An Open Letter to Bruce Jenner

by Kathryn Leehane
Originally Published: 

Dear Bruce Jenner,

I don’t know you. I was too young to witness your Olympic success. I didn’t follow your film or auto-racing careers. I have never even watched your family’s television show. (I hate reality TV. Sorry about that … except not really.)

But after your interview with Diane Sawyer announcing that you’re a woman? Well, let’s just say you’ve got my complete attention now.

I don’t purport to fully understand your situation. We differ in so many ways—not the least of which is my genitals match my gender. But you know how we’re the same? We are both people, and we are united by our shared humanity and our desire to find happiness in this world. Sometimes that journey requires struggle and major transition.

I know something about your current transition … because my own father is a woman too.

I first found out about my father’s gender identity almost 20 years ago. During a holiday gathering, my father pulled me aside and explained that there was a woman inside of him, and he cross-dressed to let her out. Despite my initial shock (seriously, that wasn’t one I saw coming), I offered my love, acceptance and encouragement. Over the next few years, I walked side by side with Josephine as she went down her path from male to female.

In fact, your current journey reminds me a lot of hers. (Well, except for that Olympian-celebrity-millionaire thing.) I support her, and I support you.

People have asked me if it’s weird having a transgender parent. Honestly, it was a little (a lot) at first. I stumbled over pronouns. I felt like I had lost my father. I had my own transition to make. But I have found that you can love and support someone—even as you work through your own issues.

These days I don’t think much about it. Josephine is now living as the person she was meant to be. She has found happiness. This simple fact makes me happy.

Here’s the thing though: when Josephine went through her transition, there were few role models outside the transgender community. We had to figure a lot out on our own. There weren’t many high-profile examples of what we were going through to tell us it would all be OK.

Fortunately, our world is already changing, and you and your family are a big part of that change.

My heart swelled when I watched your children commending you for your bravery. I cried when I read their tweets of love and encouragement. They are proud of you. As am I.

And dammit, even though I’m not a Kanye fan (I’m Team Beck), I loved the story you told about Kim and Kanye’s discussion about you—where Kanye said that he could have all of the best things in the world, but he’s nothing if he can’t be himself … if he can’t be true to himself.

Even Kanye gets it. We should all be free to be true to ourselves. We will all take different paths to get there, but we should be supported along the way.

So no matter our differences, I support you and what you are doing to live an authentic life. You are in a unique position to help spread a message of acceptance and to promote more understanding. The very same spotlight that will make this more challenging for you than for most transgender people can become your greatest asset—because you are going to do so much good in the world.

Obviously, your next steps in this transition are going to be heavily scrutinized. But with the love and support of your family, yourself, and a new community of supporters, I hope you walk that path with pride.

You mentioned in your interview that you were afraid of disappointing people. You probably weren’t talking about me, but I’ll throw my two cents in anyhow. Far from disappointing me, you have inspired me. You have made me proud and joyful. On behalf of myself and my family, I thank you for that. And I support you as you continue your journey and help change the world.

With deepest respect,

Kathryn, a fellow human being

P.S. I look forward to addressing you with your new name as soon as you’re ready. xoxo

Related post: My Father Is Now A Woman

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