How Bruce Jenner & a College Student Made Me Less of a Jackass on Transgender Issues

Over at the Facing Project blog, I shared my evolution in thinking about transgender issues. I really believe that many of us are just one powerful story away from growing in understanding and shedding ignorance around particular topics.

I don’t know anyone who is transgendered (that I know of) and I had never really closely paid attention to anyone’s story until I heard Bruce Jenner’s story and until a Ball State student shared his story.

You can read the entire piece, What’s in a Name? on the Facing Blog. For now here’s an excerpt:

Two years ago I didn’t know the difference between a crossdresser, a drag queen, or someone who is transgendered. In fact, if you would have engaged me in a conversation about the issue, I may have even used the term transvestite, which for the most part is totally out of use.

I could’ve benefited from reading GLAAD’s reference guide for transgender issues.

Even right now, I’m not the most confident that I won’t say something wrong or sound like an ignorant jackass when I talk about transgender issues. In the buzz before Bruce Jenner came forward as transgendered to Diane Sawyer, I remember thinking that maybe his gender identity struggle was just another celebrity losing it as result of the bright spotlight of fame. I’m not sure there is a more ignorant viewpoint of GLBT issues than the ol’ “mental illness” argument.

But then something happened . . . I heard Bruce’s story. How he struggled from an early age. How he’d put on his sister’s dresses when no one was home, took hormones in the 80s, told his sister and two of his wives about his true self years ago. Long before Bruce was an Olympic champion on a Wheaties box or wrapped up in the Kardashian circus, he struggled with who he was.

When I heard Bruce’s story, I stopped judging him. I felt happy for him that he was finally stepping forward and sad for him that it took six decades to do so.

Bruce shared a shocking stat in his interview with Diane Sawyer that more than 40% of transgender individuals have attempted suicide.

One of those suicidal individuals shared his story in Facing Depression. . .

Konner is a Ball State student and I’m amazed by his bravery. Konner is doing something that Bruce, one of the world’s best athletes, couldn’t find the strength to do when he was Konner’s age.

It is such a tough journey.

… if it weren’t for Bruce and Konner sharing their stories, I’m not sure my thinking would’ve evolved enough to see what they’ve done as acts of bravery. They’ve helped me see ignorance of which I was unaware. They’ve helped me grow. And they’ve helped countless transgender individuals by sharing their stories.

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