The Kardashians Are The Perfect Family to Teach Us About Transitioning

By Jill H

The Kardashians are not known for being a family to generate conversation about serious issues.

They've made headlines for subjects like Kylie lip injections, dating professional athletes and musicians, making sex tapes and gaining and losing weight.

But last night, they showed they can be a part of a bigger and more meaningful conversation about tolerance.

Last night, E! aired Part Two of its special, "About Bruce," which was centered on Bruce Jenner and his* interaction with family members as he prepares to fully transition to a woman.

The special focused specifically on Bruce's family with Kris, his ex-wife, and was filmed prior to his tell-all interview with Diane Sawyer.

Within such a big family, we were able to see an array of responses, emotions, reactions and feelings people have when a transgender father, grandfather, stepfather and husband is honest about his (or her) transition.

We were also able to see, within the array of reactions, there was a common thread of utmost respect and concern for Bruce's happiness.

As Bruce sat down with his daughters and ex-wife, sometimes together, at times individually, we saw each of them react uniquely.

It revealed there isn't just one way to handle such a momentous time in a person's life, and there isn't just one way to react.

How we talk to each other -- and the kids

Throughout the special, Kourtney appeared to have a remarkably practical and serious response, which focused more on asking questions and understanding the logistics of the gender transition process.

At one point, she asks Bruce about his final transitional medical procedure, wondering if post-op, he'll just “pick a day and say 'I'm just gonna wear this stuff; I'm not gonna wear boxers anymore.'”

Her practical questions helped to move the conversation along and provide concrete details about his process, specifically.

But while she may have been practical, Kourtney's more emotional response was evident when she and Scott thought about the entire procedure's effect on Mason, who, at only 5 years old, can't be expected to fully comprehend the change his grandfather is going through.

During the episode, Kourtney asked that the conversation about Bruce's transition not take place around Mason… at least not until they know exactly what they want to say to him and exactly how they want to say it.

Her more emotional reaction to the transition in terms of Mason tells us something else about transitioning: We don't really know how to talk to kids about this subject.

Gender transition is a topic that hasn't been discussed and debated enough, which makes it hard to know what to say to a child, how to say it and even when to have the conversation.

Scott and Kourtney, though, are open to discussing it with their family because they believe it'll only teach their children to be less judgmental of others.

The importance of honesty

Khloe's reaction was significantly more charged than Kourtney's. She expressed anger at Bruce for holding back information about his transition.

Her candor was surprising; she didn't seem worried about appearing “mean” on camera. She admitted she was “mad about feeling like [Bruce] was robbing [her] of the opportunity to let go.”

She didn't want Bruce to simply have a major transitional surgery one day, without fully informing his kids about the process.

Her response inspires another important question: How do you tell family members about transitioning? Is there a right way?

It's a question transgender individuals appear to ask all the time. Family members don't know how they're supposed to react, nor do the transgender individuals know how they're supposed to explain their transition.

Khloe's emotional response and Bruce's emotional answers highlighted one very important thing: There is no "right" way or "correct" timeline.

Understanding isn't always immediate

Kendall and Kylie both said less than their older sisters, while Kim appeared the most composed and prepared in her responses.

The two younger women seemed quiet, but certainly protective of their father. Kendall explained she understands why her father has held back from telling all:

It's not easy to just spill everything all at once. Maybe withholding information is just a natural thing.

Throughout the two-part special, Kylie didn't say much, though she was quick to help translate her father's feelings when other siblings didn't seem to understand what he was trying convey.

Both Kendall and Kylie appeared less confident on screen and less prepared to address the subject than their older sisters.

Be it age, personality or less comfort with being in the spotlight, their reservation showed that for some kids of a transgender parent, there's a lot to process, and it takes time.

It's Kim who appears perhaps most comfortable with the transition, spending a fun and lighthearted time with Bruce going through his closet.

She sorts through his women's clothing, encouraging him to throw out dresses she decides are “horrendous.” She also gives Bruce the advice he should “look good at all times.”

Kim's clearly embraced the transition for all it represents and is ready to help Bruce be the best person he can be.


Things take a more serious turn when it comes to Kris, who shows a wholly different perspective on the matter: a woman coming to terms with losing her husband. She tearfully told Bruce,

I have to mourn this person that I was married to for all these years. You grow old with somebody, and then they drastically change over the course of a few years. It's like, I have to mourn Bruce Jenner.

The opening segment of the special states “families of trans people often feel like they need to grieve the loss of the person that they thought they knew.”

It epitomizes the way Kris must feel as she tried to explain to Bruce how upsetting his transition is for her and the memories they've shared.

It's important to remember her emotional response doesn't mean she doesn't support Bruce -- she's gone to great lengths to say and show how much she does -- but mourning the loss of the life they shared is equally heartbreaking.

What a reality show family teaches us about reality

If you Google “family members coping with gender transition,” you'll find there isn't much information from credible sources to be found.

There's much less information online about having a transgender father or mother than there is about Kim's marriage to Kanye.

A lot of the information that is there comes from sources in the UK rather than here in the US.

Regardless, if you were to discover your parent was transitioning or even identifying as transgender, there wouldn't be a lot of information to help.

Knowing this, it's clear to see where the conversation needs to begin -- and it's where the Kardashians are truly able to make a difference.

Individuals can learn a great deal from this two-hour, two-part special, and not just about gender transition.

People can also learn more about embracing a transgender loved one, asking questions, being raw and honest and accepting the transition.

Already, the responses the Kardashians have garnered from the special have already helped others feel less alone in their reactions to transgender friends and family and even if their own transitions.

The family's reactions also show there is no right way to respond and react.

But the most resonant message of all is through all of the tears, the jokes about outfits, and the questions about surgery, there are people who love Bruce Jenner and embrace who he is.

It's a message of tolerance everyone could stand to benefit from.

*Editor's Note: As part of his television interview with Diane Sawyer, Bruce Jenner has requested he would still like to be identified as “he.” Until he requests otherwise, Elite Daily will continue to refer to Jenner using male pronouns. 

Citations: Bruce Jenner The Interview (ABC News), How do you tell your family you are transgender (The Guardian), The Transsexual Person in Your Life (Gender Centre)