I want to start this blog off by saying that like Diane Sawyer, I will refer to Bruce Jenner by his name and male pronouns until he chooses to come out as the person he refers to as "her." I personally know very little about Bruce Jenner. In 1976, along with the rest of the country, I cheered for him during the Olympics and was very happy when he won his gold medal.
I remember during the 1980s hearing some rumors that Bruce Jenner might be transitioning into a woman. I transitioned in the late '70s and early '80s, and had my gender affirming surgery in 1982. At the advice of one of the several psychology professionals I saw prior to my surgery, I chose to leave my past as a male behind me. Up to the time of my diagnosis with Klinefelter's syndrome, I had been the embarrassment of the family. However, with the diagnosis of being born intersex, my family was happy that there was a biological explanation as to why I was the way I was, and were happily complicit. At the time these rumors about Bruce were going around, I was already living in what many in the transgender community refer to as stealth mode, meaning that no one, other than my family, new about my male past. At that time, I did not feel it was in my best interest to even discuss these rumors with anyone.
I have never watched the show, Keeping Up With the Kardashians, but like everyone else, was aware of who they were. I really had no idea, until recently, that the rumors about Bruce transitioning were once again news. When I heard about the interview with Diane Sawyer, I was at first skeptical, knowing how popular reality shows had become, and that this might be the beginning of another over-the-top reality show. However, I like to think of myself as a person who reserves opinions until the majority of the facts are available.
I did my best to approach the interview with as few preconceived notions as possible. I can now say, after watching the interview in its entirety, that I was very pleased both with Ms. Sawyer's interview, as well as Bruce Jenner's candid answers to her questions.
As I listened to Bruce tell the story of his childhood, in many respects I felt like he was telling my story. Bruce was born in October of 1949. I was born in February of 1954. We are both children of the '50s and '60s. We both had the same confusion about our bodies and our genders from a very early age. Neither one of us had any resources to bring any kind of clarity to that confusion. Where our stories differ is that Bruce channeled his confusion into embracing the male physical part of him, and because I was born intersex, in my case having both male and female chromosomes, I always appeared more female than male and lacked the male muscle mass to go down the same road.
I don't want to get into a lot of specifics in the interview, considering most people reading this will have seen the interview, and I don't see the need to be redundant. What I got from the interview is that Bruce intends to use his story to help bring about what has been my passion for some time -- bringing awareness and understanding. So many of the challenges facing both intersex and transgender people is a lack of awareness and understanding, not only in the straight community, but in the LGB community as well.
In 2007, after making a decision to no longer keep my early life a secret, I immersed myself into the LGBT community. I did my best to be as supportive as possible to the many new gay and lesbian friends that I had met because of my participation in radio shows on the Sirius/XM satellite radio station OutQ.
In 2013, I went on a Caribbean cruise sponsored by the Derek and Romaine show. I was the only transgender person in the group on this cruise. I was very surprised to learn that this wonderful group of people that I met on this cruise knew very little about the transgender community. Because I had learned so much about lesbian and gay issues once I decided to become part of the community, I naively assumed that gays and lesbians knew as much about the transgender community. Because there is a "T" in LGBT, I wrongly assumed that there was unified support. I decided then and there that I would do my best to do whatever was in my power to help anyone understand the transgender experience as I had lived it.
I started to realize fairly early on in my quest to be part of the LGBT community again, that there was some disconnect between the transgender community and the gay and lesbian community. That disconnect became glaringly apparent when, several years ago, I heard on the "Michelangelo Signorile Show" that Joe Solmonese, at that time the head of the Human Rights Campaign, was endorsing a non-trans inclusive ENDA.
Donna Rose, a transgender woman on the HRC board of directors quit in protest. At that time, I went through many emotions. Anger, hurt, sadness, disillusionment and something close to hopelessness. None of these emotions were for me personally. I am legally a female. I have a birth certificate and a passport that says I'm female. I am lucky. These feelings were for the many struggling transgender people that receive very little support outside their own community. I have heard that lately things are getting better between the transgender community and HRC. I hope that is true. More than ever, we need a trans inclusive ENDA, and I hope HRC will get 100 percent behind one.
