.

Yes, I wept freely and often as the former world’s greatest athlete shared his story with Sawyer, because he was telling my story. No, I am not a former Olympic champion and my picture never has graced the front of a Wheaties box. I have zero connection to the Kardashians. The paparazzi do not hound me. Late night gab guys on TV do not crack wise about me.

Trust me, though. Bruce Jenner’s story is my story. It’s just that I’m ahead of him on the curve.

He was born with male junk 65 years ago. Ditto.

He slipped into his sister’s dress for the first time at age seven or eight. Ditto.

He immersed himself into sports as an escape from the torment of gender identity conflict. Ditto.

He has had three failed marriages. Ditto.

He sired six children. Ditto (including an abortion).

He began his male-to-female transition at a very late stage in his life. Ditto.

Where Jenner and I part company is in the areas of family, stage of transition and celebrity. Whereas he is held in the embrace of his family, I am estranged from mine, save for my younger brother. In some cases, that is their choice. In others, it is mine. Meanwhile, I have been living, working and playing as my true self for the past seven years. I have a vagina. He does not. He has yet to begin his real life experience and he confessed to Sawyer that any surgery is a significant distance down the road.

As for celebrity, I retreated from a career in jock journalism in 1999 and have managed to carve out a life well removed from the fishbowl. Jenner is out there, baby. After Friday night’s chin-wag with Sawyer on ABC, I think it accurate to submit that he is now the world’s most famous transgender person.

I suspect that will make the transition more difficult, because haters are going to hate. He shall be mocked, maligned and ridiculed. He will become the butt of more jokes than Kim Kardashian’s caboose. Yet Jenner can take comfort in the knowledge that the most difficult aspect of the journey now is in the rear view mirror. He has told family. He has told friends. He has told the world. He is now free to get on with getting on.

I have no doubt that there are those among us who believe this is a stunt. A gimmick. Just another bottle of snake oil being sold to a gullible public by the Jenner-Kardashian clan. Another reality series, after all, is coming to a flatscreen TV near you in the very near future, at which time we shall be introduced to the she Jenner in all her female finery.

I’m not buying that this is a put-on, though. A circus act, if you will. Too much of what Jenner told Sawyer rang true for me. Hence the Kleenex.

I know what it was like to grow up in the 1950s and ’60s, wondering why your heart, mind and soul said you were a girl but that thing between your legs told you otherwise. I know the emptiness of not having anyone to turn to, someone who might understand and help explain why you felt the way you felt. I know the gripping confusion when some silent voice insists that you to put on your sister’s dress. I know the escape that sports offered, which, in my case, meant the frozen ponds and baseball diamonds of Winnipeg. I also know the painful retreat to my loneliness once the game was over. I know suicide ideation. I know the paralyzing fear of being found out, especially as an adult operating in the alpha-male, frat-boy, misogynistic world of sports.

Jenner did his thing on a global scale in athletics, where he won the gold medal in the 1976 Olympic Games decathlon. I did mine as a jock journalist on a parochial scale for a handful of newspapers stretching from Toronto to Calgary.

Same story, slightly different sound bites, that’s all. And he got to talk to Diane Sawyer, I didn’t.

It took a special kind of courage for Jenner to take this step, and he’ll require more of same as he makes his way along the path. There shall be roadblocks, hurdles and detours. More pain. Most people, of course, cannot understand what he has gone through and what he is yet to experience, but most problematic is the reality that most people will not try to understand.

Everyone can understand this, though: By whatever name Bruce Jenner chooses in a new life, she will be a person. Period. Treat her like one.

(Footnote: In the use of pronouns, I have referred to Jenner as “he” because that is his preference until he begins his real life she experience.)


165 thoughts on “Bruce Jenner’s story hits close to home for me”

  1. I cannot imagine how difficult it is to live as someone else. Feeling one way and acting another. Hopefully the world becomes more and more accepting….

  2. Hey there, i appreciate your honesty. Great job. I started a new blog a week ago, Real Life Natural Wife. I hope you’ll come by and let me know what you think. Have a great weekend!

  3. That is crazy how closely related your stories are. I hope your family and everyone was nice and supported of your decision. love your post!

