Media portrays Bruce Jenner’s gender transformation in a negative light



Haley Beyma

Accumulating reports are suggesting that Bruce Jenner is transitioning to female and plans to unveil the details of his transition on the upcoming seasons of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” However, like most Bruce Jenner “news” that has surfaced in the past few months, this remains unconfirmed. 

The Jenners and Kardashians have been hot topics in tabloid reports for the past six months. Photos of Bruce in his car with diamond earrings and seemingly manicured fingernails surfaced in December 2014 and launched a flurry of public speculation over whether the former Olympian is transgender. The coverage took a turn for the worse when “InTouch Weekly” released its now infamous Jan. 14 edition. The cover featured a poorly photoshopped picture of Bruce Jenner with feminine clothing and garish makeup with the headline “Bruce’s Story: My Life as a Woman.”   

Reaction to the cover was swift and nearly exclusively negative. Members of the transgender community, Jenner allies and the Kardashian clan were quick to come to Bruce’s defense, pointing out how offensive and transphobic the image was.  However, not long after the cover was released, more and more media outlets—“TMZ,” “The Daily Mail,” “People,” “Radar Online” and countless others—happily hopped on the “Is Bruce a woman?!” bandwagon no matter how damaging and unethical this type of baseless reporting actually is. Best-selling author and host of MSNBC’s “So POPular!” Janet Mock called out “InTouch” for the offensive story, slamming the cover as “shockingly insensitive, sensational and inaccurate.” Though the headline may read “My Life as a Woman,” do not be fooled into thinking this transition narrative the media has created is in any way Jenner’s story. 

Bruce Jenner has not come forward publicly and furthermore has not indicated in any way that he is currently in the mist of a transition. All the “facts” of the transition drama are speculation and extrapolation. 

But contrary to most harmless factually incorrect tabloid gossip, the Bruce Jenner coverage has tangibly negative social effects. 

The media’s portrayal of Bruce Jenner has become the modern day equivalent of a freak show. The coverage makes transition a comedy and pushes members of the Transgender community further to the margins. 

The media’s mockery of the transgendered does not stop with Bruce—there has been recent speculation over the gender of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s 8 year old daughter Shiloh, and everyone who follows entertainment news will undoubtedly remember the frenzy that followed Chaz Bono’s transition in 2010. 

This portrait of members of the transgender community as the modern freaks is damaging to an equality-based, progressive society. There is nothing scandalous about being transgender, unless one views those who have transitioned as freaks. The true scandal of the Bruce Jenner saga is how major players in the media seem to have no qualms about promoting baseless speculation as hard facts. 

Some have argued that this criticism of Bruce is “fair game” for a family that got famous as a result of appearing on a successful reality show. 

These critics are missing the point. This isn’t just about Bruce Jenner, this is about the innumerable people who are coming to terms with their gender, those who recently came out as transgender and those of us who are patiently waiting for members of the transgender community to  become fully accepted in modern society. 

“InTouch” makes a mockery out of a very serious identity issue—they assert that being trans, particularly being a transwoman is odd or a joke.

 It’s a narrative that paints the transgender as subhuman and unworthy of happiness. 

I have no idea if Bruce Jenner is transgender or not, but rather than guessing, I will be patiently waiting to see if he says so himself.