At the end of Diane Sawyer’s interview with Bruce Jenner*, Sawyer referred to one of Jenner’s post-Olympian books, in which he wrote that everyone should have a one-sentence mission statement. Sawyer said Bruce defined his mission statement now as “to provide understanding and tolerance toward people.”
Well, Bruce can pat himself on the back because he did an amazing job of increasing tolerance with tonight’s good-humored, two-hour interview about his transition from male to female.
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I was keeping an eye on Twitter and, of course, there was plenty of the knee-jerk negativity that’s aimed at transgender people. But I was impressed by the number of viewers who said that they were moved to tears by the obvious emotional pain Bruce had suffered, even if they couldn’t relate to his experience. (“I’ve done nothing but apologize for my entire life,” he said at one point.) A lot of those commenters didn’t seem like existing LGBTQ allies, but like people who were feeling a new empathy — developing “an open mind and an open heart,” to use Bruce’s words.
I got choked up at the recorded message from Bruce’s 89-year-old mother, Esther. Esther said she used to think that she couldn’t be any prouder of Bruce than she was in Montreal in 1976, when he won the Olympic gold medal for the decathlon … but now she is even prouder.
I was also moved by the video of that athletic triumph. It showed two of Bruce’s opponents on the ground, writhing in pain from their exertions, while Bruce didn’t just stay on his feet — he ran a damn victory lap. I hope that he feels that fleet and free again, now that he is unburdened of his lifelong secret.
*ABC said that Bruce did ask to be referred to as Bruce and “he” and “him” for this, his last television interview as a man. He didn’t announce what female name he will use.