Over the past few months we have read and heard a lot of opinions on Bruce Jenner former sports hero and field athlete and currently world famous for his part in Keeping up with the Kardashians, starring his famous (step) children.
Once the world realised that his appearance was gradually changing: more feminine features, nail polish, longer hair the rumour mill started, the jokes started and in the end it was decided that Bruce Jenner could be just another figure for ridicule. It is media, and often human, nature to poke fun at those that are different. It is a defence mechanism we use to make sense of our world, but over the last twenty years the tabloid papers, aided by late night show comedians, have turned it into an acceptable way of dehumanising people they do not care for. The general public usually accepted these views and took them on board, until this week.
Bruce’s coming out was a big issue in the trans community and gave a face to an often hidden part of society. But after all the attention stories and interviews do people now understand what it is like to be transgender? To not feel at home in your body, to never feel you can be yourself in public? To feel physical pain when you are addressed as “he” when in your mind and soul you feel it’s “she” or vise versa? For most people the answer is probably “no”, because this is the part of the story that got lost in all the chaos.
The step Bruce Jenner took this week, his public coming out, is neither the beginning nor the ending of his journey. It is a halfway point. Being transgender is a lifelong journey that usually starts at a young age.
Transgender children often realise they are different when they become aware of gender differences: the ways in which differ from girls in appearance, dress and expected behaviour. This causes upset and confusion in a gender dysphoric child as before, like any other child, it was not aware that this difference even existed. From this moment on the child suddenly becomes an outsider, it doesn’t fit in anymore and a lifetime of struggle begins. Imagine waking up day after day knowing you do not belong anywhere, you are neither a boy nor a girl and people do not understand you. Picture yourself suddenly waking up and finding you are a dog, you know you’re human but no-one else sees it, so they all treat you as someone you are not. How would that make you feel? Then imagine living like this for the rest of your life!! Not good, is it?
Bruce Jenner spoke and it made a difference: It is now accepted that he wants to continue his life as a woman, something he feels he has been all his life. The media have slowly decided to accept him and slightly changed their tone after his interview, mainly because there has been an unprecedented outpouring of support from the general public.
His honest interview has touched peoples hearts and created an understanding about his struggle.
It also saw the birth of a very lovely wave of support via social media via the hashtag #PaintYourNailsForBruce. Via the hashtag male supporters of Bruce Jenner post pictures of themselves with painted nails.
— Andrew Porteus (@acporteus) May 1, 2015
The fact that many of these men are “Straight manly men” makes it all even better.
”But,” you may think, “isn’t it accepted now? A few hormones, a new haircut and a few operations and it’s settled, right?” Wrong. Hormones and operations are but a tiny fraction of it all. There are friends and family who might not understand or support the feelings of the transgender. And even if they accept it, there is the inner psychology to be dealt with: self acceptance, the strength to take a long painful and lonely road. The courage to present yourself to the world, coming out day after day: at work, to new people you meet, making them see what you feel. Then there is the constant threat of violence: the rates of crime against transgender is very high according to transviolencetracker.org.
Living with gender dysphoria is a constant battle, so it’s not surprising that the suicide rates in the transgender community are very high. At least 1 in 5 has tried suicide at-least once, while two out of three has had considered it at several points in life – even after transition.
Thankfully we have reached a point where many parents are aware of the existence of gender dysphoria; they seek medical help and advice which means that few percent of the new trans generation can grow up as the gender they feel they are instead of the one they are forced to be. Still, this percent of happy trans teens growing up accepted and understood is still very low. This is such a shame, because if gender dysphoria is discovered early in life a trans youth can be prescribed puberty blockers, causing puberty to delay. This means the characteristics of gender are stalled (breasts, menstruation, Adams apple, hair growth etc.) This gives the child the chance to figure out what they want and if they are certain about wanting to undergo treatment to develop into the gender they feel they are. Once certain medication can be taken and the transformation can start.
The older you get, the more difficult things can be, even more so if a person is only certain about their identity later in life. Which can happen.
It is certain that the Bruce Jenner story has put a spotlight on the transgender community. Hopefully this will lead to more trans voices being heard and more acceptance and understanding in the future.
Thank you for your bravery, Bruce.
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Opinions expressed in this article may not reflect those of THEGAYUK, its management or editorial teams. If you'd like to comment or write a comment, opinion or blog piece, please click here.