Caitlyn Jenner Gives Moving Speech On Coming Out As Transgender
By Kate Shepherd in News on Nov 12, 2015 9:57PM
Caitlyn Jenner took Chicago by storm Thursday with an emotional speech about her journey from a child in suburban New York who knew she had a "female soul" to the Olympics, and beyond—including her role on "Keeping Up With The Kardashians" and being a burgeoning icon in the transgender community.
It's been a landmark year for Jenner, who came out to Diane Sawyer in an interview this spring, and transgender acceptance. Speaking in public for the first time since she won the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2015 ESPYs, she poured her heart out to the crowd for more than an hour. She hopes her remarkable journey will help others in the transgender community and change the conversation.
"Maybe this is the reason God put me on this earth: to tell my story to help other people. This is bigger than anything," she told a packed room at Chicago House's annual speaker series luncheon at the Hilton Chicago. "This story is about life. Maybe in God's eyes, that's why he put me on this earth. It gave me a lot of strength."
During the last six months, she says she's learned how many wonderful people are involved in the transgender community. And she's been overwhelmed to see how many people want to help and donate time and money.
Although Jenner said she knows that she has a lot to learn and her experience is not normal for transgender women, she hopes that sharing her experiences with her platform will make gender issues normal and open up the conversation. She can take the criticism and negative comments, Jenner adds, but she doesn't want others in the trans community to have to deal with it.
"I want to make this better for them, not for me," she said.
There were a handful of protestors outside the hotel but no one has said a negative comment to her face in the six months she's been open about her transition. She hopes that her positive experience and the public acceptance of her transition will work its way through the community.
Listening to the stories of other transgender women like her cast-mates on her E! reality show "I Am Cait" has been an educational experience for her. She credits her co-stars, who sat at her table for lunch where they all were filmed for the show's second season, with changing her life.
"There are political issues we have to deal with. Social issues we have to deal with but hey, the conversation is open," she said.
During her time as a motivational speaker, she would stand up and look at the audience think, "These people don't know anything about me. There's so much more to me than 48 hours in 1976. I hope that someday I can tell my story."
"It starts today,"she said.
Jenner's story starts at the beginning of her life. Identified as male at birth, she said she's always had a woman living inside her. Her soul was female and it was with her 24 hours a day. It was her secret to deal with; there wasn't even a name for gender issues when she was growing up in the 1950s and '60s.
Diversions helped her get through life. Sports was where she could "be a man" and hide from her problems, she said. She was considered "the world's greatest athlete" but as soon as she reached the pinnacle of athletics, her masked struggles came back to haunt her.
The day after winning the gold medal in the decathlon at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, she recalled standing in the mirror with her gold medal on and staring at her reflection. She had retired and was forced to deal with herself again.
"It kind of scared me. I lost my little security blanket. It was gone," she said. "What's my next diversion going to be?"
She got a job with ABC and dove back into work, which has distracted her.
"It's like my entire life, I never really had to deal with myself as who I am as a person, as a human being on this earth," Jenner said.
For a while she went through the early stages of transitioning but stopped at 39 because she knew it wasn't the right time to do it, she added.
The family reality show "Keeping Up With The Kardashians" turned into a cultural phenomenon—and as a result Jenner's and the Kardashians' every move have been documented and analyzed in the media since the late 2000s.
About two and a half years ago, Jenner's relationship with wife Kris Jenner ended and she moved back to Malibu, where she lived before their marriage. She was right back where she started and dealing with the same issues as she was at 8-years-old. She wondered, "What the hell am I going to do with my life?" she said.
Then the tabloids started all their rumors about her transition.
"For the next two years, I was destroyed," she said.
She was bombarded by magazine covers every time she went to the grocery store. Plus the paparazzi was always hounding her and trying to get some kind of picture. She even started wearing the same outfit every day to deter them.
Word leaked out of a medical practice to TMZ in early 2014 that Jenner had underwent a tracheal shave, which is a common surgery during some gender transitions. TMZ head honcho Harvey Levin called her before publishing the story and she pleaded with him on the phone to not go through with the story.
"'Harvey don't do this,' I said. 'People die over this issue. You're going to destroy me and destroy my family.' It was devastating."
Jenner couldn't sleep that night and was walking around her house wondering what to do when she briefly considered suicide. She came back to her senses and realized that she needed to live and finally share her story.
"What a terrible way to end my story," she thought the next day. "There's so much there I need to tell. I don't want it to end that way. How can I tell my story to make a difference?"
Jenner said she and her PR guru needed to bring the issue out of the the tabloids' "gutter" and bring it to a higher level of discussion. So they enlisted Diane Sawyer for the coming out interview and Vanity Fair to reveal her new name and the first pictures since her transition.
"With Diane's dedication, her empathy for this issue, she did an absolutely wonderful job. I love Diane. It started the ball rolling in a very positive way."
The publicity has helped others understand transgender issues and bring the issue to the forefront, she said. Just two days ago, Jenner met with the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power to discuss the problems transgender people face around the world.
Power told her that she's glad Jenner is a Republican and she can take a stand on these issues within the party. Her conservative political views have been heavily criticized but she's liberal on social issues, she said.
"I think the Republicans need a little help and I'll be there to help them on those issues," she said.
She's extremely proud of her children's success and their acceptance of her journey. She broke the news about her transition each child individually. When she first told her son Brandon Jenner, he said, "I've never been more proud of you than I am right now."
During a recent lunch with stepdaughters Kourtney and Kim Kardashian and her daughter Kylie, Caitlin was thrilled that Kylie told her that their relationship has never been better than it is right now.
Jenner's purpose in life is being fulfilled.
"It's been such a road. I'm a spokesperson for my story," she said. "It's the only thing I can tell. The only thing I know about."