    1. I wish I could say everyone has been nice and supportive, but the people who count most have been. So, yes, I’m blessed with support from the right people.

  4. Reblogged this on TheJourneyofSheila and commented:
    It takes alot of courage to reveal your true identity to this cruel anf judgemental environment. I admire his courage that he was able to reveal his identity. As what the saying says”IT’S BETTER LATE THAN NEVER!

  5. People like you help people who are supressed by society and forced yo be something they are not. I feel sorry that you couldn’t retain all your family relationships. But you are inspiring.
    Rock on! Spread the light.

  6. I didn’t watch the interview (for reasons given here: but I have nothing but admiration for Bruce Jenner. I may not like the way his story has been handled, but ultimately I hope it will be a net positive for having been told. I think that the more people are able to tell their own stories, the more we can help bring other people to a state of acceptance and understanding. I’ve seen a huge outpouring of support for Bruce Jenner over the last couple days, and (as someone whose spouse will be coming out publicly in the near future) I find this hugely reassuring. My thanks to Bruce, and you, and everyone else who has been willing to tell their story because it is making the path easier for those who come after. Thank you!

  7. It baffles me that people would genuinely believe this was all a publicity stunt. Who on earth would put herself through such misery for publicity? Bleh. Great, great writing. Potatoes. All the best. (And go you for daring to be you.)

    1. When it comes to the rich and famous, I suppose some people will believe anything. Many people are skeptics by nature. But you don’t do this on a whim. Not even someone from the Kardashian clan.

    1. It has been hard at times, but overall very rewarding and brought much joy and happiness. I have no regrets, so I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m happy that I’m me.

  8. This was a very interesting and thoughtful post for someone like me who didn’t see or really know about the interview and last thought about Bruce Jenner not much past when he won the decathlon. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t help wondering,, if Bruce Jenner is now the most famous transgender person, why no mention of Chelsea Manning, who is still the most famous and admirable transgendered person to me? Maybe you already have and I am a newcomer to your blog and will discover that elsewhere.

    1. This wasn’t about Chelsea Manning. It was about Bruce Jenner. Early returns indicate 17 million people tuned in to the Jenner interview, the most-watched show this year. Apparently, it was the most-watched edition of 20/20 since 2000. And, of course, it was viewed world wide. That’s why I suggest that, at this moment, Jenner is the most famous transgender person in the world.
      If your admiration for Chelsea remains at an unparalleled loft, I think that’s wonderful.

  9. I take it that while you were a sports writer, you never wrote a single piece about Jenner’s sports career and achievement. Yet, you must see the irony that now, after being a sports writer, is the time that you write so eloquently about this life affirmation that you and Jenner have shared for all of these years without knowing it.

    I salute you. I feel bad that most of your family has rejected you as a result of you fulfilling your destiny; one that will never transgress on anyone’s fundamental human rights. I’m glad that through it all, you retain the strength and conviction that apparently comes through in your writing.

    1. Thanks so much for your remarks. It’s so refreshing and encouraging to discover so many people are kind, thoughtful and caring. That is where we draw our strength.

  10. Beautifully written and I am sorry that your close family is not sharing this journey in life with you. They are the ones missing out on all you have to offer in life – it’s their loss and I am glad you are blogging. You are supported here. Thank you for sharing.

  11. Well said, and well-written. I cannot know the pain that you have experienced, but I too reached for tissues during Bruce’s story. We have so much to learn about gender and sexual identity, and as you noted many folks won’t even try. They’ll dismiss this as a joke or a ruse.

  12. I am so impressed by your strength and courage – as well as Bruce Jenner’s. And I am so proud to live at a time when transgendered people feel – at least a little – more safe in “coming out” and being the people they want to be.

    My hope is that as we move forward, society will be less stringent on “male” and “female” roles, which I think will make it easier for transgendered people to be whoever the hell they want to be. It will also make it easier for people of all genders to be whoever the hell they want to be. Already we are beginning to see males wear skirts and dresses (even males who do not claim to be transgendered). Imagine if you could have worn a dress at age 8 without having to proclaim yourself female. It wouldn’t matter what gender any of us are. That’s my dream.

