I have been watching Bruce Jenner’s story closely recently. I have a transgendered person in my life now and it is stretching my understanding of gender and identity. So although I was on a plane coming back home when the interview with Diane Sawyer aired, I caught up with it when I landed and I was moved.
But here’s a takeaway not a lot of people are talking about: Bruce is making this massive life transition at sixty-five. Dr. Phil snarkily commented, “Isn’t he a little past his prime?” (He has since backpedaled on that comment). But the fact that he is making this big, public life change at sixty-five is, to me, at least as inspiring as the fact that he is seeking to live in congruity with the gender he feels and the gender he expresses.
Very often, even when we’re very young, we’re told it’s too late for certain things. We’re told that some things belong in our wild, young, crazy years, never to be contemplated again. We internalize these messages about being “too old,” and fear making changes. So the paintbrushes are put away, the dreams of the trip halfway around the world are shelved as too ambitious, and we settle in to a restricted life.
Falling in love is for youth, sometimes too risky to go for in middle age. (I hear this from my divorced or “thinking-about-divorce” girlfriends all the time, that they’re afraid to start over “at their age.”). There is a sense that if we didn’t get what we wanted when we were younger, we should just give up on wanting it. I refuse to believe that and, apparently, so does Bruce Jenner.
He (the pronoun he’s still using) tried hard for most of his life to live according to the expectations of others. He suppressed feelings and tried to plaster on a happy face for the rest of the world. But in his heart he knew he was living a lie. He chose courage – risking ridicule and harassment – over hiding. That he chose that at sixty-five is less important than that he chose it at all. It’s important only in that it proves that it is never too late to step into the sun and live the life you really want.
The vast majority of us are not transgender and probably can’t even fully wrap our minds around that experience. But many of us have some unlived dream, some lie we’re keeping inside, too afraid to expose. Although we may not be transgender, we are all human. We can draw inspiration from an act of courage, from a will to improve, to live more authentically. Sixty-five or ninety-five, it’s never too late to be more fully yourself. Thanks for the reminder, Bruce Jenner, and godspeed on your journey.