In recent weeks there has been much speculation that Olympic star and Kardashian clan member Bruce Jenner has been undergoing a gender change. Bruce Jenner’s before and after pictures reveal that he is now sporting long hair and nails and a fuller bosom. Jenner is fortunate in that he has received the support of his family.
His story highlights the questions of what is transgender, sex and gender and gender stereotypes. Framed as they are in the context of a public figure’s personal struggles, these timely issues would be good research paper topics.
The story of Bruce Jenner
Bruce Jenner first exploded into the public scene when he distinguished himself by winning the gold medal for the decathlon in the 1976 Montreal Olympics. His victory in this ten-event competition earned him the title of “the world’s greatest athlete.”
According to Frank Deford, Jenner then turned his energy and focus from athletics to cashing in on his celebrity status. In his April 22, 2015, article for NPR.org, “Bruce Jenner’s Long History of Clearing Hurdles,” Deford described Jenner’s strategy.
“He was essentially broke financially, but he was confident, buoyant and saw perfectly how his life could be completely changed forever if he won. Jenner succeeded after winning precisely because he did not seem contrived,” Deford stated.
Deford went on to speculate that Jenner has taken that same focus and commitment along with media savvy into his journey through gender transition.
What is transgender?
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), transgender is “an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth.”
You don’t have to go through a surgical procedure in order to be transgender. It has to do with your gender identity and how a person chooses to express his or her gender. For some, gender expression is achieved through clothing, hair or makeup. However, keep in mind that not everyone who is a nonconformist in their dress is transgender. In their pamphlet, “What does transgender mean?” the APA answered related questions and a list of resources where more information on transgender issues can be found.
Transgender college students
As a college student, it is possible that you know someone who is transgender. According to authors David A. Scott, Stephanie L. Belke, and Hannah G. Barfield, the number of transgender college students increases each year. These students face special challenges that other students don’t. And college campuses have few resources with which to help them.
In their article “Career Development with Transgender College Students: Implications for Career and Employment Counselors” Scott, et al. pointed out that while career services are currently available for students with disabilities, those with cultural and language barriers, gay, lesbian, and bisexual students, transgender students are underserved when it comes to career development.
The authors proposed five areas of focus for career development professionals to address in order to better serve their transgender student populations. Scott, et al. stated that there is a “critical need” for research on this topic so that evidence-based career and employment counseling techniques can be developed specifically for transgender students.
For personal insights on what it is to be transgender, Amanda Chan used the app, Whisper, to gather candid thoughts from people in the transgender community. These revelations were published in her April 23, 2015, post for Yahoo Health, “What People Get Wrong About Being Transgender.”
The moving comments revealed that those who are transgender often suffer abuse and ridicule as well as rejection from their own families. Perhaps Bruce Jenner’s journey will help to quell the prejudice and misinformation that makes living as a transsexual so challenging.
What do you think about Bruce Jenner’s transformation? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.