Now out, Bruce Jenner shines spotlight on transgender inequality

Sat Apr 25, 2015 12:08pm EDT
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By Mary Milliken

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - In coming out as a transgender woman, U.S. Olympic gold medalist and TV reality star Bruce Jenner made clear that while he is keen to help raise awareness about problems faced by the community, he is not self-appointing himself as a spokesman.

During a groundbreaking interview on ABC Friday night, Jenner made a case for the transgender community's fight in the United States for equality, a safer society and more acceptance and understanding - in Washington, in church, in the media.

"I would like to work with this community to get this message out. They know a lot more than I know. I am not a spokesman for the community," said the 65-year-old Jenner, now the most high-profile American to come out as transgender.

Putting such a well-known face and name to the causes of transgender people could help accelerate the drive for equality, just as high-profile endorsements gave momentum to the fight to legalize gay marriage in the United States, say people who work with the community.

In the last few years, the community's visibility has been on the rise. Hollywood began to embrace transgender characters and storylines in TV shows like "Transparent" and "Orange Is the New Black," whose transgender star Laverne Cox appeared on the cover of Time magazine last year.

But mainstream acceptance of transgender people is in its infancy, making the transition hard for everyone, whether famous like Jenner or not.

"There are still a lot of haters out there and there are still a lot of people who don't fully understand it," said Barbara Warren, a psychologist and director for LGBT Health Services at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City. The initials refer to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

"The more people that are prominent and are influencers and can share and humanize the transgender experience, the more our social system will become more accepting," Warren added.   Continued...

Bruce Jenner is seen as he sits down with ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer for a two-hour interview that aired during a special edition of ABC News' "20/20" on April 24, 2015, in this handout courtesy of ABC News. REUTERS/ABC News/Handout via Reuters