Caitlyn Jenner And The New Conversation She’s Started About Sexuality

Bruce Jenner, Olympic champion and reality star dad, has re-emerged as Caitlyn Jenner on the cover of Vanity Fair. The magazine issue (with the cover shot by Annie Leibowitz) will feature an interview with Jenner, where she’ll talk about the shoot and the experience of transitioning into the body she’s always dreamed of. “This shoot was about my life and who I am as a person,” she said. “It’s not about the fanfare, it’s not about people cheering in the stadium, it’s not about going down the street and everybody giving you ‘that a boy, Bruce,’ pat on the back, O.K. This is about your life.”

Honestly, I hadn’t planned on watching the Bruce Jenner interview until I felt suspicious of the overwhelmingly positive response to his transition. It’s actually not normal for the Facebook community to respond so progressively—the majority of Facebook opinions are self-aggrandizing, ignorant, albeit well-intentioned. I like that about it though. I’m fascinated by people on this platform, so self-absorbed that any sentiment they have is elevated to a “status”. After watching a 5 minute teaser of the Jenner segment with Diane Sawyer, however, I realized why people watched: the interview is very engaging, very early on. Then-Bruce hides his face as he attempts to avoid hoards of paparazzi, then sits comfortably on his couch in the privacy of his home, discussing his unique life experiences.

Regardless of gender, Caitlyn Jenner is at her core, the definition of a hero (which is, by the way: “a person, typically a man, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.”). Only a gold medalist, winner of the 1976 Olympic decathlon, an event created in Ancient Greece to test the sheer manliness of their champion athletes, would be able to get a sex change, talk about it on national television, and gain the respect of the American public. And this big man hero, who won the Olympics, is actually a woman! This is so crazy. Sometimes real life feels so ironic, it’s crazy.

A big question for many people in response to Bruce’s transition was about Bruce’s recent divorce from Kris Kardashian, the media mogul matriarch of the Kardashian clan. Did he identify as a gay woman? Had he been lying about his attraction to Kris the entire time?

Bruce says, “There’s two different things here. Sexuality is who you personally are attracted to — who turns you on. But gender identity has to do with who you are as a person and your soul and who you identify with inside.”

To explain further, in the interview, Diane Sawyer clarified: “Sexual orientation is whom you go to bed with. Gender identity is whom you go to bed as.”

The notion of gender and sexuality as a fluid concept still is difficult for people to conceive of. I’m just now realizing that the changes in how we talk about sexuality are trickling into my personal life, where I’m slowly taking note of the very real ways that being straight doesn’t always seem so straight. More likely, there seems to really be a real spectrum of sexuality—you’re a straight girl in a serious relationship, but lesbian porn turns you on; you’re a straight girl but you’ve had multiple relationships with transgender men pre-op; you’re a straight guy but you like group sex with other guys, mostly because you’re attracted to other boys. These are all the stories I’ve heard recently.

Is it just trendy to identify as “queer” these days? Is Bruce Jenner creating a space for people to open up about their sexuality in a way that hasn’t been possible before?


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