If anyone told you five years ago that Bruce Jenner, the track and field athlete and part-time Keeping Up with the Kardashians co-star, would become a voice and inspiration for the transgender community, you'd find it hard to believe, but here we are in 2015, where it has actually become a reality.
Last week, Bruce Jenner sat down with American news anchor and journalist Diane Sawyer for a TV special on ABC to discuss his recent transformation. At the start of the interview he declares that "for all intents and purposes, I am a woman" and reveals that this will be the last interview he does where he refers to himself as Bruce.
2015 has already proven to be an important year for where the acceptance of the transgender society is becoming the forefront of discussion. We started the year with India electing Madhu Kinnar, who became the first transgender mayor in the world. We've got Laverne Cox--star of Orange is the New Black--making not only Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People List but also named as one of People Magazine's World's Most Beautiful Women. Then at the start of April, Louis Theroux raised awareness in transgender children for his recent BBC documentary.
The opportunity that Jenner had with his two-hour special on April 24 was important to the transgender community as it not only gave Jenner the chance to speak for his community and define himself, but it also did so on a grand, worldwide scale. The interview was held with respect and empathy and has been widely commended by the general public and media.
The days where magazines would whip up a bad Photoshop of what Jenner might look like in a few years seem distant as issues and inequality of the community are starting to become something we should all be aware of and help diffuse criticism of.
A key focus of the interview was for Jenner to detail the difference between gender and sexuality, explaining to Sawyer that:
"Sexuality is who you personally are attracted to--who turns you on--male or female. But gender identity has to do with who you are as a person and your soul, and who you identify with inside."
Jenner's comments are integral for the general audiences, who may not have an excellent understanding of the community, in learning more about the thought process and issues faced with transgender people. In 2011, the National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that out of the over 6,450 responses a massive 41% of the respondents had reported to attempting suicide compared to 1.6% of the general population, which is shocking.
It was also revealed that 90% of the respondents surveyed reported to having experienced harassment, mistreatment or discrimination. The report also revealed that acceptance from family had a positive affect against threats like HIV infection and suicide--so it is only expected that a general acceptance and understanding from the population can only help to benefit the community.
Have your own opinions on the Kardashians clan, sure, but it's hard not to commend Jenner for his bravery and taking advantage of the opportunity that such a television show has provided him with. It's early days, but he is certainly helping to bring the concerns and issues the general transgender community has to the general public's attention. Who knows where he can help take the transgender community, who have often felt ignored and discriminated, to in their fight for equality.
It is important to remember that you are not alone. If you are a member of the transgender community and are struggling or need a voice to listen to you, there are people out there who can help. GLAAD aim to rewrite the script for LGBT acceptance, The Naz Foundation are a voice for the LGBT community and people affected with HIV/Aids in India, as well as GATE (Global Action for Trans* Equality) and ILGA (International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association).