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.
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 Jenner—but 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.