Here's How To Talk About Bruce Jenner And His Historic Interview
Bruce Jenner made history Friday night during his epic "20/20" interview with the words: "I am a woman."
“What I’m doing is going to do some good,” Jenner said. “And we’re gonna change the world. I really firmly believe that, that we’re going to make a difference in the world with what we’re doing.”
He put himself in the spotlight. He put himself out there. And he put himself, in the middle, it seems, of a whole TON of confusion. We see you Facebook commenters.
We get that Bruce is definitely going to be the topic of a TON of conversation over the next few days and weeks, but when discussing his decision to come out as transgender, it's important to do so in a sensitive, intelligent manner.
And, since we also get that there's a lot of educating that needs to be done when it comes to transgender issues, we've taken it upon ourselves -- with a little help from GLAAD -- to lay out some guidelines on how to talk about Bruce and beyond:
Before you start spouting opinions about Bruce Jenner and his decision to come out, make sure to do your research. You may not have caught his "20/20" interview Friday night, but you can catch up at your leisure online by watching a ton of clips on the show's site. Do it up before you start talking -- or typing.
OK, now that you're watched -- let's forge ahead. What are we supposed to call Bruce now?
Well, although Bruce Jenner announced in his interview Friday night, "Yes, I am a woman," a lot of us -- including his ex wife -- are still referring to him as "he." Are we being super rude and dense? We saw you all in the comments of some of our stories asking that very question and we hear you.
Nope. We're not being rude. We promise. We're just waiting for Bruce to tell us what name and pronoun he prefers. Jenner has not yet told us, so we shouldn't make any assumptions until he does. You should always, always refer to a person as they would like to be referred -- and if you're not sure, ask (politely of course).
"I hate the [phrase], 'girl stuck in a guy's body -- I hate that terminology. I'm me," Jenner said in the interview Friday. "I'm me. I'm a person. And this is who I am. I'm not stuck in anybody's body. It's just who I am."
So while we're waiting for Bruce to tell us what name he prefers, how do we talk about him coming out last night? Well, there is terminology that is preferred and we can totally break it down.
Words like "transsexual" or "transvestite" should always be avoided -- which seems pretty obvious. However, you should also make sure you're using the word "transgender" correctly -- like this: "Bruce Jenner is transgender." He's not "a transgender" or "transgendered."
You may have messed up in the past when using these terms -- I mean, big Hollywood celebrities and news organizations have, too -- but don't beat yourself up. This is all about education, as Miley said, and Bruce is definitely doing a lot to help educate us all.
"So since Bruce Jenner came out as transgender, he's gay, right?" -- we're guessing this is a thought running through a lot of minds out there. The answer to that question? That's not exactly how being transgender works.
“[One of the] biggest misconceptions [about being transgender] are the connections between gender and sexuality — people think that those are exclusive things and they’re very different things," Laura Jane Grace -- of the band Against Me! -- told MTV News in a recent interview.
Gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same things. Gender identity is basically whether you identify as male or female (or neither) -- while sexual orientation has to do with who you're attracted to.
Bruce may have talked pretty openly during his interview about the possibility of physically transitioning, but that was his choice. Never ask someone about their transition -- or assume that they're going to go under the knife. Also, chill with all speculation that has to do with Bruce's body when you're talking with friends.
Why? It's just basic common courtesy, you know? Personal questions about someone's body are rude and invasive -- also, for transgender people, it's pretty reductive: Who you are as a person doesn't boil down to what you have in your pants.
Take a page from Ariana's book and always be respectful. Sure, Bruce may be a super famous celebrity -- and part of, arguably, one of the most famous families around -- but that doesn't mean making fun of him to your friends is harmless. It's just reinforcing dangerous attitudes and could, in fact, have a major effect on people you know. What if one of your pals is thinking about coming out as transgender and you've made a snide comment about Jenner in his/her presence?
“That little joke you make at the expense of a millionaire celebrity might get some laughs from your friends, but it also just might contribute to the death of a trans kid, be it suicide or murder at the hands of those who choose to ’express their transphobia' through homicide," wrote blogger Christopher Keelty in a recent post about Jenner.
Finally, there's a reason why we avoided talking about Jenner being transgender until now: Because up until last night, Bruce hadn't TOLD US he was transgender. Take a page out of our book in your daily life: If you suspect someone you know is transgender, don't spread rumors. Don't speculate. Let that person tell you in their time.
Not only is it just, you know, the polite thing to do -- it's vital to their well-being. Look, we made major strides last night when Bruce went on national television and came out in front of millions. We made major strides with Laverne Cox's starring role on "Orange Is The New Black" and that amazing special she made for us, "Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word" (which you NEED to watch). We're learning.
However, there are still ignorant people out there. “On a daily basis, transgender people face unwelcome and often hostile scrutiny at school, at work, or even when just walking down the street,” said Nick Adams, a transgender staff member at GLAAD. “Creating an atmosphere in which people who may or may not be transgender are stalked and hounded sends a poisonous message that being transgender is something strange and shameful, a dirty secret to be uncovered. Real transgender people are harmed by this behavior.”
In short: Think before you talk. Always.
Editors note: While Bruce Jenner has stated that he identifies as a woman, we have used the male pronoun throughout this article in keeping with his current stated pronoun preference.