The last thing in the world I want is to downplay what gays and lesbians have been through in order to achieve where they are today. Until gay marriage is legal in every state in this country, there is still work to do, and I am 100 percent behind my gay brothers and sisters. My purpose in doing whatever I can to bring intersex and transgender understanding and awareness is to help unite the LGBT community. From what I heard in last night's interview, it seems to me that Bruce Jenner wants the same thing. I was also very pleased when he mentioned the plight of our transgender youth. These are the people who are most at risk.
It is not my place to judge anyone's transition journey. People transition at different points in their lives for different reasons. The biggest lesson that I learned going stealth for over 25 years is that living with a life-changing secret can dramatically impact one's quality of life in too many ways to list here. I believe it is the same with anyone who, for whatever reason, feels forced to live an inauthentic life.
What I see causes the most trauma in the lives of transgender people, is their ability to lead an authentic life. It seems to me, that in every transition story I have ever heard, whether it's a person transitioning in their 20s, like I was able to do, or a person transitioning late in life, is that once they were able to start living their life authentically, their quality of life increased in ways they never thought possible.
Much has been made of the fact that Bruce has children, and the effect of this decision will have on his children. Many transgender people live in a form of limbo for many years until their children are grown to finally make their transition because they are cognizant of the fact that they brought these children into the world, and they don't want to hurt them. The reason I am so passionate about understanding and awareness is because people of mine and Bruce's generation had no resources to help us understand who we were, and that there were choices we could make on how to live our lives.
Bruce dealt with his situation by becoming the most Alpha male he could be, and marrying and having children. I dealt with mine by going stealth and living with an explosive secret hanging over my head, coloring everything about my life in a way that was anything but positive. Another reason I made that choice was because of the traumas that I experienced in transitioning. I was raped more than once, one time by a police department sergeant. I was beaten up more than once. Nothing in my life up to the point of my surgery told me that I would be safe if I was honest about the circumstances of my birth.
Today, I cope. I originally became a truck driver after my first divorce because I thought by isolating myself, I could control things better. I enjoyed my life on the road, but running away is never the answer and solved nothing. My life is better now because I finally chose not to hide who I am, but the traumas will never entirely go away. The best that I can do is put them into perspective and advocate as best I can for young transgender people so that they do not have to go through what I went through. Also, for them not to have to go through what Bruce Jenner went through. Everyone deserves to live an authentic life for their whole life.
When Bruce finally completes his transition and unveils the person he refers to as "her," I wish every success and happiness for her. I truly believe that she will do her best to bring understanding and awareness. I hope that people will take away from the interview a sense of hope, and not get caught up in details. Bruce's story is not about Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Bruce's story is about a long and complicated journey that I pray no one else will have to repeat.
My hope is that Bruce's story will inspire people to learn more about the transgender experience. I hope that it will inspire them to say no more violence against trans people. We are human beings that deserve every opportunity and all the respect that every other human being deserves. History shows us that people do the most horrible things when they lack understanding and awareness. You don't have to go very far back in history to see atrocities committed that people later say if they only understood, the atrocities would never have happened.
I want people to understand that Bruce Jenner's journey to transition, in my opinion, is no less important or significant than anyone else's journey. What I do want people to understand is that his journey is not typical. Without financial or emotional support, the majority of transgender people will continue to be traumatized in more ways than people want to hear about.
I want to personally thank Bruce for his courage, his candor and his willingness to share his journey. At the very least, it will start a conversation. Please do not get caught up in the politics. Transgender people are no different than anyone else. They have their own opinions. It is also so important to understand that their gender identity has absolutely nothing to do with their sexual preference.
Please keep this conversation going. Our transgender youth need your support, compassion and understanding. Love and hugs from Trucker Patti.
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