    I wrote more on this topic a few months ago:

    1. I read your post and quite enjoyed it. Well written and thought provoking. Thank you for your kind comments on my post.

  13. To be honest, I sincerely cannot imagine how it must feel knowing you’re female but being male. And in an African community that is incredibly hostile to anything other than what is considered the norm, I can’t imagine yours and Jenner’s stories going down well and its sad cos there could be quite a number of people who feel the same way you both did years ago. But I’m happy stories like yours and Jenner’s are being told today. Hopefully, it gets more people discussing and more people understand and more people who live in fear may be bold enough to live as they truly feel. At the end of it all tho, all I wish for you is happiness…..

    1. In two sentences you have shown that you know me better than many whom I have met in person, because you expressed true feelings.

      1. Bless you darling. I actually wrote a post yesterday about ‘why do you blog?’ And I’d be honoured if you’d stop by and comment. I love finding out why people started blogging in the first place, and I think you’d be honest about it! Also, we have a group on Facebook called ‘bloggers online meet up’ and I’d love for you to join us ❤️

      2. Oh, I have already checked out what the Sass Queen has to say. I enjoyed your blog on blogging. Perhaps I shall submit a comment.

  14. I hope people will leave Bruce Jenner in peace and I hope he finds the happiness his heart desires. The interview answered a lot of questions I had in my head. He will probably need people that have trekked the whole journey to guide him. Well said and thank you for sharing, Patti!

    1. I just feel so bad that now he not only has to go thru such a difficult journey, but he has to do it under the scrutiny of millions of people.

      1. It will definitely be a difficult road for Bruce… He seems to have a loving family and love prevails over all. He will be scrutinized and under a microscope, stardom comes with a price of not ever having privacy. Bruce Jenner was the pride of America when he won at the 1976 Olympics. The public didn’t know his struggles and the pain he has endured through the years. I was awestruck watching his two hour interview. The people that love him accept him, the ones that don’t will not matter. However, I hope he has a good security team because there is always going to be the loud mouth haters, unfortunately…

      2. Yeah I agree. I don’t blame him for buying that house way up on the hill in Malibu either. I’d want to be way far away from any and all prying eyes or paprrazzi

    1. Change can be a beautiful thing if it makes us better people. If we can become a better person than we used to be, everyone benefits.

  15. Very well written. When watching his story it really made me look at transgendered people a lot differently. Being Christian and raised by the bible, I have a better understanding of what’s it’s like, never knowing how difficult it is to go through such traumatic stages. I really am glad he spoke out about it and it’s really great how you speak about it as well. Hopefully the world can become more understanding but it’s with people like you and him who speak out and help people understand you guys a lot better. 😉

    ( )

    1. When we at least try to understand difference, we show we wish to learn and, more important, that we care. If we care about something or someone, we will do whatever is necessary to understand what makes that person’s heart and soul beat.

  16. It was great to read this – your point of view is awesome because your stories are so similar. This is something I can’t comprehend – and don’t really have many opinions on, since I haven’t experienced it. I am glad you’re still in contact with your younger brother. Family is important, and I hope he fills that place in your heart for you. What a tough time to grow up in; your childhood must have been extremely difficult. I certainly hope you are happy and content with your life now, despite all the trouble you have faced.

    1. Yes, I am happy. And, yes, my younger sibling is a delightful flower in my garden of friends. Thank you.

  17. I definitely shed some tears watching that interview. I could never imagine what it feels like to have to live a life different from what you want and feel for so long. I am so proud of you (and Bruce!) for choosing to live the life you deserve, which is your infinite right as a human being. I hope that those who choose not to go on this journey with you realize they have lost the chance to enjoy the presence of a brave & beautiful woman! Thank you for sharing your story, I wish you endless love and happiness!

    1. Thank you for your kind comments. As I mentioned in my post, the fact I am estranged from my family is their choice in some cases and my choice in others. There are times that letting go is the only way to get a grip on your life.

  18. Patti, Thank you for sharing your beautiful story! You are an amazingly courageous woman and I wholeheartedly admire you for all that you have gone through.

