The moon landing. The fall of the Berlin Wall. Once in every generation comes a moment that changes the world forever. For millennials, that moment came last night, when Bruce Jenner—an Olympic gold medalist, symbol of American masculinity, and national father figure by way of his daughters' reality show—came out as trans on a primetime interview with Diane Sawyer.
"Yes," Jenner said, "for all intents and purposes I am a woman."
Jenner's revelation wasn't a huge surprise. Over the past year, tabloids and gossip bloggers have speculated about the Olympic gold medalist's gender because of his changing appearance. At first the rumours were largely dismissed as tacky transphobic jokes about plastic surgery. (In Touch's photoshopped cover of Jenner wearing lipstick stands out.) Then, in February, Buzzfeed News reported that Jenner would come out in a televised interview and star in a new E! "docuseries" (TV speak for a "reality show with social meaning") about transitioning.
When Sawyer asked about accusations that Jenner had decided to do the interview for publicity, he laughed. "Are you telling me I'm going through a complete gender change for a show?" he said. "What I'm doing is for the good, and we're gonna change the world."
Rocking a pony tail and blue shirt, Jenner described growing up knowing "my brain is much more female than it is male" and how the predicament affected his three marriages.
"It's been really tough," he said through tears, at the start of the interview. "My brain is much more female than it is male. It's hard for people to understand that but that's what my soul is."
When Sawyer showed Jenner a photo of him winning the Olympics, the former "World's Greatest Athlete" said, "I see a confused person at that time, running away from who I was."
The interview explained the complexities of trans lives, a foreign topic for many Americans. Jenner discussed preferred gender pronouns and how he will continue to date women and has never been attracted to men. "Sexuality is separate," he said. He also described himself as a Republican.
Watching the interview, I felt the same thing I did when I watched Obama win the 2008 presidential election: this was major social change. But last night's moment was cultural, not political, so it felt more everlasting.
Jenner also touched upon the negative aspects of keeping a secret for so long. "I'm still a lonely big boy. I don't socialise a lot," he said. "When you deal with this issue, you don't fit in. I like to play golf, but 99% of the time I golf by myself."
Jenner also laughed throughout the interview, flipping his long hair and making witty jokes. When Sawyer asked what he wants, he said, "To have my nail polish long enough before it chips off." At another point he spoke at length about how Kim Kardashian and Kanye West have been some of his biggest supporters.
"Girl, you gotta look really good!" Kardashian reportedly said. "You're representing the family."
And the Jenner interview does affect the Kardashians' reputation. Since the dawn of reality TV, critics have hated on the Kardashians and other reality stars for having little social importance. Critics claimed the Kardashians weren't, excluding Jenner's earlier athletic career, "talented." But it will be hard to argue, in the wake of Jenner's interview, that reality TV never changed the world in a positive way. The Kardashians now stand at the centre of our era's TV, fashion, music, and social movements.
Bruce Jenner has changed the fucking world.
This isn't to say all is well in Kardashian Land; they are real people, after all. Real people who just found a giant secret has been kept from them, which now alters the shape of their lives. Jenner even made a few digs at the Kardashians in the interview. When Sawyer asked him while going through his closet if he saw his transitioned self as a Kardashian, he replied, "No, no. She's definitely a Jenner."
"I had the story," he said at another point in the interview. "We've done 425 episodes over eight years now, and the entire run I thought, Oh my god. This whole thing, the one true story in the family was the one I was hiding. The one thing that could really make a difference in people's lives was in my soul, and I couldn't tell that story."
Jenner has, most importantly, brought new awareness to trans lives. On national television, Diane Sawyer taught Americans, from the coast to the midwest, about the importance of preferred gender pronouns.
Unlike Britney, unlike Lindsay, unlike nearly every fucking celebrity who has opened up about their personal lives on a primetime special, Jenner has changed America in a monumental way. And let's not pretend America's biggest export isn't culture: Bruce Jenner has changed the fucking world. And he has changed it for the better.
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