What the Transgender Community Really Thinks of Bruce Jenner

Adriana Velez The Stir Exclusive

bruce jenner

Will Bruce Jenner go public with his story as a transgender person? So far all we've heard are rumors from unnamed sources -- oh, and Jenner's mother. But in the meantime, we've been wondering: How do people in the transgender community feel about this famous figure maybe, possibly transitioning in a very public way?

We reached out and talked with a few people who identify as transgender to find out.

Putting the spotlight on transgender stories can be polarizing.

Chrystine Julian made her transition in 1995 and chronicled her story in a memoir, Saddling Dragons. She first brings up a posted article on Jenner she saw in a Facebook group for comedians. Someone had commented, "I'd hit that ... with a chainsaw." "That set me off on a number of posts concerning violence against transgender people," Julian says. (She reported the post to Facebook, but they decided it did not violate their standards.)

"I don't believe anyone makes a gender transition easily or without much contemplation," Julian says. "It is even harder under the type of spotlight [Jenner's] family is under."

She's ambivalent about the value of Jenner going public with his transition. "I think that celebrities like Bruce Jenner, Chelsea Manning, Chaz Bono and TransParent etc. are polarizing, and promote more jokes than valid discussions, but really don’t change much individually." While she has never been personally threatened, she is still aware that trans-people are misunderstood. "Judging from a lot of social media posts and news stories regarding restrooms and other aspects of trans-life, 'Born a man, always a man' is still a popular attitude."

On the other hand, she says, "I am proud of the way Bruce’s family is supporting him through this; Not many transgender folks get that level of support."

More from The Stir: When Kids Change Sex: Moms of Transgender Kids Share Their Stories

This brings more awareness to the struggles trans individuals face.

Sheila Rodriguez is a digital communications professional in New York City. She says she doesn't ordinarily follow the Kardashians, but suddenly she's seeing Jenner's story everywhere. And that's mostly a good thing.

"In my opinion," Rodriguez says of Jenner, "I think his affiliation with the Kardashian women is what makes this a progressive move for the trans community ... Because his family has been in the public eye for so long and the Kardashian brand is an empire, I think this can only bring more awareness to the struggles trans individuals face."

Rodriguez feels that Jenner's story could make a great platform for educating the public about trans issues. "More people will listen and participate in the conversation because of the Kardashians," she says. "The acceptance coming from the girls is like having the ultimate spokesperson. I am a firm believer in underrepresented causes and cases and that 'no press is bad press.'

"Overall, it makes me feel like 'Too bad society, here’s controversy, bam, right in your face, and all you can do is TALK about it.'" Rodriguez says. "And talking about it is the first step to, albeit a long road, but a step in the right direction to acceptance. It will be interesting to see him through his journey, whether you want to or not."

Our lives are more than a reality TV show.

Gisele Alicea (A.K.A. Gisele Xtravaganza) is an actor, model, painter, event producer, legendary ballroom personality, and transgender activist. She most recently participated in the new book, The Human Agenda: Conversations About Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity by Joe Wenke. She feels it's a good thing that Jenner's story has gotten people talking about transgender issues. 

"I'm sure it's very difficult for Bruce Jenner to transition as opposed to someone who is not in the public eye," Alicea says. "But our lives are more than reality TV shows and the Kardashians. We are real people and we suffer."

We talked a bit about how Jenner still has not made an official announcement, and how he seems protective of his story. He reportedly has postponed his transition documentary series partly because he wants his kids to be ready.

More from The Stir: Mom of Transgender Daughter Shares Big Secret to Making It Work

She understands why Jenner might be reluctant to go public with his transition -- it must be difficult for him personally. However, "I think it's good because the Kardashians are very popular, so it's going to make people talk, and I think this conversation is very needed for our community."

But it's important that people outside the trans community engage in conversation respectfully. "Not bashing -- the media often makes a mockery of transgender people. It's something a lot of us have been fighting for years."

Alicea is hopeful as trans issues rise into the mainstream, the public will learn more. "Understand and be respectful that this is a very difficult process for anyone," she says. "Be open-minded and understand that this is more than a reality show thing. This is [Jenner's] personal story." She says she appreciates it when non-trans people are willing to listen and learn.

I'm so thankful that someone is willing to take on that much visibility on behalf of all of us.

Jeremy Wallace is a professional keynote speaker and author of the transition memoir, Taking the Scenic Route to Manhood. He notes that we still don't have the official word from Jenner about his rumored transition, yet. However, if it's true, "I'm really excited because he's such a prominent figure. I grew up in the 1970s seeing him on the Wheaties box. He's an icon." (Jenner was famous first as an accomplished Olympic athlete.)

Wallace welcomes Jenner bringing trans issues to the forefront. "I have a lot of compassion and awe for anyone who has the courage to transition," Wallace says, "but especially someone in the public. It takes so much courage. I'm so thankful that someone is willing to take on that much visibility on behalf of all of us." 

"I can't even imagine what it must be like to have so many outsiders involved in your transition," Wallace says, imagining how Jenner's transition differs from most others. "I cannot even imagine that kind of pressure, dealing with it on a personal, home-life level, and then having people judge you on your transition."

"If I could reach out to him, I'd say, 'thank you for doing this. I'm sorry it's so messy for you,'" Wallace says. 

Have you learned anything new about transgender people or since Bruce Jenner's rumored planned transition?

 

Image via Ethan Miller/Getty Images

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