The stakes are high for Bruce Jenner, who in a highly anticipated interview airing Friday night is expected to reveal to Diane Sawyer what many have long speculated — that the 1976 Olympic champion is now identifying as a transgender woman.
But the ramifications go beyond Jenner, an American celebrity who’s spent decades in the public eye. For an estimated 700,000 transgender Americans, the interview is a milestone in how TV and the media continue to consider transgender people and issues.
Other breakthrough moments on television dramas and reality series have led to a perception in recent years that attitudes toward the transgendered may be shifting.
“We’re no longer just a punch line for comics, or just limited to that sphere,” says Dana Beyer, a transgender rights advocate and executive director of Gender Rights Maryland. “Stories about us are now of interest to the mainstream media, and not because we’re special but because we’re not just marginalized and ridiculed. We’re actually newsworthy.”