Ralph Higgins

Ralph Higgins
color pencil sketch by Gayle Higgins

Quotes I Like

"If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools."

– Plato


Monday, April 27, 2015

Bruce Jenner's Transition

     Why would a former Olympic decathlon champion want to transition into a 65-year-old grandmother? 


            Most of us remember the 1976 Olympics and the world's best athlete running an extra lap, fists in the air while flashing that famous smile after winning the decathlon.  


            Bruce Jenner had it all.  He was a handsome 6 foot 2 inch kid in a toned body and a smile that still turns my wife into a quivering bowl of Jello.  I keep a spray bottle of ice water handy to cool her down during these attacks. I had to spray her down today while she watched Brad Pitt in the movie "Troy."  


            But now macho Bruce Jenner wants to be a woman...  He says that in his mind he is a woman.


            Back in the '50s all the boys, myself included, made jokes about Christine Jorgensen, the first man to become a woman.  In those days that was mind-boggling.  Contemplating the surgical "elimination" process was  enough to make a young boy instinctively curl into a protective fetal position.  Louis Armstrong singing "Mack the Knife" created an image of "Mack" in a surgical gown with a meat cleaver as a scalpel. 


            In his recent interview with Diane Sawyer, Bruce admitted that he was more female than male in terms of his self concept.  He said that this dilemma had haunted him from early childhood. Evidently, that's how Bruce always saw himself - as female.  


            Interestingly, after hearing Jenner's story, the Russian athlete that Jenner beat for the decathlon gold metal in the Olympics joked that he can't believe he got beat by a woman.  

            I don't follow Hollywood stuff, sitcoms, and celebrity trash, but when I stand in the check-out line at Safeway and wait as the checker yells "Price check on three," I can't avoid the rags in the rack headlines. The strange family that is famous for being famous continues to keep the tabloids in business. Now we watch as the patriarch of that family turns into a woman before our eyes.  


            Jenner was an international hero and I admired his athleticism, as I did with Bob Mathias before him.  I don't know and I don't care about Jenner's weird family, but I learned something about Bruce by watching his interview.  I also learned something about Diane Sawyer, who lacked the intelligence to decipher Jenner's explanation of the psychodynamics of the conflict he has lived with since childhood. She was more interested in what Jenner's sexual orientation would be after his transition.


            Sawyer went so far as to ask Bruce if he was a lesbian.  I told Gayle that if a magic genie popped out of a bottle and changed me into a woman, I would immediately become a lesbian.  Jenner responded that he is a normal heterosexual, i.e. he's attracted to women.  But sexual attraction is not his issue.  


            Jenner  tried to explain that sexual orientation and desire has nothing to do with his attempt to bring his body into alignment with his self concept.  The man is 65 years old and not focused on getting laid.  Unfortunately, Sawyer's depth of understanding went about as deep as Jenner's nail polish.


            I had firm preconceptions about this entire Jenner thing prior to hearing him explain his background.  Since early childhood when he would put on his sister's clothes well into his adulthood, as he tried to hide his conflict over sexual identity, Jenner tells a sad story. It's a very complex issue. 


            After listening to Bruce during the interview, I came away with better understanding of some of the psychological elements and the process that led to his "coming out."  The "nature nurture" question had been settled in my mind, but if Jenner is being truthful, I may have to allow more latitude in my position.  


            However, I still believe that the appetite that one feeds is the one that grows.  This is most easily confirmed in the area of sex and is a good topic for analysis sometime.  


            I admire Jenner for his honesty and courage in revealing himself to the world.  However I don't agree that he "had to" lay his problem at the feet of his ten kids and seven grandchildren, his mother, his entire family, and his many fans.  He had lived with this problem for over six decades and at the age of 65, why not hang in for the remaining years, maintaining his "manly" image for the sake of his family? 


            Many times confession takes the burden off the "confessor" and simply passes that burden on to someone else; in this case Jenner's family. 


            Diane Sawyer failed to focus on the developmental basis of Jenner's problem, but tried in vain to move it into the area of homosexuality and politics.  She was authentically shocked when Bruce told her that he wasn't an "Obama fan" and, in fact is a conservative Republican.  Even more shocking to Sawyer, he also stated that he is a Christian.  That blew the template. 


            Sawyer may have left the interview bewildered and confused by the psychodynamics involved in Bruce Jenner's conflicts as well as the fact that he is a Christian and a political conservative. I, on the other hand, am left with a better understanding of the lifetime psychological battle of a good, but conflicted man.  




  1. I agree that Diane was too subjective with her own thoughts on the sexual aspect. However, I believe that Bruce was quite informal and outspoken and regardless of his age, he does deserve to be open the same as those of us who have always known that we are heterosexual or homosexual, and are certain of our identity. I do not think it is a choice, anymore than being straight, gay or lesbian is. When our gay child came out to us, my husband and I knew (as did his two brothers) that he was still the same wonderful person we brought into this sometimes confusing world. ..,and so did his grandmother of 90. Even he has had adjusting to do with the transgender issue, and initially saw it years ago as weird! That is just one of the words I too, would define the "K" family as, tho!! My heartthrobs of youth were: ELVIS,, James Dean, Rock Hudson, and Johnny Mathis. ..with the Kingston Trio, and Peter, Paul and Mary, simply for their music. We were married 50 years last December, and still like, as well as love, each other.. fortunately.thru lots of laughs!

    1. Judi -
      First - congratulations on 50 years of marriage. That is something to be proud of. Gayle and I would have to live well into our hundreds to make it to 50.
      Bruce expressed the emotional aspects of the conflict he experienced most of his life and that had to be a tough journey.
      Of the "heartthrobs" you mentioned, two were gay, as you probably know. But Elvis, the Kingston Trio, and others from that era sure beat what passes as music today.
      I agree. The "K" family, as you said, is truly weird, but they sure rake in the money, which is a sad commentary on our culture and its tastes.

    2. I didn't realize as a kid that Rock was gay, did know about Johnny.. Any music, movies, and celebrities, etc. today only have to be...it seems...is Loud and often vulgar...for which they are paid HUGELY!
      It sure does not seem like it has been 58 years since our graduation does it?! Similar to what Julie Andrews commented in her interview with Diane, re: the past 50 yr.
      Thank you, and It sounds like you and Gayle are very blessed to have "discovered" each other the 2nd time around, however.
      My apologies esp. to Miss Haywood for my rather-run-on paragraphs!!
      Have a happy May.