Bruce Jenner can play key role in transgender progress

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

He’s an Olympic gold medalist, a Wheaties box athlete and a reality TV star — and, now, he may become a she. Bruce Jenner’s gender transformation has been ubiquitous among celebrity gossip in recent weeks. On Feb. 6, The New York Times reported that Jenner may have a reality show about his transformation in the works. The media plays a major role in shaping public opinion — sometimes for good, and sometimes for bad.

While reality television is often antithetical to actual reality, the public could benefit from a program that chronicles the change from a man to a woman. Our society has made gradual legislative progress on same-sex marriage equality, though social prejudice against minority sexualities still lingers. 

We cannot let transgenderism fall behind. In showcasing Jenner’s transformation, we have an opportunity to tear down the unfortunate taboo surrounding transgenderism. 

Jenner is an ideal individual to chronicle because he demonstrates the many dimensions that surround gender. For decades, many have viewed him as an exemplary stereotypical male because of his masculine looks and athleticism. 

At the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, he won the gold medal in the men’s decathlon, a combined event that consists of 10 track and field events. Traditionally, the decathlon winner is dubbed the “world’s greatest athlete.” The world’s top athlete became a national hero and was the 1976 Associated Press Athlete of the Year. 

If reports are true about Jenner’s possible gender transformation, hopefully more people will understand that gender is more complicated than athleticism and gold medals. It involves complex cultural and social positions that cannot be defined solely by others’ perception. 

A program detailing Jenner’s position, whether in the format of a reality show or documentary, can play a major role in desensitizing a public that too willingly ignores or dismisses the struggles of transgender individuals.

 Jenner’s transformation to a woman can play a crucial role in societal integration of transgender people. For this to happen, those behind his program must accurately and truthfully portray his story, free from the shallow conflict that often comes with reality TV. Even if you liked watching him in Montreal or with the Kardashians, perhaps Jenner’s most important contribution to society lies ahead.

Let’s hope we’ll have something to tune in to.