How Bruce Jenner Became The Hero Of A New Generation
Labels: We all use them, and we are all given them. Looking at myself, I am a blonde, heterosexual female of average height.
I am a college graduate who is somewhere in the middle class. I am Roman Catholic by birth; likewise, I am Irish, German and Slovak.
I'm a registered Democrat. I could keep going, but in all honesty, I hate when people label me because of the assumptions that come with said labels.
I went into watching the Bruce Jenner interview with a skeptical eye. In the interest of honesty, I have never had any interest in "Keeping Up With the Kardashians." I genuinely believe reality shows of that nature are exploitive and do more harm than good.
The Kardashians/Jenners didn't necessarily ask to be role models, but people do emulate them, as seen by the Kylie Jenner lip challenge that produced some horrific results.
Thus, I had very low expectations for the interview. While I am not quite old enough to remember Bruce Jenner winning the decathlon, I did know he was very much the All-American hero in his younger years.
More recently, I knew him as the guy who didn't seem to ever have a say in what his now-ex-wife and children do.
I was critical watching the interview. I was certain facts wouldn't align correctly, or there would be some telling sign in a hesitation.
But, I was wrong. Instead, I watched the heart-wrenching story of a man who never felt comfortable or successful because he identified as a female for the vast majority of his life.
As someone who is truly awful at hiding my feelings, I can't imagine how difficult this must have been for him. I can barely contain swear words or anger in the moment. I have to believe keeping a secret of that proportion must have eaten at Jenner for the majority of his life.
By the end of the interview, I believed every word that came out of Jenner's mouth. As someone who studies speech, I quickly noticed his mannerisms and speaking style were distinctly feminine.
After the interview, I went online to read reactions and I was pleasantly surprised at the outpouring of support.
Unfortunately, within 48 hours, the backlash had also become apparent. People didn't believe him; people thought he was just confused; people thought he was an abomination. Mainly, people didn't understand.
Here's the thing: You don't need to understand in order to empathize.
I'm not transgender, so I'm never going to understand every emotion completely, but I'm still able to look at the situation and consider the amount of emotional and mental suffering a transgender person would feel.
Take away emotions and look at the statistics if you still have doubts. According to the American Society for Suicide Prevention, over 40 percent of transgender teenagers attempt suicide.
The number is staggering, and I'm not even taking into the consideration the violence the transgender community faces.
To simplify, for those who are still skeptical, why would anyone choose to make his or her life more challenging?
No one wants to be the victim of harassment, bullying and violence. Knowing those are the most likely consequences for identifying as a transgender, I can only imagine the internal struggle must be excruciatingly painful.
So, yes, I'm a blonde, middle-class, educated female. I'm Roman Catholic by birth. I'm a good person by choice and effort. Yes, I identify as a Democrat, but it doesn't mean I've never voted for a Republican candidate or sided with Republicans on an issue.
What those simplistic labels don't take into account is all of the work I've done to become the person I am right now.
Honestly, I rarely discuss religion or political beliefs because I fear of alienating people. I give Bruce Jenner a great deal of credit for talking about an issue that is certainly still taboo in society.
If he helps one person to become more understanding, that interview was worth it.
Jenner exemplifies the diversity in our society and forces the question of what is normal. From where I stand, Bruce Jenner is still a hero — a modern-day hero.