Bruce Jenner came out as transgender to his ex-wife, Linda Thompson, decades before coming out to Diane Sawyer, and the world, during a “20/20” interview that gave the ABC program its highest ratings in 15 years.
Thompson, who married Jenner in 1981 and gave birth to two sons during their romantic relationship, details how the Olympian shared the secret he had been hiding from the public his entire life, and how it affected their family in a Huffington Post blog titled, “How Living With and Loving Bruce Jenner Changed My Life Forever.”
“When Brody was about 18 months old and Brandon was about 3 and a half years old, Bruce came to me one day with a very somber look on his face and said, ‘There’s something about me that I really need to tell you, something you need to know,'” Thompson wrote. “I truly thought he might possibly tell me he had had an affair while on the road. But that’s not what he wanted to confess to me. Bruce told me that he identified as a woman.”
“As long as he could remember,” Thompson explained, “he had looked in the mirror and seen a masculine image staring back at him where there should have been a feminine reflection.”
She wrote that Bruce called his struggle with gender dysphoria “a living hell,” and informed her he would begin his journey to transitioning to a female.
“People have asked me, ‘Were there any signs or clues through the years that Bruce might have had this issue? Any evidence he wore your clothes?,'” Thompson wrote. “No. Not a clue. Nothing. Nada. Never.”
“Men aspired to be like him and wanted to hang out and play sports with him, and women were clearly attracted to him. The Bruce I knew back then was unstudied, affable, and seemingly very comfortable in his own skin. So it seemed,” Thompson wrote in the personal story that she said served to both support the transgender community, as well as “enlighten and inform” readers on the subject she says shaped her existence “immeasurably.”
Some speculated that the 2-hour ABC special, in which Jenner explained he’s “not gay,” would feature the “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” reality star revealing himself in women’s clothing, or perhaps disclose a female name, but neither happened.
Thompson, however, revealed that Jenner’s plan when beginning to transition “30 years ago” was to re-enter his children’s lives as “Aunt Heather.”
Thompson explained that she was initially “naïve” upon hearing the revelation from her then-husband’s mouth, and attended therapy sessions for six months with Jenner before separating and eventually divorcing.
She described his early efforts to transition through electrolysis hair removal as “excruciatingly painful,” and detailed a time her boys began to notice their father growing breasts as a result of female hormones he was injecting.
“One day, after having spent a little time at Bruce’s house, both boys came into the kitchen and said to me, ‘Mommy, we saw Daddy getting out of the shower naked, and Daddy has boobs!’ That day I began trying to cover for Bruce, trying to protect him and trying to explain away what was clearly happening to his visage,” Thompson wrote. “I was trying to shield Brandon and Brody from the truth and protect Bruce at the same time. It was exhausting.”
Thompson had nothing but kind, empathetic words for Jenner, but did admit that his personal struggle took a toll on his relationship with Brandon and Brody, who learned that their father identified as a female at 31 and 29 years old, respectively.
“After Bruce and Kris married, there were periods of several years going by without Bruce attempting to contact or visit his sons. No birthday cards or phone calls, no ‘Merry Christmas,’ no ‘Everything OK?’ after the big Northridge earthquake. Brandon and Brody will never have those ‘Hallmark memories’ of father-and-son moments,” Thompson wrote. “They were saddened by his lack of participation in their lives, and my heart ached for them. When Brandon asked me, ‘Mom, what kind of a father doesn’t come to his son’s graduation?’ I meekly replied, ‘Honey, your dad may have been the world’s greatest athlete physically, but emotionally, you have to view him in a wheelchair.'”
Still, she harbors no resentment for the man who told Sawyer he has “apologized to everyone” and “apologized enough” to those he may have hurt by keeping his gender identity secret.
“He can finally realize his need to be who he authentically is, who he was born to be. That takes tremendous courage. For that I commend him,” Thompson wrote at the tail end of her blog post. “Bruce has already ‘gone through the fire,’ suffered unfathomable discomfort and pain, been held prisoner in his own flesh. It is certainly not our place to judge him or others who may feel trapped, ostracized, or alone.”