In coming out as a transgender woman, U.S. Olympic gold medalist and TV reality star Bruce Jenner made clear that while he is keen to help raise awareness about problems faced by the trans* community, he is not self-appointing himself as a spokesman.
I would like to work with this community to get this message out. They know a lot more than I know. I am not a spokesman for the community.”
During a groundbreaking interview, Jenner made a case for the transgender community’s fight in the United States for equality, a safer society and more acceptance and understanding – in Washington, in church, in the media.
In the last few years, the community’s visibility has been on the rise, with hollywood beginning to embrace transgender characters and storylines in TV shows like Transparent and Orange Is the New Black.
Mainstream acceptance of transgender people is in its infancy, making the transition hard for everyone, whether famous like Jenner or not. However, by now putting such a well-known face and name to the causes of transgender people could help accelerate the drive for equality, just as high-profile endorsements gave momentum to the fight to legalise gay marriage in the United States.
Barbara Warren, a psychologist and director for LGBT Health Services at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City, said the following
The more people that are prominent and are influencers and can share and humanise the transgender experience, the more our social system will become more accepting.”
The legal system in the USA is still lagging, and legal rights of transgender people vary dramatically from state to state. Gender identity discrimination affects employment, public accommodations – the right to be served by businesses and institutions – the use of public restrooms and public documents.
Healthcare is also an area of concern. In most states, it is legal to deny insurance coverage for transgender-related health services, like hormonal therapy or gender reassignment surgery.
Jenner is now seen as “the best possible model for public advocacy on the issue of transgender people’s rights because he was the world’s greatest male athlete … the most male of males.”
Jenner won the Olympic decathlon in 1976, earning the title of “World’s Greatest Athlete” and the respect of generations of Americans.
For younger generations, he is known better as the patriarch of the Kardashian family after eight seasons on the reality TV show “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.”
The ABC interview included messages of support from his six biological children and he said his Kardashian stepchildren have been mostly understanding, including the wildly famous Kim.
How his transition plays out on television could be the real game-changer for the transgender community.
Barbara Warren concluded…
I think that actually has the potential for more impact than Jenner’s individual transition. People are going to see if Kim Kardashian supports her stepfather. That is going to have more of an impact than Jenner’s coming out.”