By: GVSU alum T Stastny
(Note: even though Bruce is currently still being referred to in the media with masculine pronouns, I’m going to try to use the safe & neutral “they” in this post. I’ll probably mess up and accidentally say “he” at some point just because it’s what’s been familiar for so long, so I apologize in advance and please point it out to me if you notice it anywhere here and I will go back and edit it. Thanks.)
It’s a gloomy cold rainy Saturday morning and I’ve spent half of it wandering downtown Chicago alone, and the other half all cozied up watching Diane Sawyer’s interview with Bruce Jenner on Hulu. I got massively emotional for a lot of reasons, so I felt I should write this just to get all this crap out and hopefully maybe (but probably not) impact someone else by sharing.
Just over one year ago, I dropped out of what should have been my final semester of college. I had 12 credits to go, and in the eyes of my mother I was soooo close that if only I could stick it out for a few more months, I would be done and free to move back home and leave lonely rural Michigan behind forever. The year prior to this had been a rough one as well, and I had only just scraped through the fall semester of my senior year. I wasn’t taking a heavy load of classes compared to most of my peers, yet everything seemed ten times harder. I spent nearly every other day in the GVSU Women’s Center, crying next to one of the staff there that I was super close to, and telling her “I just don’t think I can do it. I don’t think I can finish this. I’m not good enough.” It was only with hefty support from Women’s Center staff, communicating on my behalf with my professors, that I was able to make it through the fall of 2013.
I was dealing with crippling anxiety at that point in my life. I couldn’t really tell you where exactly it came from, because to me it seemed to come from everywhere. Literally every moment of every single day was filled with catastrophic thinking, paranoia, isolation, dread, and darkness. I lived on the floor of my living room in front of the TV in a nest of pillows and blankets but none of that made me any more comfortable and relaxed and safe. I tried doing several things to escape it. I tried running it off at the gym, tried calming it down with yoga and meditative practices, tried tuning it out with mind-numbing television series’. The running often made it worse because it would make my heart beat faster, the yoga was too quiet and just made the anxiety seem more pronounced to me.
But the mind-numbing TV shows? Those worked pretty well. I felt like nothing else mattered when I was watching this crap. And it was during that time I began watching ‘Keeping Up With the Kardashians.’
Now, I don’t believe that I even knew exactly who the Kardashians were until this point. But their reality show fascianted me. For one thing, they had a fucking beautiful house. I’ve always been a sucker for luxury homes and seeing how wealthy people live from the inside. Granted, I realize that a reality show probably isn’t the most accurate depiction of the Kardashians actual lives. But it allowed me to have my own fantasies about what I would do if I were living in a multi-million dollar home in a super affluent part of Southern California and how in this fantasy of mine, everything was perfectly fine and I didn’t have to worry about one damn thing. And this was probably the most relieving thing to me, sitting alone in my college apartment, watching this show and not having to worry about one damn thing. I was finally, for a moment, calmed down. Now obviously, I still ended up dropping out of school that semester. But I found one coping mechanism in the form a reality TV show.
Though I quickly became a fan of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, I wasn’t exactly a fan of Bruce Jenner. In the show, he just seemed like a cranky middle-aged fuddy duddy with an annoying voice. He sat around the house all day and played with toy helicopters and didn’t really do anything of relative importance. When I first heard about this supposed transition that Bruce Jenner was going through to become a woman, I was admittedly pretty skeptical, because I think my first introduction to it was from the cover of a celebrity gossip magazine in the checkout line at a supermarket. That, and the fact that I was aware by that time that talk show hosts and other famous people had been sort of mocking Bruce Jenner for years, saying he looked like a woman and whatnot, blah blah blah, yea okay whatever.
It was, however, conflicting for me. Because for years I’ve been a strong ally/advocate for LGBTQ issues and making progress in society for these people, especially trans* people who face so much violence and danger just for trying to live as they are. I’ve seen too many posts about transgender youth having their lives taken by either themselves or others in the last several years, and I know it existed long before I became aware of this injustice. And I understand that it’s never okay to make light of someone who might be struggling with their identity. Hell, I’ve even had my own identity struggles with gender and sexuality and not knowing for sure if maybe I needed to change the way I identify. Though I don’t feel that I can consider myself to be trans*, I still often feel that there is a certain queerness about me somewhere in someway that I can’t exactly pinpoint or figure out, and I’ve honestly sort of lost the motivation to figure it out because identity-wise, I’m pretty content saying I’m a straight, cis chick. My presentation and my comfort level with certain things seems to fluctuate on occasion. I’ve never been exactly thrilled with the female-ness of my body (I could do without the boobs and the hips and all the squishyness) but I’ve never ever wished that I was male and I’ve never felt that “she” was the wrong pronoun to use for myself. And a lot of the stuff I experience seems to be common among other girls I’ve known, so maybe it’s really not that big of a deal and maybe a lot of us are a little queer and that’s just fine.
I was so happy when I watched this interview and saw all of Bruce’s kids talking how they are so supportive of Bruce and they wish only the best for their dad in this process. And honestly I have so much admiration for Bruce after hearing them tell their whole life story. Because I cannot even begin how difficult it is for a regular transgender person to begin their transition process and openly identify as their true self. But for a person of such celebrity stature as Bruce Jenner, who is constantly under the public eye being followed by cameras every single time they step outside their house, and as their son mentioned in the interview, it undoubtedly takes infinitely more bravery and strength to go though this transition now than any of the Olympic accomplishments Bruce had in the past. Life for transgender people is so hard and scary, especially trans* women. I wish Bruce all the best and I am excited that they are now able to begin living their life as they know they were always meant to.
I still am a very very anxiety ridden person. And I still watch Keeping Up With the Kardashians pretty often, as it is among my most consistent comforts. I know it’s not everyone’s preferred TV show. In fact, I know for certain than many of my friends frown upon those who do watch it or any sort of reality show for that matter. Oh well. You do you & I’ll do me, I guess.