After living a lie for 65 years, Bruce Jenner told Diane Sawyer Friday night, it's time to tell the truth.
“I have the soul of a woman,” declared the 1976 Olympic decathlon champion and modern-day reality show fixture. “For all intents and purposes, I am a woman.”
So, to the surprise of nobody who follows celebrity media, he's going to become one.
He added, however, that this doesn't necessarily mean full physical sexual reassignment surgery, just “having a free soul and enjoying life as who I am."
He told Sawyer he never considered himself gay, that he hasn't thought about what gender person he might marry in the future, that he wasn't completely fair to the three women he did marry, that he regrets not being honest on the reality show "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" and that he briefly thought about suicide when it seemed taunting paparazzi would follow every step of his surgical reassignment.
He said he was generally upbeat and that his family has been supportive.ABC News Bruce Jenner invites Diane Sawyer into his closet and shows her one of his dresses. ABC News Bruce Jenner breaks down during Diane Sawyer interview. ABC News 'I am a woman,' Bruce Jenner tells Diane Sawyer Friday. ABC News via YouTube Bruce Jenner sits down with Diane Sawyer Friday. Previous Next Enlarge
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In his reality show family, he said Khloe Kardashian was “taking it hardest” while Kim was “by the far the most accepting and the easiest to talk to.”
He confessed that one time, before he came out to the family, he was busted by an in-house security camera while wearing a dress when he thought he was alone.
Over the two hours of Friday's special, Jenner swung from laughter to tears. He spoke in a calm tone even when he was vehemently denying any insinuation that this much-promoted interview or his upcoming E! reality show, which launches July 26, add up to an elaborate publicity stunt.
“I went through all this for publicity, right?” he said sarcastically.ABC News Bruce Jenner tears up during Diane Sawyer's interview with him.
Jenner told Sawyer he "felt like a woman” from the time he was 8 and had begun wearing his mother's and sister's clothes when they weren’t around.
After wrestling with “this knowledge" all through his Olympic and celebrity-endorsement years, he said he first started physically transitioning more than 30 years ago.
“I was on hormones for almost five years” in the 1980s, he told Sawyer. He also began reshaping his face, with surgery on his nose and electrolysis to remove his beard.
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He said he stopped “because I lost my nerve.” He didn't want to hurt his children, he said, or face the scandal he knew it would cause.Tony Duffy/Getty Images Bruce Jenner of the USA celebrates during his record setting performance in the decathlon in the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Canada. Enlarge Splash News/Splash News Bruce Jenner arriving at the Los Angeles International Airport. Enlarge
Now he has been back on hormones for a year and a half, he told Sawyer, and Friday's interview will be his last as "Bruce."
He referred to his inner woman only as "she,” saying he knows his female name but isn't revealing it yet.
He will further discuss his future Monday on ABC's "Good Morning America," according to promotions on Friday night's show. But he said that if he has sexual reassignment surgery, it will not be part of the E! show. "It will be private," he said.
He repeatedly used the terms "pain" and "confusion" to describe his life, despite his athletic success and later career as an infomercial star.
He said he looks at pictures taken after he won the 1976 Olympic decathlon and sees "a confused person, running away from who I was."Popperfoto/Popperfoto/Getty Images 1976 Olympic Games, Montreal, Canada, Men's Decathlon, USA's gold medal winner Bruce Jenner.
He said he envies women who were born in a woman's body. "How lucky they are," he said, "that they can wake up and be themselves."
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He said his gender issues contributed to, among other things, the breakup of all three of his marriages.
"I wasn't as fair to them as I should have been," he admitted, though he said he confided his gender issues to each.
His first wife Chrystie, he said, "thought she could fix me." That marriage ended mostly because he fell for Linda Thompson, he said, and she became his second wife.
They split up when she realized "there was nothing about this that could be fixed," he said.
His third wife, Kris Jenner, to whom he was married for 23 years and with whom he appeared for years on the Kardashians reality show, knew his gender issues and wasn't bothered, he said.
"I kind of downplayed it," he admitted. He also said that while "I thought our sex life was great . . . maybe she didn't."
Still, he said, "I loved Kris. I had a wonderful life with her."
He wasn't as buoyant about "Keeping Up with the Kardashians."View Gallery Bruce Jenner's extreme transformation
"We've done 425 episodes over 10 years," he said. "The entire run, I kept thinking to myself, the one real true story in the family is the one that I was hiding ? the one thing that could have made a difference in people's lives."
He said now he hopes his public decision and declaration will help create more "acceptance" for transgender individuals.
"I'm not a spokesman for the community," he said. "But I would like to think we could save some lives . . . . We can change the world here."
He described himself as a conservative Republican who "in a heartbeat" would go to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell or House Majority Leader John Boehner to ask for help on the issue, "and I'm sure they'd be very receptive."
Sawyer said Jenner invited her to have a private off-camera dinner with "she" and that it was very pleasant.
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With Rachel Maresca