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By Gary Duff | July 17, 2017 | People
Caitlyn Jenner talks about her latest book, The Secrets of My Life, what she thinks of President Trump, and the advice she'd give her younger self.
When Caitlyn Jenner first burst onto the scene on the cover of Vanity Fair, there seemed to be a collective moment of awe and shock not only for Americans, but everyone else in the world. Bruce Jenner, an Olympic gold medal-winning decathlete, who had confessed to Diane Sawyer that he was indeed transitioning months earlier, had finally become Caitlyn. Her story is detailed in Caitlyn's latest memoir, The Secrets of My Life, and she sat down with us to talk about it.
What for you was the tipping point, or the moment you knew that you had to fully transition to realize who you were?
CAITLYN JENNER: It's a very complicated answer, but I'll try to do the best to make it as short as possible. This issue had come forward and I really struggled all my life—primarily in the 80s—when I thought, "I'm going to transition before I am 40. I don't want to be an old chick. I just want to get this over with." And I got to 39 and I just could not go any further. I could not go any further. And I met Kris three or four months later and five and a half months after that we were married, we had a bigger family, and I got into raising my family. And I was not thinking about myself, but thinking about other people.
When you suffer from gender dysphoria it’s not like you can take two aspirin, get plenty of sleep and wake up the next morning and it's over. You can't get away from it. It is always present in your life, your identity, and who you are. I got to the point where I raised all my children. I did a great job. They are all off and working and doing extremely well. But there I was, at the age of 63, back out in Malibu and in a house, a nicer house—at least this time—on the beach thinking what am I going to do with my life? Am I going to sit here and rot? And so, I started talking to people. I got back into therapy. I talked to all my children, talked to my pastor because faith does play a role in all this. And, I just got to a point in my life where I said look, this woman has lived inside me my entire life. She's in there; she's been present. She stuck around and no one knows she's there and on and on and on. Let's see what she can do. Let’s give her an opportunity. One, you can't do that unless you want to live your life authentically. And second, let's take little Bruce and we will talk him into it. Bruce did everything pretty much you could do in life: he raised a wonderful family and won the Games, he had success in business, and now it’s Caitlyn’s turn. And what a great opportunity to be playing in the fourth quarter of life and to be given the opportunity to add my voice. So, what I’ve been trying to do for the past few years is trying to make people understand the issue better.
You were entering into a community that wanted you to be something that you were not ready to be when you first came forward. So, when the Diane Sawyer interview hit, followed by the Vanity Fair cover, which put a huge spotlight on you, how did you deal with the expectations from that community and the backlash that came thereafter?
CJ: First of all, when I did come out, the first thing I did was the Diane Sawyer interview, which basically Bruce did. Two months later the cover of Vanity Fair hit, and I kind of got everybody's attention. Vanity Fair did a great job and it was phenomenal stuff. I think for the first time, at least in our society, all of a sudden people finally said, "Wow, this is kind of amazing." But I've said from the beginning, I am not a spokesperson for the trans community. Especially at that time when I didn't have much knowledge of the trans community and the issues that we have to deal with. But I am the spokesperson for my own story because I have learned over the past two years that living with yourself authentically is a different story. I can't speak for other people, some people transition at a much younger age, some people do it at an older age. There are so many things involved in transitioning that I cannot be a spokesperson for. The only thing I can do is tell my story and that is what I do in my book. And in doing that, in the position that I hold in life as a celebrity, an athlete, and all that kind of stuff, I can use them in the community to move this issue forward. And that's all I can do.
