Ash Haffner. Leelah Alcorn. Zander Mahaffey. Penny Proud. These are all names we’ve heard this year. Some due to murder announcements, others to suicide announcements. But one thing all of these names have in common is they all belonged to a transgender individual. The worst part is, the list doesn’t stop at four. There have been several more suicides and murders among the transgender community. It’s time to “start caring about trans kids while they’re still alive [and not]…wait until we become a hashtag” as a Tumblr user stated.
On April 24, 2015, Bruce Jenner opened the door to have a conversation regarding the transgender community. Jenner sat down with Diane Sawyer for an intimate interview regarding his* gender identity.
The Olympian and recent reality TV star articulated his confusion with his gender from a young age, even saying his involvement with the Olympics was a way for him to “run away” (literally) from his battles inside. Jenner also answered some pressing questions regarding how his religion meshes with him being transgender. He said that he explained it to his kids as though God created Bruce and then asked himself, “What should I give him? Everyone has to have something. I know, I’ll give him the soul of a female.” Jenner answered several other questions, including “are you a woman?” to which he replied “for all intents and purposes, I am a woman.”
But I’m not here to give you a full summary of the Jenner-Sawyer interview; I’m here to tell you why this interview was so important for the transgender community and beyond.
- Jenner was so brave.
- He opened the door for conversations.
- He mentioned the massive suicide rates among the transgender community.
- He mentioned how transgender women of color face an even higher risk of suicide, murder, harassment, etc.
- Jenner was honest.
- Jenner was transparent.
- Jenner opened up before he felt he was at his end, ready to end his life as the aforementioned transgender individuals.
- He was respectful.
- He continued to be a loving individual before, during and after coming out.
- Did I mention how brave Jenner was?
Dissecting the value of Jenner’s interview a little further, I realize that the significance of the interview lies in the fact that Jenner provided a platform for conversations and open mindedness between the transgender and cisgender communities. Not only is he being 100% open, honest and transparent, he’s helping others in the process. Jenner is showing others who may be scared and running from who they are that they are not alone and ending their life is not the answer. He’s paving the way for parents, grandparents, friends, etc. to be more educated and accepting. Jenner used his fame to do something positive even though it was scary and made him vulnerable in the process.
If you are transgender, gender variant, gender nonconforming, non-binary, etc., know that you are not alone. Know that suicide is not the answer. Know that you have so much to live for. Know that tomorrow will be better. Know that you have allies. Know that it’s ok to break down and cry once in a while. Know that it’s ok to feel whatever emotions you’re feeling. And most of all, know that there’s help out there for you. Below are just a few gender-related resources.
* At the time this piece was published, Jenner had not expressed a need to change name/pronouns; rather, Jenner asked Sawyer to remain using “Bruce” and “he/him/his,” so for the purposes of this piece, I continued referring to Jenner as “he/him/his” as well.