For the last few years, there have been rumours and anonymously sourced tabloid items suggesting that Bruce Jenner, the former Olympic champion and the patriarchal figure on the reality show Keeping Up With the Kardashians, was transitioning from male to female.
Two weeks ago, the 65-year-old former decathlete reportedly told his family — ex-wife Kris Jenner, his children and her sons and daughters from a previous marriage — of his decision and they have pledged their support, People magazine reported.
“The transformation may be startling — but his decision to make it public shouldn’t be,” writes Emily Yahr for The Washington Post. “Long before he was sucked into the Kardashian vortex, Jenner lived his life for the cameras. It was how the world watched him triumph in the punishing multi-skill Olympic sport, taking a victory lap while exhausted rivals writhed in pain.”
Questioning whether the media is capable of covering the transition with respect, Kevin Fallon for The Daily Beast says, “We will demand that he talks about it. And because of that he will now be a mouthpiece for the trans movement, whether or not he wants to be, and whether or not he should be.”
Kate Arthur of Buzzfeed wrote her piece in a way that was gender neutral, saying that the “dilemma, of course, is that you can’t say ‘she’ until someone self-identifies.”
“We’re in murky waters,” she wrote. “My biggest hope is that if there’s a show about all this, Jenner’s transition will cease being a freak show told by the tabloids and will instead bring about a larger conversation. Bruce Jenner has become a target and joke along the way, but that’s easily reversible.”
Fallon adds, “Bruce Jenner is in the midst of what is probably the most human moment of his life. I fear that we’re going to treat him as part of an exhibit at a zoo.”
Even so, “in an era when fictional TV shows featuring and starring transgender characters (Orange Is the New Black, Transparent) have won mainstream acclaim, this could be a rare opportunity to showcase a likable, real-life person making the transition,” Yahr says.
Jenner was pushed even further into the spotlight on February 7 when he crashed his car into another, tragically killing a 69-year-old widow.