IN HER OWN WORDS
Surgery, Suicide, and Self-Acceptance: Caitlyn Jenner Bares All in Vanity Fair
Beneath the glamorized Annie Leibovitz photo is a powerful story about her youthful gender dysphoria, the Kardashians, and much more.
The tantalizing “her” referred to in Diane Sawyer’s interview with Bruce Jenner in April, but not seen, is now very visibly her.
Bruce Jenner is now Caitlyn Jenner, and as shot for the July cover of Vanity Fair by Annie Leibovitz wearing a white corset, looks extremely gorgeous. The cover line is simple: “Call Me Caitlyn,” and Jenner’s stunning look drew online comparisons with Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon.
Inside the July edition of the magazine, on sale on newsstands next week (but available to read to subscribers now), Jenner talks to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Vanity Fair contributing editor Buzz Bissinger, movingly and candidly about all aspects of her transition. Oh, and paparazzi: she’s ready for you. Just make sure you get her best side.
Caitlyn Jenner now has her own Twitter account, whose first Tweet was the cover, then this message: “I’m so happy after such a long struggle to be living my true self. Welcome to the world Caitlyn. Can’t wait for you to get to know her/me.” In four hours, she gained 1 million Twitter followers—faster even than @POTUS.
Here is Vanity Fair’s landmark interview broken down into its major parts.
The moment Bruce became Caitlyn
The Vanity Fair story opens on March 15, with Bruce Jenner preparing for facial-feminization surgery, which involves forehead contouring, jaw and chin contouring, and breast augmentation.
Bruce Jenner walked into the surgery, and Caitlyn Jenner left afterwards, writes Bissinger.
“I wish I were kind of normal,” says Jenner. “It would be so much more simple. The uncomfortableness of being me never leaves all day long.”
The moment Jenner contemplated suicide
Jenner wanted to privately disclose his gender identity struggles to his children, but TMZ revealed his secret before he had the chance.
The call came in December 2013, after his tracheal shave. He pleaded with TMZ that their scoop would “destroy lives.” He considered taking his own life the night after the story was published: he would shoot himself with the gun he kept in his rented Malibu home.
Caitlyn Jenner ‘doesn’t have any lies’
After Jenner has a panic attack following the most recent operation, a counselor from the Los Angeles Gender Center told her that such reactions were often induced by the pain medication. Caitlyn has no regrets.
“If I was lying on my deathbed and I had kept this secret and never ever did anything about it, I would be lying there saying, ‘You just blew your entire life,’” Caitlyn tells Bissinger. “‘You never dealt with yourself,’ and I don’t want that to happen.”
Bruce Jenner, she said, was “always telling lies.” Caitlyn Jenner, she said, “doesn’t have any lies.”
The Jenner children despise the reality TV circus
Bissinger writes Jenner’s four children from his first and second marriages fear the imminent reality show about his transition will undo the “spectacular way” Bruce came across in his blockbuster, widely hailed Diane Sawyer interview, and “endanger what she can do for the continued momentum of the transgender movement.”
But Caitlyn says that, as the program’s executive producer, she has full creative control.
The four children have refused to participate in the show.
She’s Still Dad
“Love has nothing to do with gender,” said Caitlyn’s daughter Cassandra. “There’s no way to separate what he’s going through, the trap he’s been in for the past 60 years and how that has affected his choices around love and relationships. It’s impossible.”
When Jenner finally did sit down with his children individually, they were completely supportive—and not at all surprised. His ex-wife had told Burt and Cassandra about their father’s gender identity struggles when they were 13 and 11, respectively.
Brandon, the eldest, said watching Jenner’s interview with Sawyer was “one of the best nights of my life.”
“I feel like he’s been closest to us and the best parent when he’s been moving toward his true identity,” Cassandra tells Bissinger.
Girls’ night with her daughters
After coming out to his children, Jenner began hosting “girls’ nights” as part of his transition: an occasion when he could comfortably dress up as a woman and feel like one of the girls. Cassandra met Caitlyn for the first time during one of these occasions. “We talked more than we ever have,” she tells Bissinger.
The ‘dark years’ when he first tried to transition
In the mid- and late 1980s, Jenner took hormones that resulted in breast growth and had his beard removed “through an incredibly painful two-year regimen of electrolysis that he withstood without any medication because ‘pain is kind of, for me, part of the pain for being me … this is what you get for being who you are. Just take the pain.’”
Fear stopped Jenner from completing the transition. Bissinger writes: “He needed credibility to squelch the rumors, and he told me marrying Kris Kardashian, in 1991, helped give him that along with compatibility and love.” Jenner jealously observed men, easy in their surface gender skins.
The Kris Jenner Years
Around 1990, Jenner stopped his transition, says Bissinger, needing to “get back in the game.” But there is disagreement between Kris and her former husband about what he told Kris about his gender issues, and about whether he cross-dressed in front of her (Bruce says he did, Kris not). She denies ever laying down rules about where and how he could cross-dress.
How Kris and Bruce’s marriage broke down
Caitlyn says their dynamic changed when Keeping Up with the Kardashians became a huge success because Kris “had her own money, she didn’t need me as much from that standpoint.” With her new financial independence, Kris became “less tolerant” of Bruce, so much so that it was evident even on the show. “People would see how I got mistreated,” Caitlyn says.
But Kris says the marriage fell apart because Bruce “wasn’t who he wanted to be so he was miserable.” She cites his increasing “social anxiety” in the final years of their marriage. Kris felt betrayed that he chose to have a family with her despite knowing he wanted to be a woman since he was a young boy.
Jenners vs. Kardashians
The Jenner children insist their relationship with their father broke down when he became a member of the Kardashian clan. Burt Jenner said “the nail in the coffin for the relationship was the beginning of the TV show.”
OK, paparazzi, come get her
Now that she’s fully transitioned, Caitlyn won’t be hiding from the paparazzi. She says she’ll embrace their flashing bulbs whenever she’s in public and plans to tell them to “make sure it’s a good shot.”