On a special edition of 20/20, which aired on April 24, Bruce Jenner, Olympic gold medalist and reality TV dad, admitted to over 16.9 million people that he is, for all intents and purposes, a woman. The amazing interview was conducted by famed journalist and soft filter lens connoisseur Diane Sawyer, who appropriately and gracefully navigated the two-hour interview with Jenner.
Before I continue, it should be duly noted that when speaking of transgender people, it is appropriate to use the pronouns and name they have disclosed and prefer. At this time in his transition, Jenner has not disclosed any preferred name or any different pronouns. For the entirety of this column I will be respecting his wishes and using male pronouns. Now, back to the regularly scheduled programming.
One of the more poignant moments of the interview was the very beginning before the questioning even began. Jenner sat down on his couch, his eyes heavy with hurt and uncertainty and shifting back and forth as if to, if only for a moment, reanalyze the cons and pros of finally deciding to be true to who he is.
Immediately, I began crying, and that set the tone for the rest of a heart-wrenching night of love, loss and a prolonged façade. As a young queer kid living in this unconventionally conventional world, I empathized with Jenner—never quite fitting in and never quite knowing where exactly to fit in, if anywhere.
While Jenner is a Republican, I can look past that deficit in character and realize the amount of resolve and strength it takes to come out as transgender on such a massive international stage. He is a hero in my book. His coming out can save the lives of kids like Leelah Alcorn and Blake Brockington, kids who contemplate suicide when the notion of “it gets better” is just not enough.
I know Jenner will be able to traverse and weather the media storm slowly encroaching on his life. Though, after he lived 65 years in the shadows of his true self, I am fairly certain the media blitz will just be part of the game. TIME was definitely right about one thing: the culture has definitely reached the transgender tipping point, and there is no turning back now.
From activists like the beautiful and brilliant Laverne Cox to author and writer Janet Mock as well as the courageous and resilient Jenner, 2015 has already shaped out to be a pivotal year for transgender people. And more lays on the horizon for the oft-marginalized and silenced group. The caged bird can only be silent for so long—Maya Angelou taught me that.
There is no greater hell than being denied a true, authentic life here on Earth. Being forced to live in a self-imposed exile for over six decades due to limiting and rudimentary gender expectations and the threat of an unforgiving and unknowing society—I shudder to imagine the pain and agony.
For all intents and purposes, this is my love letter to Bruce Jenner and all the transgender kids like him struggling to be accepted and reconcile who they are with whom society has told them to be. Be true to who you are and know that light begets light and that no matter where you may go, you are loved. Welcome to the rainbow club, Bruce.
Follow Brandon Sams on Twitter at @TheBrandonSams