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The Kardashians’ Reactions to Bruce Jenner’s Show How Complicated Coming Out Can Be

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After Bruce Jenner’s groundbreaking interview with ABC News in April, many questioned why some members of the former Olympian’s family—his most recent wife, Kris Jenner, and the children they raised together as part of the blended family portrayed on Keeping Up With the Kardashians—were not involved in the news special. But in a special episode of the Kardashians series, in which Kim Kardashian was shown turning down the opportunity to appear on the news special, the family opened up on the subject on their own terms.

The family’s relationship with Jenner’s newly-announced but (to some) long-known gender identity was shown to be conflicted. According to Kendall Jenner, Bruce’s daughter, the athlete told each of his children about his gender transition individually. (Bruce Jenner’s own stated preference is, currently, to use masculine pronouns about himself.) Jenner had been caught in dresses by both Kim Kardashian and Kendall Jenner at different stages, but both of those women, along with their sisters, were deeply concerned with the impact of Jenner’s transition upon ex-wife Kris Jenner.

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1976 Olympic Games. Montreal, Canada. Men's Decathlon. USA's gold medal winner Bruce Jenner.
At the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Bruce Jenner won the gold medal in the decathlon, setting the world record at 8,616 points.Getty Images
Bruce Jenner celebrates during his record setting performance in the decathlon in the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.
Jenner became a national hero following his Olympic win and was later inducted into the Olympic Hall of Fame in 1986.Tony Duffy—Getty Images
NBC Sportscaster - Bruce Jenner
Jenner became an NBC Sportscaster in the late 1970s following his Olympic performance in Montreal.NBC/Getty Images
Bruce Jenner and Linda Thompson
Jenner married actress Linda Thompson, above, on Jan. 5, 1981, following his divorce with Chrystie Crownover.Getty Images
Nancy Reagan With Celebrities
Jenner was diagnosed with dyslexia as a child. In October of 1985, he received the Outstanding Learning Disabled Achiever Award from then-First Lady Nancy Reagan alongside stars such as Cher and Tom Cruise.Getty Images
Bruce Jenner
Jenner was a successful race car driver in the 1980s, though in a 2013 interview he said, "I was a lot more badass runner than I was a driver.”Ann Clifford—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Bruce And Kris
In 1991, Jenner married Kris Jenner, previously Kris Kardashian, just one month after she finalized her divorce from Robert Kardashian. The two had dated for only five months.Maureen Donaldson—Getty Images
Kardashian Jenner Family Portrait
Their marriage merged two already large families, evident here in this 1991 portrait.Donaldson Collection/Getty Images
Bruce Jenner
After his sports career, Jenner, seen here at a celebrity golf event in 1993, had a number of small acting jobs and television appearances.Stephen Dunn—Getty Images
"Cinderella" Release on Video
The family poses at an event in 1995, the year Jenner and Kris welcomed the first of their two children together, Kendall Jenner.Ron Galella—WireImage
Former US gold medal decathlete Bruce Jenner (C),
Kylie Jenner was born two years later in 1997. The girls can be seen here on the red carpet in 2000, long before they covered magazines and appeared on TIME's Most Influential Teens list.Scott Nelson—AFP/Getty Images
E! Entertainment Television's 2005 Summer Splash Event - Arrivals
Jenner, seen here in 2005, would re-enter the spotlight thanks to Keeping Up With the Kardashians, which first premiered in 2007.Steve Granitz—WireImage
Bruce Jenner
Jenner spoofed his reality-star fame with a commercial for Tropicana Juicy Rewards in 2010.AP
The Tonight Show With Jay Leno
Jenner and Kris, here at The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in 2011, announced their separation in 2013. She filed for divorce the following year.Kevin Winter—Getty Images
Bruce Jenner On "Extra"
Jenner poses with a box of Wheaties in 2012. He appeared on the front of the box first in 1977 after his Olympic gold-medal win, then in 2012 when Wheaties rolled out a retro series.Noel Vasquez—Getty Images
Brandon And Leah Album Release Party For "Cronies"
Jenner appears with two of his sons, TV personality Brody Jenner and musician Brandon Jenner, who records with his wife as Brandon & Leah, at an April 2013 release party.Chelsea Lauren—WireImage
Celebrity Sightings In Los Angeles - October 20, 2014
Jenner walks with step-daughter Kim Kardashian in October of 2014 — about five months after rapper Kanye West became his son-in-law.Bauer-Griffin—GC Images
Bruce Jenner Vanity Fair Caitlyn transgender
Caitlyn Jenner, formerly Bruce Jenner, appeared as a woman for the first time on the cover of Vanity Fair's June 2015 issue, photographed by Annie Leibovitz.Annie Leibovitz—Vanity Fair
The 2Caitlyn Jenner 2015 Espys Arther Ashe Award015 ESPYS - Show
Caitlyn Jenner accepts the Arthur Ashe Courage Award onstage during The 2015 ESPYS at Microsoft Theater on July 15, 2015 in Los Angeles.Kevin Winter—Getty Images

Bruce Jenner came in for more criticism on the broadcast: Khloe Kardashian and Kendall Jenner were shown crying after a conversation with Jenner in which he was perceived as unduly sensitive to how they were dealing with his transition. “I think it’s scary when people say Bruce is going to be gone,” Kendall said. Afterwards, though, Bruce Jenner got the opportunity to explain that he will be more fully himself after a potential transition, one to which he loosely committed on air. But Kendall Jenner got the opportunity to explain how complicated a moment like this can be for those close to an individual transitioning. And all five of the daughters in Bruce Jenner’s TV life (stepdaughters Kourtney, Kim, and Khloe, and daughters Kendall and Kylie) got to say their piece in an argument with Bruce that the elder party didn’t entirely win. One was left thinking that he ought to have been in better touch with his loved ones throughout his decision to transition. There were no heroes or villains, just people who wanted to to break down the barriers that kept them from understanding one another.

E! stumbled upon a moment to explain to America how strange it is to see a person in a new light, and did so not by making a clown out of Jenner but by showing the impact of his decision upon others. No one on E!’s air was judging Jennerbut the entire special served as a valuable sequel to ABC’s Diane Sawyer special, and as the most authentic moment in Keeping Up With the Kardashians’ history.

Yes, Jenner’s announcing (to the public and to his family) that he sees himself as a woman was groundbreaking. But life goes on after a big announcement. This special showed the inner lives of members of the extended Kardashian family, and provided a template for family members of those transitioning as to how they should voice their concerns and emotions while still being supportive. But more than just that, it proved how complicated the coming-out process can be for everyone—not just the one coming out.

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