We need a Bruce Jenner reality show

Is the star getting ready to share his "journey"?

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published January 29, 2015 3:39PM (EST)

Bruce Jenner            (AP/Mark Von Holden)
Bruce Jenner (AP/Mark Von Holden)

You know what America needs? Another reality show based around a member of the Kardashian extended family. No, really. We do. Reports this week that Bruce Jenner has been shooting a new series chronicling his life are still unconfirmed, but TMZ says that E! is set to air "a very personal look from Bruce's vantage point of the process of changing" later this year. BRING IT.

Of course, we can't be too hasty here. Earlier this month, In Touch sparked outrage with a tasteless and extremely doctored looking cover image of Jenner, along with a claim that Jenner intended to come out as a trans woman on the cover of the Advocate – a claim the editors of the magazine quickly denied. But the rumors of a new docu-series got a boost this week from Jenner's famous stepdaughter Kim Kardashian, during an interview with "ET." When asked point blank whether he was "transitioning to a woman or not," she replied, "I'll just let everyone be curious. I just feel like that's his journey to talk about…. We support Bruce no matter what. I will say I think Bruce should tell his story his way. I think everyone goes through things in life but I think that story and what Bruce is going through he'll share whenever the time is right." And though she denied he's currently documenting his experience she did add that he's "very happy, the happiest I've seen him."

The 65-year-old Olympic champion has been the subject of tremendous speculation in the last few years, fueled by a surgery to diminish his Adam's apple, and recent appearances with long hair and nail polish. Jenner himself has steadfastly remained tight-lipped on his personal life, and the meaning of his evolving look. But he's part of a family that has spent the better part of the past decade firmly in the spotlight for its talent for turning its personal dramas and milestones into television entertainment. That the recently divorced star might be developing his own reality specials or series would not be unusual, under any circumstances. And while Kim Kardashian isn't Jenner's official spokesperson, you can rest assured that her conversation with "ET" this week was carefully thought out – she would not have been asked directly about Jenner if the question had not been vetted ahead of time, and she would not have replied that it's "his story" to tell without choosing those words precisely.

So imagine for a moment that Jenner is indeed right now testing the waters in preparation for coming forward with more candor about where he is in his life right now. Imagine an unscripted television event about one of the most famous athletes of the 20th century, a person an entire generation grew up eating their Wheaties with, now giving America a chance to explore a possible very new and different course in life.

In just the past two years, "Orange Is the New Black" and "Transparent" have shown us groundbreaking characters as complex and fully realized individuals -- and won accolades and awards galore for it. The public journeys of Chaz Bono and Chelsea Manning, and the acknowledgment of transgender individuals in the recent State of the Union address, have brought profound progress in the cause of visibility – and rights. But there is still so far to go, and we still have too much ignorance and hate standing in the way. Now let's say that a person who is not a fictional character, not a lesser-known public figure, but a goddamn American sports hero, were to say to the world, "This is who I am. I am that person with his hands in the air, crossing that finish line in 1976, and I am this person and this identity today too. Those things are all real and authentic." Let's say that person took the viewing audience on a journey through that experience. Think of what that could do to open people's minds, to broaden their understanding of what it means to be a man, to be a woman, to be a human being. Consider that "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" was somehow all part of laying the groundwork for a tipping point in our cultural journey toward a deeper acceptance of each other, at all points across the gender spectrum. Oh my God, that would be phenomenal.

I don't know what Bruce Jenner's "journey" looks like these days, and as his stepdaughter says, that's his story to tell. But if he's truly happier than ever lately, what a great message that would be to share. What a glorious, triumphant new line to be the first to cross.

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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Bruce Jenner Gender Kim Kardashian Lgbt Orange Is The New Black Transgender Transparent