Bruce Jenner Interview Opens Up Discussion About Transgender Movement

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Bruce Jenner finally got America talking about transgender issues.

In a tw0-hour long interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer Friday night: Bruce Jenner, the former Olympic gold-metal decathlete-turned-Kardashian-clan reality star is transitioning to a women at age 65.

After months of questions about Bruce's long hair, painted finger nails and seemingly vanished Adam's apple, Jenner finally revealed that he identifies as a female and not male.

16.9 million viewers tuned in to ABC to watch this interview, which is the best 20/20 has done all season and is one of the biggest non-awards show and non-sports event audiences on any network.

Jenner told Sawyer during his 20/20 interview, "For all intents and purposes, I am a woman...I was not genetically born that way and as of now I have all the male parts... But I still identify as female. It's very hard for Bruce Jenner to say that. Why? Because I don't want to disappoint people."

There is no doubt that this interview has shed some light on a topic that many American's are unfamiliar with.

Transgender: the definition

Transgender is becoming more and more prevalent in society's vocabulary, but do we actually know what it means?

Simply put, Transgender is the state of one's gender identity or gender expression not matching one's assigned sex. For example, a person can grow up biologically as a female and believe that the sex she was assigned to at birth does not match up and identifies more as a male.

According to GLAAD.org, "Trying to change a person's gender identity is no more successful than trying to change a person's sexual orientation -- it doesn't work. So most transgender people seek to bring their bodies more into alignment with their gender identity."

People under the transgender umbrella may also identify themselves as transsexual, and/or genderqueer. The best option is to identity the person by what they're comfortable with.

Identifying as transgender

It's hard to say exactly how many people are transgender in America. The Pew Research Center's "A Survey of LGBT Americans" admits that they make no attempt to estimate the share of the U.S. population that is LGBT (they interviewed almost 1,200 people). Other recent survey-based research reports have made estimates in the 3.5%-5% range.

However, this all depends on the willingness of LGBT individuals to disclose sexual orientation and gender identity.

With that said, "The Pew Research survey finds that 5% of LGBT respondents identify primarily as transgender; this is roughly consistent with other estimates of the proportion of the LGBT population that is transgender. Although there is limited data on the size of the transgender population, it is estimated that 0.3% of all American adults are transgender (Gates 2011)."

While the estimated number of transgender is slim, one can imagine that there are so many other individuals out there identifying as such, but scared to disclose the information to family and friends.

Need for Equality

The Jenner interview is a great step toward education and acceptance. While a lot of Jenner's supporters are taking to Twitter to show their solidarity for the reality star, transgender people still face tons of discrimination.

According to "Injustice at Every Turn," a report by the National Center for Transgender Equality and The Task Force:

  • Transgender people are four times more likely to live in poverty.
  • Transgender people experience unemployment at twice the rate of the general population, with rates for people of color up to four times the national unemployment rate.
  • 90% of transgender people report experiencing harassment, mistreatment or discrimination on the job.
  • 22% of respondents who have interacted with police reported harassment by police, with much higher rates reported by people of color. Almost half of the respondents (46%) reported being uncomfortable seeking police assistance.
  • 41% of respondents reported attempting suicide, compared to 1.6% of the general population.
  • Transgender people still cannot serve in the US Military.

Here are some comments from transgender individuals questioned in the Pew Research Study:

On Gender Identity

“It finally feels comfortable to be in my own body and head—I can be who I am, finally.”
–Transgender adult, age 24

“I have suffered most of my life in the wrong gender. Now I feel more at home in the world, though I must admit, not completely. There is still plenty of phobic feeling.” 
–Transgender adult, age 77

“Though I have not transitioned fully, being born as male but viewing things from a female perspective gives me a perspective from both vantage points. I am very empathetic because of my circumstance.”
–Transgender adult, age 56

“I wish I could have identified solely as male. Identifying as another gender is not easy.”
–Transgender adult, age 49

Push for Acceptance

The biggest sign of hope we see in the transgender movement is recent coverage of families acceptance for transgender kids and teens.

Like, Hunter Keith, 15, of Farmington, who used to be known as Olivia, told his parents that he could no longer live as a girl when he felt very much like a boy. His mother Roz Keith and his father Richard Keith have been supportive on his journey.

Or, Zay Crawford felt trapped in a boy’s body at a young age. With puberty fast approaching, she got an implant that suppressed the puberty process. Cincinnati.com follows the the family's journey and acceptance and understanding of their 12-year-old daughter.

For more information on transgender issues and how to be an ally go to glaad.org for more details.