Just the other day Olympian Bruce Jenner said he identifies as a woman.
As a teenager interested in all things sports, the Summer of ’76 featured the Olympics in Montreal, in which my namesake, William Bruce Jenner, even though he, as I, goes by his middle name, made claim to being “the greatest athlete in the world” after winning the gold medal in the decathlon. It was a great triumph for America, unseating our Cold War rivals, the former Soviet Union, who won this event, as well as basketball and the 100-meter race, in the 1972 Olympics, historically events Americans dominated. It was also the country’s 200th birthday. (This is the stuff you can’t script.)
I was fast approaching 16, deeply involved in sports, and I bought my box of Wheaties, “the breakfast of champions,” which featured Bruce Jenner on the front.
In coming out, people are praising Bruce Jenner. This act makes me think of another great, James Baldwin, who explains this in his short story, “Sonny’s Blues.” Sonny is a jazz musician. He dabbles in drugs, lives a certain lifestyle. But in the final analysis, he just wants to be. Why can’t a person just be? Sonny asks.
Bruce Jenner will always be this great Champion of my youth. Perhaps he will also go down in history as the greatest transgender person.