Caitlyn Jenner has completed her transition and revealed her new name and identity on the July cover of Vanity Fair. The magazine has published a novella-length story from “Friday Night Lights” author Buzz Bissinger, who spent hundreds of hours with Jenner before and after her transition. It’s 33 pages in the magazine’s tablet edition where it’s available now with a subscription, but 22 in the print version, which hits newsstands June 9.
Here are the highlights:
Bissinger intially refers to Jenner as Bruce, and makes the choice to begin calling her Caitlyn at the point in the story after she leaves her doctor’s office following a 10-hour facial feminization surgery.
“The uncomfortableness of being me never leaves all day long,” she told Bissinger, who followed her playing a round of golf while she was still identifying as Bruce. “I’m not doing this to be interesting. I’m doing this to live. … I’m not doing this so I can hit it off the women’s tee.”
Jenner did not have genital surgery. Bissinger cited the World Professional Association for Transgender Health’s “Standard of Care” recommendation that those who transition are encouraged to wait at least a year before proceeding with genital surgery.
Like many trans people, Jenner had contemplated suicide. When TMZ published a story alleging that Jenner had been seen leaving a medical center following a consultation for a tracheal shave in December 2013, Jenner said she thought about shooting herself with a gun she kept in the house. She’d lost control of her narrative.
Jenner revealed to Bissinger that she first began experimenting with her gender presentation as a child, not realizing that’s what she was doing. She would borrow dresses and scarves from her mother and sister when she was 10 years old, and walk around wearing them, but kept the habit a secret. She came out to her first wife, Chrystie, in the 1970s.
After she won the gold medal in the decathlon in the 1976 Olympics, when she was on top of the world, Jenner was haunted because all she wanted to do was transition. “I’d walk off the stage and I’d feel like a liar,” Jenner said. “And I would say, ‘F—, I can’t tell my story. There’s so much more to me than those 48 hours in the stadium, and I can’t talk about it.’ It was frustrating.”
Jenner said she once joked about going to Denmark and coming home to her children as “Aunt Heather.”
Jenner tried to transition in the 1980s, and underwent two years of electrolysis and began taking hormones which spurred some breast growth. She had a nose job. She wore a bra and pantyhose under his suits. The New York Times called to ask what was going on with the changes in Jenner’s physical appearance. She stopped in the late eighties because she was scared and concerned for her children.
Jenner’s relationships with her children from her first two marriages were strained and distant. After she married Kris Jenner in 1991, her efforts to keep in contact with her four children diminished and Jenner stopped sending them birthday greetings. She was absent from their graduations.
Jenner has decided to participate in a reality series of her own, which began shooting in May. Her children are wary of the fact that E!, the network that airs “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” will also air Caitlyn’s show. It’s being produced by the same company that did “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” “Bad Girls Club” and “The Simple Life.” Despite requests from Jenner and the head of the network, the Jenner children — Burt, 36; Cassandra, 34; Brandon, 33; and Brody, 31 — have refused to be in it.
“I have high hopes that Caitlyn is a better person than Bruce,” Burt Jenner said. “I’m very much looking forward to that.”
In a piece he wrote in 2013 for GQ, Bissinger, who is not transgender, spoke of his own fetish for ultra-high end leather clothes and goods, both male and female. He mentioned his tastes again in his story on Jenner, while explaining that he often tripped over using the correct pronouns when addressing Jenner. He wrote:
My miscues have nothing to do with intolerance — I have been a cross-dresser with a big-time fetish for women’s leather and an open critic of the often arbitrary delineation between men’s and women’s clothing — but because it is a strange story regardless of all the important inroads that have been made by transgender men and women into the cultural mainstream. Just as it is a tragic one, and a painful one, and a harmful one, for so many years, not just to himself but to others he should have been closest to, and a lonely one, and a brave one, and a funny one, and maybe, just maybe, because it is far too early to tell, a triumphant one.
Even though much of Jenner’s story is about struggling with gender identity from childhood and not being able to reveal who she truly was until now, it’s also punctuated with humor.
Jenner, excited about her breast augmentation, lifted her shirt to show her new chest to her son, Brandon, who responded, “Whoa, I’m still your son.”
There’s also a moment in the article when Bissinger is detailing the discrepancies between Kris and Caitlyn’s stories about when they first started dating, and how far Jenner had gone in her first attempt to transition. Jenner told Bissinger she was a “good solid B cup” when she met Kris. Kris insisted that Jenner simply had “a little bit of a man boob situation.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article misattributed a quote to Caitlyn Jenner. “I have high hopes that Caitlyn is a better person than Bruce” was actually said by Burt, Caitlyn’s son.