    Years ago, when I was in college, I took an anthropology course and learned about a group of Native Americans called the Beardache. The Beardache could not be defined as man or woman, but because they were men who dressed as women, they were considered to have two spirits and were revered among tribe members simply because they had the special ability of seeing the world from two perspectives. I am not sure when society became so closed minded.

    I once dated a cross dresser, but that is not why we broke up. He was a great guy and the thought of marrying him and doubling my wardrobe wasn’t exactly a deterrent!

    People are always critical of things that they do not understand.

    1. There shouldn’t be, but most people are into labels. It is thus as soon as we are out of the womb. Actually, in many case, we’re labelled before we leave the womb.

  19. This was a wonderful piece, thank you for sharing. There is so much commentary from those who have no experience of trans* identity so this is a breath of fresh air!

  20. Exceptional writing and thank you for sharing your experiences. I’m sorry that you haven’t been shown more respect and love, especially during painful and searching times.

    1. Thank you, Rosemary. I assure that I have been shown much love, but there have also been very, very difficult times. Still, the joy far outweighs the sorrow.

  21. My step daughter is transgender, so I have a sort of insight into the difficulty in finding acceptance in the general public. It has been extremely difficult for her but she is warrior and her family, our family, has unconditional love and support for her and her journey so for that she is blessed. I can’t imagine the courage and strength, not to mention over coming fear, to transition late in life. I’m so grateful that our daughter lives in a time that allows for her to transition sooner, to live and fullfill a life in her true self. Thank you, for paving the way for the younger generation.

    1. Thank you for offering your step-daughter unconditional love and support. We draw our courage and strength from that. We are blessed with a certain amount of inner courage and strength, but it is my experience that the greatest portion of both come from outside sources. Like family and friends. You are beautiful people, as is your step-daughter. My best hopes and wishes for her.

  22. I think everyone deserves to be respected for the personal choices they make regarding their own lives. You can choose to not agree with them but bottom line everyone one deserves kindness and respect. I congratulate anyone going through this on their braveness to overcome adversity and become the person the believe themselves to be.

  23. This is a quote that I always read daily.

    ” If you are always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be.”

    I do not know what it is like to be in your shoes, but it’s people like you who are true role models. You do what makes you happy and no one else. After all society will talk and be cruel no matter what! You just have to brush it off and move forward. 💜

  24. It’s amazing people like yourself and Bruce that restores my faith in humanity – it is true essence of the word.

  25. I also start to write the stories about the person who fight alone, this is great and gives inspiration, Makes a difference. I appreciate if who read stories and give me your feedback.
    Thanks for sharing.

  26. I had fallen , as a great majority of us, in the easy trap of categorizing Mr Jenner and mocking him for the new path he had chosen. By connecting your story to his, you proved me how wrong I was. Thanks for sharing. You made me become a better person today.

  27. A very Powerful post, it makes the world realise that their are people out there born in the wrong body. And hopefully Jenner will inspire more people in his situation to talk and come out, it cannot be nice not being able to talk and show the world who you really are. Great post.

  28. Your story is beautiful, you have over come so much. Stay strong, I believe everything happens in life for a reason.

    1. I also believe all things happen for a reason. That makes it so much easier to accept and deal with the many curves life throws our way.

  29. All you need is to listen to your soul, my apologies for young souls-I’m slightly envious of the many “lives” you’ve been preevy to entertain-That is not intended to belittle the uglyness the world has thrown at you head on. Own it-no one can take your strength when you just “are”. I approve that you are truthful to your inner voice and you’ve never made yourself a victim! High-five! A true survivor of humanity!! I am so proud of you! Love this blog! Thank you! Namaste my friend-and I don’t even do yoga. 🙂 love to you.

  30. Thank you for sharing! I find it surprising that some people still can’t separate sex from gender in their minds… but we will get there.

  31. Beautiful story! I am really emotional write now. I can’t lie and say that I understand where Jenner or yourself is coming from, but this piece made me understand that we all just want to be loved for who we truly are.

  32. Be the one and only, fabulously wonderful you and don’t give a damn what the world thinks of you. My mother once said to me “it’s none of your business what others think of you”. We all have so much to be blessed for in our lives. Karma.

    1. I agree, but it is sometimes very difficult to not give a damn. Words can wound, even if for a brief time.

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