Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce Jenner, has had an incredible life. A former Olympian who won a gold medal in 1976, Jenner was then a symbol of masculinity.
“It was an all-American story,” a sports news anchor recently told ESPN of Jenner. “A magnetic cosmetically gifted athlete. You couldn’t take your eyes off him.”
But for 60 years, the athlete was keeping a secret.
“I’ve always known that I was different than everyone else,” Jenner said in an ESPN tribute video. “I could play that type of male gender role, but I always felt female and that really scared me.”
ESPN gave Jenner the Arthur Ashe Courage Award on Wednesday evening at its annual ESPY ceremony. Before Jenner took the stage, ESPN played a moving tribute video about her life and athletic career. In the video you learn a lot about Jenner, how difficult her transition has been, and why she finally came to terms with herself publicly. At one particularly low point, Jenner says she contemplated suicide.
Here are the highlights of the video, and Jenner’s inspiring life.
Caitlyn Jenner went through most of her life as a man. She got married multiple times and has ten children.
After becoming a gold medalist, she was placed on magazine covers and Wheaties boxes. But Jenner’s personal identity crisis never went away.
“Relationships for me were always tough,” Jenner says. “I always felt like I was hiding myself from everybody.”
Jenner’s family didn’t know how she felt for a very long time.
“He couldn’t open up to us because he couldn’t tell us his deepest feelings. It broke my heart,” Esther Avry, Jenner’s 88-year-old mother, said in the tribute video. “And I had no idea. And of all people your mother should have a better insight than that. But he was awfully good at hiding it.”
It wasn’t until the late 1980s that Jenner began the process of transitioning from a man to a woman, taking hormones and getting plastic surgery. But she feared what her secret would do to her family, so she stopped.
“It’s too bad because I wasted a lot of my life and nobody really knew who I am,” Jenner said. “And that’s sad.”
After her marriage to Kris Jenner ended in 2013, Jenner finally came to terms with herself. Jenner says those first few months were the hardest of her life.
One of Jenner’s most challenging moments occurred last January, when Jenner had some of her adam’s apple surgically shaved down. When she left the doctor’s appointment, the paparazzi was waiting outside. She knew her secret was about to be made public, and Jenner was distraught.
The paparazzi snapped a photo of her crying in her car in the hospital parking lot.
“That was really, really hard to see because my dad does not cry,’ Jenner’s daughter, Kendall, said in the video.
Jenner says she contemplated suicide after that. “You have a gun, there’s an easy way out,” Jenner said. “No more pain, no more problems, I can see how people are driven to that. You don’t want to deal with life anymore.”
Instead, Jenner says she had a revelation. “Of all the things I’ve done in my life, maybe this is my calling,” Jenner thought. “To take my struggle and bring it out to the world.”
Since learning Jenner’s true identity, her family has been incredibly supportive.
“To think of someone not being able to be free is heartbreaking. And to finally be able to be free, that must be the greatest feeling in the world,” Kendall Jenner said.
“When she was receiving that medal, I never thought I could ever be more proud,” Jenner’s mother Avry said. “But I was wrong. I am now. Even more proud. And believe me, I’m not losing anything. I’m gaining. A better relationship with my child.”
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