Yes, I have been criticized and in some cases rightfully so. The media is going to report one of two things, something very positive or something negative. In the middle? Who cares. The media is looking for negative things to say. This week—and they don't quit—they're all on me getting a Brazilian butt lift. What that is? I don't know. They say I'm going back into surgery, that I'm addicted to this and that. And then last week there was a story that Kris and I are going to do a show together and make up. Here's the truth, they're all false stories. As Mr. Trump says, it's fake news. And they just make this stuff up. As of right now I will never do that show again. I've kind of moved on from that and I'm not doing it for big bucks. I'm not in this for the money. I'm in it to change people's thinking. I'm meeting with Nikki Haley at the United Nations to get a better understanding of the international implications of being trans and what we can do to make it better. I mean in some countries they can chop your head off for doing this. It's horrifying to say the least. And I’m going to try to make stupid politicians change their mind and not discriminate against this community. I am constantly doing things.
So, where do you stand politically now? Because so many people—when they heard we were sitting down—wanted me to ask you why you got behind Trump.
CJ: Yeah, I get that a lot. I actually got more heat when coming out as a Republican than I did as coming out as trans. As far as being a Republican, I believe in limited government. I don't want the government telling me what to do. I believe in the 18 enumerated powers. And I believe in a balanced budget. And I believe in freedom. I believe in less regulation. You're not going to get that with the Democrats. You're just not. But even with the Republicans, you're not going to get it at least right now, which is very disappointing. I've always leaned toward the Republican side. I mean I've always believed that the people of this country should solve problems, not the government. So that's the basis of it.
Now as far as LGBT issues, the Democrats have done a better job than the Republicans. But that just means Republicans need a little bit more help and that's what I'm there to do—to help them out with LGBT issues. And so, I do everything I can. And because I am kind of on the inside with the Republicans, it has opened up a lot of doors with a lot of lawmakers. I've built relationships with senators and congressmen. I know what's going on within the American community and they are all over every LGBT issue when it comes to the Republican Party. I work hard to try to change people’s minds. And sometimes, as a Republican, I get into a lot of places where most people can't. So, from my standpoint, I think it's working great. Now about Trump. I've only spoken to Trump once when he was on the campaign trail on the phone. He actually seemed pretty good when it came to LGBT issues—especially trans issues. He goes back a long way in supporting the community. Even back in 2012, before my transition, when he was at the Miss Universe pageant in Canada, there was a trans woman, and he totally supported her. If she makes it down here, down in the finals, she is welcome with open arms. And so, when he mentioned at the convention that he would support the LGBT community and got a thunderous applause from the Republicans in the audience, that made me somewhat encouraged. I really appreciated that. Then all of a sudden, he pulls back on this state of mind. That was unfortunate. Honestly, I think he was talked out of it, primarily by Jeff Sessions. I just want equality for everyone. I want to kick the bathroom issue. I want safety for everybody. I'm on that side.
I heard through the grapevine that you might run for office...
CJ: Over the next year, I have to figure out where I can do best to bring the issues forward to the community. I am constantly looking for ways to do that. I kind of have to evaluate where the best places for me to be to bring this issue forward are. Is it working from the outside? Which I do right now. Or is it better to be on the inside? That would be politically. Running for office and making changes that way. I have not come up with that decision. Later on when I do, I'll figure it out. But the political side of this is very important. I want to make it better politically, so where I end up in the future I don't know. But I'm certainly not putting out that I'm running for office.
You've gone through so much to get to this point where you are now, what advice would you give to your younger self about the life you're about to live?
CJ: That's a tough one because every situation is different, so it's difficult for me to say. All I can say is that after such a long journey for me, to finally get to the point in your life where you can be accepted for who you are, and to live your life with no secrets, with everything out in the open, it is a wonderful, wonderful place to be in life. It's difficult to get to but a wonderful place to be. Do your best to be number one, a good person, and have morally high standards, and eventually everybody will come around. And they will see your happiness because my life today—you might think your life might be so complicated now, but my life today is so simple. I just get up in the morning, be myself, go out, and enjoy the kindness of other. There's so much less drama in my life and so much less drama in my head. Everybody has stuff that they have to deal with. Sexual issues, gender issues, alcohol, drugs, whatever it maybe. Everybody's got their stuff they have to deal with. And being able to get through that and just be yourself is a wonderful place to be.
Photography courtesy Ruven Alfanador