Caitlyn Jenner certainly has a lot to reflect on.
When it comes to the last few years, there is her new-found influence as a transgender activist. Ever since her announcement to Diane Sawyer in 2015 that she was undergoing the process to become a woman, Caitlyn Jenner has definitely garnered a lot of media attention. When it comes to her past as Olympic decathlete Bruce Jenner, she is definitely discussing two different individuals: Bruce and Caitlyn.
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) June 28, 2016
According to Sports Illustrated, Caitlyn Jenner is finally comfortable in her own skin, whereas Bruce almost never was. Sure, there was the incredible training he doggedly pursued on his road to Olympic gold, becoming one of the few American athletes to claim the decathlon’s top prize at the Olympics, but Caitlyn Jenner now says that the training was just a “beard” — a convenient disguise to keep her from thinking about the feelings that were churning within her.
“The decathlon was the perfect distraction,” Caitlyn Jenner told writer Tim Layden.
It was 1976, and Bruce Jenner had nabbed Olympic gold in the decathlon, jumpstarting a career as a sports broadcaster, a Wheaties spokesperson and, later, one of the biggest reality television stars in history. Bruce Jenner had even briefly dabbled as an actor, and while it was soon discovered he was not one of the best on the market, he was indeed paid well for his work. However, Caitlyn Jenner realizes now that the decathlon had become a way of distracting her from the gender dysphoria that just was not discussed in the 1970s.
According to USA Today, Caitlyn Jenner feels that since announcing to the world that she was actually transgender and was undergoing the process of becoming a woman, she has made more of a difference than she ever has as Bruce Jenner.
“What I’m dealing with now, this is about who you are as a human being,” she explained. “What did I do for the world in 1976, besides maybe getting a few people to exercise a little bit? I didn’t make a difference in the world.”
Indeed, while Caitlyn Jenner has had to endure a few missteps on her way to becoming one of the best-known transgender activists in North America — her statement that the hardest part about being a woman was determining what to wear grated on a number of people, including actress Rose McGowan, according to Us Magazine — she has actually shone a light on the plight of a number of individuals who identify as transgender. There are those who criticize that role, saying that she can’t be effective because she does not experience the shortage of resources or support that many transgender individuals face on a daily basis
— NOH8 Campaign (@NOH8Campaign) June 23, 2016
Of the criticism, E! Online reported that Caitlyn Jenner noted, “I was a privileged white male, so I’ve gotten very criticized for that within the trans community. What do I know?”
While acknowledging the criticism, Caitlyn Jenner also pointed out that because of her privileged status, she has also had to endure quite a bit more than many in society might be aware of.
“Trans people can transition in private,” she pointed out. “I have not had that luxury because of who I am and ‘that privilege.’ I have been exposed to more than you can ever even imagine.”
There are also those critics who have voiced concern that perhaps Caitlyn Jenner is transitioning for the sole purpose of garnering publicity, particularly since she has continued to espouse conservative beliefs. That said, Caitlyn Jenner has garnered a great deal of positive notice because she has come out as an older individual, and that can pose challenges on its own.
SAGE USA, for instance, says that one of the biggest issues facing older individuals as they transition is the discrimination and the potential for violence they face.
The site says that “a lack of cultural and clinical competence regarding transgender people and their health needs, as well as bias and outright discrimination by providers, create serious barriers to quality care for transgender older adults.” As a result, there are transgender older adults who might avoid or delay seeking treatment.
While Caitlyn Jenner has not discussed any discriminatory practices she has gone through as an older adult who has transitioned, she has acknowledged that she feels she has made a greater difference as an individual now than when she was at the height of her fame as decathlete Bruce Jenner.
“I feel like, now, nobody can say they don’t know a transgender person, because she is that famous,” said Chris Mosier, 35, a transgender male triathlete, of Caitlyn Jenner.
Mosier, who represented the U.S. at the world sprint duathlon (cycling and running) championships last month in Spain, added, “She has brought about this awareness among people who are attuned to pop culture and media. Challenges that trans people face have really come to light since she’s come out.”
[Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Glamour]