Caitlyn Jenner is opening up about her history with gender dysphoria, admitting that she had struggled with her gender identity from the time she was nine years old — and that channeling it is part of what helped her win at the Olympics.
Speaking to Women’s Health this month, the 70-year-old athlete and reality star reflected on her childhood, including both her gender issues and dyslexia — but though they certainly struggles, she credits them for her career.
‘I didn’t understand it, and I didn’t know what was going on with me,’ she said. ‘But it was also my dyslexia and gender issues that made me an Olympic champion. I channeled my struggles to drive and push me. Now, I see those issues as my gift.’
Candid: Caitlyn Jenner is opening up about her history with gender dysphoria
Flashback: The 70-year-old recalled playing in her mother and sister’s clothes and makeup as a child
‘I had no idea why I was doing it; it just felt right,’ she said
Caitlyn said that she was already ‘struggling with my gender identity’ by age nine.
‘I would sneak into my mother and sister’s closets when nobody was around to try on their clothes, or go play with their makeup. I had no idea why I was doing it; it just felt right,’ she said.
Childhood was made all the more difficult because she was also dyslexic, so reading in front of the class was terrifying.
But things changed in fifth grade when she and other students ran a race, and she had the fastest time of everyone. Now, she knew a way to excel.
‘I needed sports more to prove to myself that I could be good at something, and I worked a little harder than I think I would have if I hadn’t been struggling,’ she said.
She continued to run through high school and college, and ahead of the 1876 Olympics was training for six to eight hours a day.
‘During my Olympic training, I was so far away from Caitlyn,’ she recalled. ‘I honestly just ignored my gender issues the best I could. But it was always present.’
Work hard: When she realized she excelled in athletics, channeled her energy into being the best to ‘prove’ herself
Grateful: She now sees her issues as a ‘gift’ that helped her win at the Olympics
It certainly didn’t help that there is an ‘environment of machoism’ in male sports, which she said keeps athletes closeted.
But hiding her gender identity didn’t magically change it.
‘When you suffer from gender dysphoria, it’s not something you can take two aspirin for, get plenty of sleep, wake up the next morning, and everything’s fine. You’re just kind of stuck with it.
‘When I was young, I felt I couldn’t do anything about my gender dysphoria. Back then, I could never have envisioned a future for myself as happy as I am now.’
But that, she said, is what pushed her to be the athlete she was.
Even though it took Caitlyn until her 60s to live authentically, she says she has ‘no regrets’ about spending most of her life working and raising kids.
‘But I never thought that someday I would be able to live my life authentically, I thought I’d just have to deal with my identity my whole life.
Family: She says she has ‘no regrets’ about spending most of her life working and raising kids
New her: At 63, when she realized she had the same issues at age nine, she decided to finally doing something about it and transition (pictured in February)
‘It wasn’t until I was 63 years old looking back and realizing I was dealing with the same issues I had when I was 9 that I wondered, “What am I going to do with my life?”
‘I finally got the guts to tell my story. It wasn’t an easy decision, and it took a long time.’
Caitlyn had previously spoken about her gender dysphoria on the BBC Radio 4 podcast Don’t Tell Me the Score.
‘A lot of the training was really running away from the issues I had,’ she said.
‘I remember getting up the next morning, didn’t have a stitch of clothes on, walking to the bathroom, medal sitting there on the table, put the medal around my neck, looking in the mirror and I go: What have you just done? Am I stuck with this person the rest of my life? Did you build up this person so big, that you’re stuck with him the rest of your life? It was scary.’
And speaking to The Guardian in 2017, she also brought up dressing in her mom and sister’s clothes as a kid.
‘Throughout a lifetime, everything goes through your head,’ she said. ‘Am I just a cross-dresser? Is cross-dressing a sexual stimulation to me, so that I’m having sex with myself? Am I gay, is that what it is?’