I wasn’t prepared to like Caitlyn Jenner.
I had been a devoted fan of Bruce Jenner. He was the consummate quiet American, Olympic decathlete, family man – discounting his numerous marriages – and devoted father.
But then last year he came out as a transgender woman.
“Was this a publicity stunt?” I thought.
And why would anyone do that to his family (and seven kids).
But then meeting her, it’s apparent, she’s no phony. Jenner, 66, is the real thing.
And in fact I can’t recall interviewing anyone as comfortable with her body as she is.
Who knew she was so smart and articulate!
But you judge for yourself.
What does being a woman mean to you?
For me, it means being true to yourself. There are a lot of things about womanhood that I am now learning. Gender for everybody is a journey.
We all learn about our gender and about who we are as a person.
I have had this woman living inside me all my life. Finally, it’s her opportunity to live and put little Bruce inside, let him live inside, because in so many ways I am still the same person.
The Wachowski Brothers who made the Matrix films were reluctant to come out as transgender. Was that also true of you?
The media can be brutal, and I honestly feel their pain. For me it was as early as 1980 when I first heard somebody in the media say something to me, “Well what is going on here?”
And for two years, before I did the Diane Sawyer interview, I was destroyed every week in the tabloids. I would have four or five paparazzi cars following me, cutting me off.
I would wear the same clothes every day so they would get the same shots and couldn’t turn around and sell it. It was horrible.
They were trying to out me. It was brutal on me, on my family, on my children, on my loved ones. My mother would call me up and say, “I was going through the grocery line, what is this?” And because I had not told her yet, I would blow her off.
So what made you come out?
I have been with my PR guy for over 35 years. I had told him my story 35 years ago, and he kept his mouth shut, yes, all these years.
So, how can we do this in a way that is not being outed by the media? I wanted to control my story.
I could have gone off to the backwoods of Alaska and transitioned there, had a nice little life in a nice little town in the middle of nowhere, until the media found me and then it would become a scandal.
So, we figured out how we could take this, not just out of the tabloids and out of the gutter, but elevate it, put it where it belongs and it deserves to be.
So is everything you hoped it would be?
Absolutely. The good has outweighed any negative that I have had. Waking up in the morning the other day, I was walking around the house and I stopped for a second and said, “Wait a minute, I am happy.”
I haven’t woken up happy in a long time. People wonder, why would you transition from the powerful male role to the weaker female role? And all I can say is that’s me. But what a lot of women don’t understand and don’t get is the power of their femininity and their power of being a woman.
Talk about your goals. What do you hope to achieve?
I have already achieved one goal, and that is contentment and happiness. And now the next is how can I make a difference for trangenders. And it’s not just here (in the US) it is around the world. How we can make it better for the next generation coming up.
It’s going to be a long road, and I certainly can’t do it all myself, and it’s probably not going to happen in my lifetime. But I hope that we move forward because this is a human issue; it doesn’t have borders, it’s in every country, it’s a global issue.
How did your family react when you first told them?
My kids were great. The first one I told was my son Brandon, and he said to me, “Dad I have always been so proud to be your son. All my life. But I’ve never been more proud of you as I am right now.” And that was a wonderful start.
As for my girls, I was particularly concerned about my younger daughters just because they were young. I talked to them and told them that this may lead to a transition, and they were like, “Oh my God, how is that going to work out?”
But then when we all watched the (Diane Sawyer) interview together, (daughters) Kendall on one side and Kylie on the other, (stepdaughters) Kourtney, Kimberly, Khloe, (former wife) Kris all there, 15, 20 minutes into the show, they knew it was going to be OK.
When you were on Keeping Up With The Kardashian, were you concerned that you would be outed by media?
My whole life I was scared to death that I was going to get caught. I was worried about it because at that time I was cross dressing. I would walk around the hotel and kept thinking, “Why am I doing this, Why am I compelled to do this? Is it because of the excitement of it, the possibly of getting caught?”
I always wondered about those issues. How far can I go and how many chances can I take and not get caught? On a couple of occasions I thought I might get caught but didn’t. But I was afraid of being outed in the media.
Forty years ago, you won the Olympic’s decathlon. Did you know then that you had the makings of a world champion?
My life has always been about diversions and not dealing with myself. I had all these issues as a young kid – gender issues, dyslexia, I suffered from low self-esteem. And I discovered the one way to hide from that was through sports.
I never thought I would take it to the extent that I did, but all through those 12 years (in school), there was always that dyslexic kid, that gender disparate kid living in the back of my head, trying to prove to the world that I am worth something.
So, it created a tremendous amount of drive in me to go out there to succeed, and I took it all the way to where I broke the world record. I was ranked No. 1 in the world three times, I broke the Olympic record.
The dating issue. Is that a challenge for you?
I’ve already had my children so that becomes less of an issue for me. I have my family, and my whole day revolves around my kids. So, dating is not a big issue for me, but for a young transgender looking to a future with family, with children, finding a husband and all that kind of stuff, those issues will have to be dealt with.