By Alexandra Temblador
Bruce Jenner, known in 1976 as “The World’s Greatest Athlete” when he won the decathlon in the Olympics, recently announced in an interview with Diane Sawyer that he is transgender and identifies as a woman. Bruce Jenner’s announcement that he is transgender could not have come at a better time for transgender rights and the significance of his announcement could impact many aspects of society and raise awareness for the transgender community.
Teaches the public that being transgender does not diminish or limits your talents.
Bruce Jenner’s transgender identity shows Americans that anyone, even an Olympian, can be born transgender. By announcing that he is a transgender woman, it tells the world that being a star athlete does not determine one’s masculinity (or femininity) and it especially does not determine one’s gender identity. Bruce Jenner’s success as an athlete does say that someone’s gender identity does not limit or determine their extraordinary talent.
Someone to relate to for transgender youth.
Perhaps one of the most significant aspects of Bruce Jenner sharing his story is that it gives young transgender youth someone that they can look up to. The process of sharing your gender identity with others is not an easy task and many transgender youth look to others to figure out how to share their own truths. For youth to have someone else, someone like an Olympian who has accomplished so much in his life and is relatable in his feelings and identity struggle, hopefully it can bring hope and positivity into the lives of young struggling transgender youth.
The impact of a public transition could be tremendous.
There are so many transgender celebrities that have made an impact in the LGBT movement like Laverne Cox of Orange is the New Black, Isis King from America’s Next Top Model, actor Alexis Arquette, Chaz Bono, and People.com editor Janet Mock, and now Bruce Jenner. However, in the upcoming year, it has been announced that Jenner will transition publicly in a documentary series by E! which will begin broadcasting this summer. Granted there have been YouTube Stars, like Skylar Kergil, that have documented their transition from male to female or female to male, but Bruce Jenner’s celebrity status will make his gednder transition much more widely public which could educate people on the hurdles that are involved with becoming the gender that a transgender persons identifies with.
Educates the public about what it means to be transgender, how to interact with transgender persons, and raises awareness of discrimination towards transgender persons.
With Bruce Jenner’s celebrity status and his decision to share his transgender identity with the world, it can hopefully educate the population on what it means to be transgender and many topics associate with it. For instance, in the interview “experts and Jenner explain that there is a difference between gender identity and sexuality, and the thrice-married Jenner revealed that he has only been attracted to women,” an aspect that the public and media has sometimes not understood.
Similarly, it is respectful to use the name and pronoun that a transgender person prefers which is why this article refers to Bruce Jenner by his name and uses the male pronoun until he requests a new name or pronoun to be used.
By courageously sharing his gender identity with the public, Jenner’s announcement could have positive effects for the transgender community. For one, it puts transgender issues in the news which is so significant because much needs to be done for the transgender community in terms of discrimination and awareness.
For one, there isn’t enough information or studies being done on the transgender community. A few studies estimate that there are 700,000 transgender persons in the U.S. but event that number is greatly limited. The United States Census only allows for two gender options male or female which also limits our ability to gather data and as Mara Keisling executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality said, “When you can’t quantify the statistics of a group, you can’t understand its challenges or easily lobby for federal funding without evidence.”
Secondly, Jenner’s announcement could hopefully raise awareness to the discrimination faced by transgender persons. A study done by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality produced some horrifying statistics about the transgender community and discrimination.
- Transgender persons were 4 times more likely to live on a less than $10,000 per year household income than the general population.
- 41% of transgender persons reported attempting suicide compared to 1.6% of the general population.
- Transgender persons suffered twice the rate of unemployment and transgender people of color suffered up to four times the national unemployment rate.
- Harassment rates in school (K-12) for transgender persons were reported as follows: 78% total, 35% experienced physical assault and 12%, sexual violence .
- 19% were refused a home or apartment for being transgender.
- 19% were refused medical care for being transgender or gender non-conforming.
- 29% reported police harassment.
(Note that the report found that most of these statistics were higher for transgender people of color)
These statistics illustrate the poor treatment of transgender persons in the United States. Transgender persons are facing an immense amount of discrimination and ridicule, as Bruce Jenner did for many months by the media. Perhaps with Bruce Jenner’s announcement that he is a transgender woman and its coverage in the news, we can begin to educate the public about the unequal and sometimes violent treatment that transgender persons experience every day. Perhaps, we can get these statistics into our lawmaker’s hands more easily and change the treatment of transgender persons. Perhaps, the media can learn to stop bullying and ridiculing people who are perceived as different, a practice that could be picked up by youth and perpetuate bullying. But more importantly, perhaps we can change how people behave toward those who express gender nonconformity because that change will be forever impactful to the lives of all transgender persons and the future of our society.
As you can see, there are so many ways that Jenner announcing his gender identity is that of a transgender woman is significant for the transgender community and even more than have been covered here. The positive and significant impact of Bruce Jenner’s decision to share his story about his gender identity with the world was best summed up by Jenner himself: “What I’m doing is going to do some good. And we’re going to change the world.”
For more information on topics associated with transgender issues please refer to the links below: