Friday, April 24, 2015


Bruce Jenner's interview on 20/20 with Diane Sawyer was powerful and motivating. Jenner touched on an important subject involving gender identity and sexual orientation: it is complicated and cannot be categorized in a system of binaries. The special did present some educational segments, such as the sexual orientation fluidity, the process in undergoing a transition, and the impact it will have on those who are part of the process.

Nonetheless, we have to be critical of the fact that Jenner is privileged, a republican, who has access to resources that can help him transition to his gender affirmation (not sex reassignment). One has to keep in mind that people of color and those who lack the economic resources are not afforded the means Jenner possesses. Transgender populations face more violence than other members of the Queer community.


  1. While I too believe Jenner's interview with Diane Sawyer to be a crucial moment in the overall visibility of trans men and women, with its ability to thrust a larger public into a discourse on gender identity and sexual orientation, I am also extremely wary of the platform that Jenner has to her disposal. I'm concerned with its tendency to commercialize, commodify, and trivialize the complexities of not just this issue, but really any it decides to disseminate. While I only hope for a successful, fulfilling and affirmative transition, I also hope that Jenner's transition as a privileged, able-bodied, wealthy, white, conservative American doesn't eclipse the story and struggles of all trans people, specifically trans people of color, with a more commercially valuable white-washed narrative.

    This is an interesting interview with two activists and trans women of color I've been reading:

  2. I agree with your statement, Zach. What remains to be seen is how Jenner will engage in civil rights matters for Trans folks. I'm curious to see develop how people will respond in the coming week (the programming around "event" television receives major attention during the weekday) and if Jenner's narrative was successful...
    Thanks for your response!

  3. Though I do love Diane, unfortunately I didn't watch the special. I did, however, see several cliffhanging promos on ABC (intercut with footage of McDreamy's death on Grey's Anatomy and the inconsolable fans--conglomerates are a thing). I agree with both of your statements; the attention surrounding Jenner is simultaneously exploitive, commercialized, and disregards other socio/political/economic factors that inhibit trans individuals from living authentically. Ultimately, I don't think the commodification of Jenner's process is not wholly malicious. It works to normalized the conversation surrounding gender and sexual orientation, as Zach nicely articulates. That, to me, is so essential that other shortcomings can be (temporarily) compartmentalized.

    1. I agree, Robert! I just posted a link to the demographic breakdown of the Bruce Jenner special. During the special, they did briefly address the struggle for trans men and women (particularly African-Americans) to live authentically. They actually showed footage of trans women being beaten and dragged through the streets and trains. It was horrifying. Unfortunately, I think the broad general public is so reluctant to accept what they don't understand that it takes someone like Bruce Jenner (a former beloved macho athlete) to spark conversation on a topic they would otherwise ignore. Transparent also explores the life of a rather privileged man during his transition from male to female instead of exploring the socio/political/economic factors that the trans community faces. While we aren't getting the whole picture of the horrors and issues facing the trans community, the commodification of Bruce's transition puts a face to the trans community that the public can't classify as "other" because of Jenner's notoriety as a famed Olympian. Hopefully, that will be a step towards progress despite Jenner's privilege.

  4. I agree, Robert! And consider the fact that approx 16.86 million tuned in on Friday (not including residual replays and DVR stats) to watch, for whatever reason, there were many conversations regarding gender and sexual orientation due to this televised event.

  5. I too agree that the commercialization surrounding Jenner may be problematic. I watched the special after the fact on demand, which forced me to sit through the commercials. During each break the ad for "Becoming Us" aired, which is an ABC Family upcoming unscripted series that follows a seventeen-year-old as he deals with his father's transition. Though we do not know much about the series aside from this one trailer, there is one important point to note: the show's executive producer is non other than Ryan Seacrest, who is responsible for launching "Keeping Up with the Kardashians." So, despite Jenner's special's apparent autonomy from the Kardashian franchise, it appears that this inherent connection will continue to be exploited as much as possible. The positive? At least Seacrest is putting (some of) his money (regardless of his intentions) towards what looks like a promising and informative series as opposed to another tour of Kim's closet.