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Caitlyn Jenner: 'I'm a woman.' The former world's greatest athlete comes out.

"For all intents and purposes, I'm a woman." Caitlyn Jenner opens up about a decades-long struggle with gender dysphoria.

UPDATE 6/1/15: This post was originally published on April 24, 2015 after Jenner spoke to ABC's Diane Sawyer. It has since been up to reflect Caitlyn's name and proper pronouns as announced on the cover of Vanity Fair on June 1, 2015.

On April 24, 2015, in an interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer, Caitlyn Jenner came out as a transgender woman.

In a powerful two-hour interview, Jenner opened up about a lifetime of wrestling with a gender that never quite fit. For the first time, publicly, Jenner said the words, "For all intents and purposes, I am a woman."


On June 1, 2015, Caitlyn Jenner appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair.


Jenner has been a household name since winning the gold medal in the 1976 Olympic decathlon.

Jenner was known by many as the "greatest athlete on earth" and was one of the first people to land a spot on the front of a Wheaties box. Jenner became an American hero in such a way that only an athlete can.

And more recently, Jenner has been known for the reality TV show "Keeping Up With the Kardashians."

It's important to remember that this is still one person with one very unique set of personal circumstances.

Though it might be tempting to use Jenner as a template for all trans people, doing so wouldn't really be accurate. Trans people are diverse, and what one trans person pursues (medically or socially) another might pass up.

All identities are valid, whether they fit neatly inside the gender binary or not.

Jenner isn't the first public figure to come out, and while none of the people who have come before Jenner have had quite so much name recognition, they all lived openly trans lives.

Christine Jorgensen was a woman who in 1952 became one of the first American women to have undergone a transition-related surgery.

Her face was plastered alongside headlines like "Ex-GI Becomes Blonde Bombshell." Society hadn't really figured out how to talk about trans people just yet.

In 1977, trans tennis player Renée Richards won the right to compete in that year's U.S. Open.

No, she didn't dominate the tennis world. But still, her achievement is important because of the legal precedent it set.

Richards helped pave the way for trans athletes like Chris Mosier, Kye Allums, and Fallon Fox to compete.


In 2009, Chaz Bono came out as a transgender man in an interview with Entertainment Tonight.

He's the son of Cher and Sonny Bono (Holy famous family, Batman!), and prior to coming out, he worked in LGBTQ activism under his birth name. He's arguably one of the world's most famous living trans people (if not the most famous one) and was given a boost when he was cast on a season of "Dancing With the Stars."

Laverne Cox has been on an absolutely meteoric rise to fame.

She was nominated for an Emmy for her role on "Orange Is the New Black," she's the first out trans person to appear on the cover of Time magazine, and she was just named one of People magazine's most beautiful people for 2015!

Her trailblazing ways are opening doors for other trans actors and actresses.

Laura Jane Grace shocked her fan base when she came out during a 2012 interview with Rolling Stone.

For years, she's been the primary singer/songwriter for the band Against Me! and at the age of 32, she came out as a woman. The following year, she and her band released "Transgender Dysphoria Blues," an album of songs with heavy trans overtones.

Every day, it seems like fresh new trans faces are popping up, doing awesome things.

Like Aydian Dowling, a trans man hoping to land on the cover of Men's Health.

Or Jazz Jennings, a trans author, soon-to-be TV star, and model.


Each person has their own path, their own story, and their own life. As you can tell from the list above, those people come from a range of backgrounds, hold a range of political views, and relate to their gender in their own unique way.

This is why invasive personal questions don't really tell the person asking much about trans people as a whole.

*ahem*

So, if this is all stuff that shows how different trans people are from one another, what do we know about them?

For one, we know that trans people who are accepted by their families tend to lead a significantly better life.

One of the biggest fears that many trans people face as they're coming to terms with who they are is that their families will reject them.

According to data from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, trans people who were accepted by family members were less likely to smoke or abuse drugs and alcohol, less likely to attempt suicide, less likely to have been incarcerated, less likely to have to engage in survival sex work, and significantly less likely to have experienced homelessness.

Now, obviously, there's no telling whether acceptance actually causes those improved circumstances. But those numbers are nothing to scoff at. Acceptance can (and likely does) save lives.

We also know that knowing a trans person increases the likelihood that someone will support trans causes.

This is why visibility is so important! It's less easy to discriminate against someone when you know them.


We know that transition-related health care isn't "cosmetic."

Several health organizations, such as the American Medical Association, have made their stance on trans-related health care clear: It's not elective.

Those who seek it need it.


It's important to remember that there is no "right" way to be transgender.

The boy who knows who he is at age 5 is just as valid as the woman who comes out publicly in her early 30s.

As you can see on the chart below, people figure themselves out at various ages, and they pursue transition — whether it's medical, social, both, or neither — at different ages.

Validity has nothing to do with age.

("MTF" stands for "male-to-female," a term sometimes used to describe transgender women; "FTM" stands for, you guessed it, "female-to-male," a term sometimes used to describe transgender men.)


Validity has nothing to do with medical procedures.

For those who do pursue medical transition — which is to say that they plan to undergo some combination of hormone therapy and/or surgery — the age at which they begin to do so ranges as well (and as you'll note, some don't even want/need it).

62% of trans people surveyed have had hormone therapy, and 23% would like to have it, which leaves 15% of all trans people either uninterested or unable to go on.

Validity has nothing to do with sexual orientation.

And trans people are extremely diverse when it comes to their sexual orientation. (Reminder: Sexual orientation and gender identity are two very separate characteristics.) Check it out:

Congratulations to Caitlyn Jenner for opening up about such a personal issue. May the coming years result in a better understanding of trans individuals, a less hostile world, and respect all around.


Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

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Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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