Diane Sawyer’s April 24, 2015 ABC News interview with Bruce Jenner drew 16.9 million total viewers. The interview was deemed highly anticipated, as the American public, via media reports, expected to hear comments regarding Jenner’s gender identity. During the two-hour block of time, viewership increased as the interview unfolded. Jenner had been in the public eye for several decades, first as an Olympic champion in the 1970s and more recently as a reality television show regular on Keeping Up with the Kardashians. In a sense, Americans thought they knew much about Jenner leading up to this interview; however, they would learn more, such as the fact that Jenner considers himself Republican and Christian.
In reports following the event, CNBC described the two hours as “moving, touching, and affirming” and referred to Jenner as “humble, personable, and flawed.” LGBTQ advocates were generally pleased with the interview, noting that it represented an “accurate portrayal of what it means to be transgender” and did not cater to sensationalism (The Advocate). Trans woman and star of Orange is the New Black, Laverne Cox, offered caution in pointing out that Jenner’s story is “very specific” in that “most trans people don’t have that kind of privilege.” Indeed, violence against trans people, including murder, is endemic in the United States, especially for trans women of color.
Taking Cox’s point that much privilege is embedded within Jenner’s life and story (such that he is not like most trans people), and at the same time, the interview received an overall positive reception in casting Jenner as an everyday and relatable person (via descriptors such as “accurate,” “humble,” and “flawed”), what was the take-away from this interview for most American viewers? In particular, what were its lessons regarding trans experiences and identities?
Washington State University
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