The evolution of Bruce Jenner’s public persona is fascinating.
From gold-medal-winning Olympic hero in the 1970s … to ubiquitous TV host/personality in the 1980s and ’90s … to henpecked patriarch of the Kardashian reality-show empire in the new millennium.
And now, at 65, Jenner appears poised to reveal what countless media reports have already speculated: that he’s in the midst of transitioning from male to female.
On Friday night, in his two-hour interview with Diane Sawyer on ABC’s 20/20, Jenner is expected to discuss the journey that led him to this point.
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“My whole life has been getting me ready for this,” he says in the promo ABC has been running.
Jenner arguably will become the most famous transgender person ever — and, for the tens of millions of Americans too young to remember Renée Richards’ controversial transition 40 years ago, the only transgender person they “know.”
That’s because, according to GLAAD, a recent Pew poll showed that only 8 percent of Americans said they personally know someone who is transgender.
But for people in the medical and mental health communities, contact is far more common with those who are either transgender or in the process of coming to terms with their gender dysphoria.
Kristen Bomas is a Boca Raton psychotherapist who has counseled many gender dysphoric patients during the past 25 years.
When a person’s internal gender identity and biological sex aren’t congruent, the mental and emotional distress that person experiences is perpetual and pervasive, says Bomas.
“Everything just feels wrong,” Bomas explains.
In most gender dysphoric patients Bomas has counseled, Bomas says they report having “known early in childhood that they were born in the ‘wrong’ body.”
Before seeking therapy, these folks often try to “deny” or “normalize” their inner turmoil by doing what society expects of them — many times in roles that accentuate their biological sex.
“In this sense, they’re trying to ‘master the conflict,’” Bomas says.
Of course, every person dealing with gender dysphoria travels a unique path — hopefully toward self-discovery and, ultimately, self-acceptance.
Societal and familial acceptance is a crucial part of that journey, so Bomas urges, “Don’t judge a person who is transgender.”
For those with the financial means, desire and written approval of a trained clinical psychotherapist to medically shift their gender identity, today’s hormone and surgery treatments are far more advanced than they were when Richards’ transitioned.
For instance, at Jacobson and Mardirossian Plastic Surgery Center for Excellence in Jupiter, Dr. Vartan Mardirossian, an accomplished head and neck surgeon, is one of the world’s leading practitioners in the emerging field of facial feminization surgery (FFS).
“FFS is a constellation of procedures,” Mardirossian explains. “Everything from non-surgical skin and lip rejuvenation to eye and brow lifts to contouring and reshaping of the forehead, cheeks, mandible, nose and trachea.”
Mardirossian credits the years he spent training in Boston with FFS pioneer Dr. Jeffrey Spiegel for giving him the insight and skills to create feminized features that look natural — and will age gracefully.
His FFS patients come from all over the globe and, while each case is unique, Mardirossian notes they all have one thing in common: “They’ve been on their journey for a long time.”
Another local physician who helps transgenders undergo the male-to-female transformation is Boca Raton hair restoration specialist Dr. Alan Bauman of the Bauman Medical Group.
“Because most patients undergoing a male-to-female transition are of an age where male pattern hair loss and recession of the hairline is likely to have already occurred, one of the important cosmetic steps is the feminization of the hairline through hair transplant surgery,” Bauman says.
A quick online look at Jenner photos through the decades shows that, undoubtedly, the now-thrice-divorced father of six has had his hairline lowered and facial features feminized.
As for what else he’s had done — or plans to do — we’ll all find out Friday night.