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Transgender Community Encouraged by Caitlyn Jenner Debut


A journalist looks at Vanity Fair's Twitter site with the Tweet about Caitlyn Jenner, the transgender Olympic champion formerly known as Bruce, who will be featured on the July cover of the magazine, June 1, 2015.
A journalist looks at Vanity Fair's Twitter site with the Tweet about Caitlyn Jenner, the transgender Olympic champion formerly known as Bruce, who will be featured on the July cover of the magazine, June 1, 2015.

Bruce Jenner, whose picture appeared on the Wheaties cereal box the year after he won the Olympic decathlon gold medal, will grace the cover of Vanity Fair this week, only now as Caitlyn Jenner, an attractive woman in a strapless, white corset.

Although not the first celebrity to transition from one gender to another in the public eye, Jenner lit up the cyber universe on Monday when she tweeted a photo of the Vanity Fair cover along with the declaration that at, age 65, she's finally "living my true self."

Twitter accounts, ranging from the one held by the White House to those of transgender advocates, sociologists and regular folks, quickly retweeted the cover photo, most often with positive comments.

Jenner broke President Barack Obama's Twitter record for the shortest time to reach 1 million followers, achieving the mark with her @Caitlyn_Jenner account in four hours and three minutes.

Obama, who joined Twitter as @POTUS only last month, took about 4.5 hours to reach the 1 million mark.

Some poked lighthearted fun at the perfectly coiffed Jenner, joking the handsome former athlete looks even better as a woman in the perfectly posed picture by celebrated photographer Annie Leibovitz.

"All the women I know would LOVE to have the chance to have photos of themselves as beautiful as that one taken by Annie Leibovitz," said Eden Lane, an anchor and producer for Denver PBS television station KBDI and a transgender woman herself.

But more importantly, Lane added, is the positive impact Jenner's transition seems to be having on the transgender movement.

"When you know someone, it's easier to leave room in your heart and mind for them. To just be without fear of them or without hatred of them," she said. And pretty much everyone, Lane added, feels they know Jenner.

LGBT groups hailed Jenner's Vanity Fair cover story.

"I think that Caitlyn is a good role model and the fact that she has such a long history in the public eye, even before the Kardashians [reality television show]. You know, she had this history of being this all-star athlete so her story is unique in that way, in that it's really bridging two different communities," said Drian Juarez, program manager at the Los Angeles LBGT Center.

"By sharing her journey with the world, Caitlyn Jenner is accelerating acceptance of transgender people everywhere and reminds us all how important it is to live as your most authentic self," GLAAD head Sarah Kate Ellis said.

"For a transgender person to step into the world as his or her authentic self is a moment of tremendous freedom," said Nick Adams, GLAAD's director of Programs, Transgender Media.

Jenner's family quickly rallied around her on Twitter.

"How beautiful! Be happy, be proud, live life YOUR way!" wrote Kim Kardashian, Jenner's step-daughter and fellow reality television star.

His daughter, model Kendall Jenner wrote on Twitter Monday: "Be free now pretty bird."

Khloe Kardashian, another of Jenner's step-daughters and also on the reality television show, wrote on Instagram: "We were given this life because you were strong enough to live it! I couldn't be prouder!!!"


Older people were enthralled by the amazing athlete who dominated one of the Olympics' most grueling competitions, the decathlon, in the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. More recently, younger people have come to embrace the good-natured foil they saw on the long-running TV reality series Keeping Up With the Kardashians.

Until last December, Jenner was married for 23 years to Kris Kardashian and is the biological father of two of her children.

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In a video clip of the photo shoot on the magazine's website, Jenner said: "Bruce always had to tell a lie. He was always living that lie. Every day, he always had a secret, from morning till night.

"Caitlyn doesn't have any secrets," said Jenner, a reality television star, who is also shown in a black evening gown in the video. "As soon as the Vanity Fair cover comes out, I am free."

According to Vanity Fair, which took to Twitter with the cover Monday, Jenner spoke emotionally to the magazine about the gender journey: "If I was lying on my deathbed and I had kept this secret and never ever did anything about it, I would be lying there saying, 'You just blew your entire life.' "

Her transition has played out in public over the past several months and included a high-profile interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer last April, in which Jenner, appearing nervous at first, declared, "Yes, for all intents and purposes, I am a woman."

Juarez, of the Los Angeles LBGT Center, said growing up in the era of television interviewers Jerry Springer or Maury Povich, portrayals of transgender people were "very sensationalized, trivialized.”

“What we saw with the Diane Sawyer interview and what's followed since is a really respectful was of reporting trans people's transition stories or identities,” Juarez said.

The celebrity had no other choice but to do it that way, said veteran Hollywood publicist Howard Bragman, who represented Chaz Bono when the daughter of entertainers Sonny and Cher transitioned from female to male in 2009.

"The thing you have to understand about people like Caitlyn and Chaz is most people do this privately," said Bragman, founder and CEO of Fifteen Minutes Public Relations. "Public people don't get the luxury of doing that. It takes an extra amount of courage for them to do it, and to do it with class, and that's exactly what Caitlyn has done."

'Fearful just to step out'

Not that it's necessarily easy, any way it's done.

"Even with the position Caitlyn is in and the positive reaction that seems to be surrounding her today, we can't forget that there are so many transgender people who don't have this environment, who are fearful just to step out of their homes or go to the grocery store or walk down the street every single day," Lane said.

Aside from violence, there's also the emotional toll. Jenner told Sawyer that she had contemplated suicide during the decades she struggled with her sexuality.

"To think she waited 65 years to come out if you will is a tragedy in itself," University of Southern California sociologist Julie Albright said. "Keeping a secret like that for so many years is bound to take a psychological and even a physical toll on you."

FILE - California's Bruce Jenner leaps jubilantly in the air after securing gold in the Olympic Decathlon in Montreal, Canada, July 30, 1976.
FILE - California's Bruce Jenner leaps jubilantly in the air after securing gold in the Olympic Decathlon in Montreal, Canada, July 30, 1976.

Renee Richards, the transgender pioneer who famously transitioned from man to woman in 1975, said recently that Jenner should benefit from living in a more enlightened time.

Richards was a successful doctor and, like Jenner, a father and star athlete.

But she had to sue to be allowed to play tennis at the U.S. Open, where she made it to the women's doubles finals in 1977. And she said doctors initially refused to help her when she approached them as a 40-year-old man.

"It was too scary for them," Richards recently told GQ Magazine. "They couldn't fathom how someone who had been so supremely successful in everything, in medicine, in sports, in life, as a heterosexual man, as a husband, as a father, they couldn't understand that.

"In this day and age," she added, "they would understand."

Also on Monday, ESPN announced it would give the Arthur Ashe Courage Award to the transgender star later this month.

"Being honored with this award, which is named after one of my heroes, is truly special. For the first time this July, I will be able to stand as my true self in front of my peers," Jenner said in response to the ESPN announcement.

Material for this report came from AP, AFP and Reuters.

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