After months, maybe even years, of speculation and extremely invasive prodding, People has apparently found that—yes—Bruce Jenner is transitioning. (Although, no, Bruce has not said this themself.) The media has long handled this situation quite poorly, putting them under a magnifying glass and tossing them onto the cover of tabloids, even somewhat slanderously mocking their image for sale. The family has been hush-hush on the subject, Kim citing Bruce’s transition “a journey,” Brody wanting everyone hushed, and Kris distancing herself from them. The situation is rocky.
What is being lost in the story is that the LGBTQ community has gained a new member and friend in Bruce Jenner and, potentially, the entire Kardashian/Jenner family. This would mean that the contemporary model of American family would change since the most watched group of people with K names is now queer. To keep up with the Kardashians, you have to have a queer member: this is America now.
That is a huge fucking deal. If Bruce is indeed transitioning (I mean, People confirmed the news—not Bruce.), this would arguably be the most public, biggest celebrity coming out story. It is a completely new nareative in our queer canon—and that’s exciting. It’s also a little scary, given the high-gloss setting.
The question is if Kim and Khloé and Kourtney and Kendall and Kylie and Kris and Rob and Brody and Kanye and Scott and whoever else will fall in line, supporting Bruce in their time of need. I would assume Bruce is fairly bruised by all the public speculation and scrutiny: can the faimly be there for him or push him away, shifting this exciting story into ugliness and queerphobia?
This is the deciding factor, one that will either introduce this group of alpha-heteros into the world of queers. Can we embrace them? It’s all in the handling. If this is Guess Who Is Coming To Dinner, they are Sidney Poitier. They are under our magnifying glass and there is a lot to gain—and lose.
It could be argued that the family is already icons in the LGBTQ communuty. Kim, Khloé, and Kourtney have dipped into gay world, some appearing on RuPaul’s Drag Race (multiple times!). Their aesthetic is part tube dress, part Vegas, and part female gender performance drag, a fact that even they would admit to. Kim could also be cast as our generation’s Elizabeth Taylor: she is a bright starlet of television and film (Eh.) whose beauty is unrivaled and has been wedded many, many times to successful men which will not prevent her from sweeping in to aid and embrace and love the LGBTQ community. What Elizabeth Taylor did for gay persons with AIDS, she could do for transgender, varying gender, and general queer people. She has an international appeal, too.
But what if they choose to make fun of Bruce and shun them and their experience? That would be very painful for many. This supposed show of Bruce’s journey will also make or break the situation. Having worked with the executives who are behind it, I know firsthand that a series like this is at its core a grab at popular, acclaimed fiction cast unto nonfiction. Basically, Transparent was a massive hit and they found and seized an opportunity to do a “nonfiction” (reality) version—and this is the second one. While no one can challenge Bruce;s story and journey, the producers of this show must be sensitive. They must consult the LGBT community. They mustn’t make a joke of this. They need to handle Bruce with love and acceptance and without a hint of judgement: everything is on the line for us queers.
Should Bruce’s treatment and the upcoming show on their transition be in any way malignant, we will take the hit. Nor the Kardashians. Not the Jenners. But Bruce. The LGBTQ community. Young queers like Leelah Alcorn and Sasha Fleischman. The trickle down effect of this will be huge.
So, can the LGBTQ community embrace the Kardashian/Jenner family? It all depends them. They cannot let Bruce—or any of us queers—down.