Bruce Jenner's Transition Is A Step Forward For Athletes Everywhere
Bruce Jenner revealed details of his* upcoming gender transition to his children and ex-wife Kris on a two-episode "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" special airing Sunday and Monday night.
At several points during the special, Jenner shared how he was struggling with his gender identity when he decided to compete in the Olympic Games.
Jenner's relationship with his family may have been the crux of the special, but his relationship with the sports community begs further exploration.
While most of the special covered how the Kardashian children reacted to their father's heavy news, there were several flashback shots showing Bruce's past as an athlete.
On the outside, Jenner was an Olympic Champion and at the time, the masculine ideal for what a male Olympian should be.
However, on the inside, Jenner saw sports as more of a distraction from who he was rather than a form of self-expression.
It makes sense when you think about it. Sports culture, then and now, has a narrow-minded view of what it means to be a "man."
My gender identity was always an issue. People don't see that on the outside. They don't know the struggle on the inside. I just literally ran away from it. I [became] this male macho guy and proved to the world my manhood.
This begs the question: How will the athletic community honor or at least acknowledge Bruce, if at all?
One of the reasons Jenner entered sports as a young adult was peer pressure.
He wasn't ready at the time to fully open up about his gender, so he repressed his feelings and put all his energy toward his sports career.
My whole life I've used distractions. Certainly the Games were the biggest distraction from who I am.
In a sports-dominated culture, we celebrate the masculine, the macho and the mighty.
Jenner played this role, and he played it well when he achieved the gold medal at the 1976 Summer Olympics held in Montreal.
He went on to become an international name after setting a world record in the decathlon race.
Unfortunately, Jenner earned those achievements at the cost of living his own truth.
Everyone thinks I gotta be this boy. As a young person, you're just totally confused with no help.
His story highlights the social pressures young men deal with when it comes to athleticism. It's expected for boys to play sports while growing up, and to do so with the utmost masculinity.
Those who don't fit the mold search for ways to cope or disguise their true identities.
But not all men want to live this way, and they shouldn't have to. We are all entitled to our identities, and these are not to be limited by the views of a myopic society.
Whether or not the sports community takes the steps toward being more inclusive and supportive, Jenner is proof accepting and expressing yourself is more valuable than any gold medal or championship title.
As Jenner reminisces on his life so far, one of his most moving realizations is how he's spent his 65 years living for other people.
He sacrificed his real, true self for the sake of his nation, his teammates and his family. He sacrificed what he's truly wanted all along for what he thought he wanted.
Now, as he prepares for transition, he's realized the importance of making his own needs a higher priority.
For Bruce, his needs are to leave behind the "man" he was while was in the Olympics for someone else -- and this someone isn't just physically strong, but mentally, emotionally and spiritually strong, as well.
At one point during the special, Jenner says,
At a point in life you get to wonder who should we make happy here? Who should I live my life for? Should I live my life for all these wonderful people, or should I live my life for myself?
Bravo to Bruce for giving himself permission to finally be who he's meant to be.
*Editor’s Note: As part of his television interview, Bruce Jenner requested (via Diane Sawyer) he would still like to be identified as “he.” Until he requests otherwise, Elite Daily will continue to refer to Jenner using male pronouns.