Palos Verdes, Calif: Behind every successful man, there is a woman, and that couldn’t be truer for the erstwhile Bruce Jenner, in the most ironic way. An Olympic gold medal-winning decathlete, Bruce had been struggling with his true identity – that of being a woman – for decades, before he finally transitioned into Caitlyn Jenner in 2014. Caitlyn was revealed to the world in April of that year and at that time, one of her most vocal supporters was step-daughter Kim Kardashian, who Caitlyn fondly calls Kimberly.
Nine months after her transition, Caitlyn addressed a gathering for the first time in Palos Verdes this week, recalling the years of loneliness and self-doubt she faced before she decided to be true to herself. She was one of the speakers at the MAKERS 2016 conference, a powerful platform that brought together women trailblazers from across industries, including Gloria Steinem, Halle Berry, America Ferrera, Annie Leibovitz and Megan Smith, among others. Caitlyn’s session “Breaking Bias” saw her opening up to a packed hall, sharing for the first time, the highs and lows of the past six years. For me, it was evident that Caitlyn owned every minute of her session, whether it was talking about something as simple as girls night out or something as complex as gender bias and white male privilege.
Here’s taking a look at some of her most powerful statements from the event:
I got to a point where this woman has lived inside of me all my life
“It is a rebirth. A wonderful rebirth. Everybody’s story is different… Who am I? For a trans-person, this thought goes through your head 24 hours a day, 365 days out of the year. It’s constantly with you. Who am I? So many people struggle for so many years of their lives, trying to find the answer to that very simple question. I got to the point in my life where this woman has lived inside of me all my life. It’s time for her to live, to take that little boy, stick him inside for a while and let her live. Let’s see what she can do. Let’s give her a chance. To open up opportunities.”
I’m living an extraordinary, phenomenal life
“We talk a lot about diversity, about people being honest with themselves about who they are. Yes, for me, this experience has truly been overwhelming. I am living an extraordinary, phenomenal life. I think about it every day… It’s a very powerful feeling to beat the world physically. But then on the other hand, now I’ve had the opportunity to live my true self, in a different world, and it has truly been a tremendous experience. A lot of things to learn. And the best part, it is just being yourself. Now my journey has been very different than most people in my community. I wake up in the morning and I see nothing but love, support, wonderful people but that is not the norm in our community. Our community has a lot of problem and a lot of issues. Suicides rates are so high. There’s no reason why anybody… I mean I have thought about suicide but what a terrible way to end my story. I can’t do that. But for young people, it is very, very difficult.”
For so many years, I was a loner
“I have always liked individual stories as a kid growing up because my winning or losing was all dependent on myself. How hard I wanted to train, how hard I wanted to work at it. I have always kind of gravitated towards those kinds of things. So, for many years, I was very much a loner. I have a house in Malibu and for literally almost six years, I never really came out. I stayed in my house, came out for a little work, that was about it. The rest of the time I went back to the house and stayed there. I never felt like I fitted anywhere. I never fit in with the guys and I didn’t fit in with the girls. Kind of stuck right here in the middle. So, isolation was by far the best thing to do. Sometimes I would sneak out at night and nobody knew. That was the way I lived for many, many years.”
The tabloids destroyed me
“My daughter Kimberly once told me, “Every time you go out girl, you gotta rock it. They are going to get that one bad picture of you and they’re just going to work that forever.” The story changed. For two years, I was totally destroyed by the tabloids. Every time I would go through the grocery line, it would be, it was just horrible. I would have 5-6 paparazzi following me everywhere I would go.”
I never identified myself with this white male privileged person
“I never identified myself with this white male privileged person but the public certainly put me into that category. I did learn that you know what, when I look at women, then and now, honestly, I feel like I don’t know what it is, maybe lack of confidence or whatever it is. Honestly, deep down in my soul I feel that women are so much more powerful than men ever could be. They need to learn how to play the game, how to work it. But, the power they have over men and the power they have in the business world, I think it is totally untapped. I think the world is out there for women. I have always been attracted to very strong women. Because I have always appreciated their strength and most of them knew how to play the game to be able to get what they want. Kris (ex-wife Kris Jenner), to be honest with you, was brilliant at it.”