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April 28, 2015: The Bruce Interview

April 29, 2015

Mara and I watched the Bruce Jenner interview on “20/20” last Friday night. I had my doubts about whether he (his choice of pronoun for now) would be able to extricate himself from the Kardashian circus and start controlling the narrative about his gender identity. But I felt he did just that. So did Mara. At least he made a good start. Among other things, he talked about changing the world with respect to trans people. And, while the trans community has come a long way toward equal rights, there’s still a long way to go. This Huffington Post article gives more details on that matter.

There were plenty of naysayers who criticized the interview before and after it aired. One of the most vocal — and harsh — is a friend of ours, whose Washington Post op-ed piece was published the morning of the interview. And her criticisms continued after the interview. (Yes, we’re friends, and Mara and I disagree with her viewpoint. What a concept!)

Before and after the interview aired, one of the main criticisms was (and still is) that Jenner did it for publicity. I agree, but for a different reason. I believe he did it not to draw attention to himself, but to draw attention to the issue of transgender rights. In fact, about half of the two-hour broadcast was devoted to interviews with doctors who specialize in transgender health care; statistics on the degree to which trans people undergo discrimination, persecution and violence; and other educational information. Besides, so many people were eager to hear his story firsthand that, had he not done the interview, he likely would have come under criticism for that.

There was also criticism that, while his fist four kids (pre-Kardashian) were interviewed on the show, none of the Kardashians appeared, although they Tweeted their support. But what would the critics have said if the Kardashians were interviewed on air? Wouldn’t that have bolstered their assumption that Jenner was doing it for the publicity?

There were lots of other criticisms that I believe were nit-picky: He didn’t want to wear a dress on camera, he didn’t reveal his fem name, etc. So what? Why does that mean anything other than that he simply chose not to? Period. Everyone is unique. Everyone has his or her own life story. And it is presumptuous to assume that we know anything about Jenner other than what we’ve actually witnessed. And what I witnessed on Friday night was an interview that was tasteful and graceful and a person who, despite enormous media pressure, was authentic and poised. And that is a positive thing for the trans community.

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