By now, you’ve probably seen the cover – the Vanity Fair cover featuring formerly-Bruce, now-Caitlyn Jenner. But you probably haven’t read the 22-page feature yet.
Although some have.
“I have to say the reaction has been profoundly positive in the sense that this is a real story,” renowned author and feature writer Buzz Bissinger said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “This is not simply a Q&A interview or an interview piece or a celebrity piece. This is a nuanced, very long, 11,000-word story chronicling the transition, chronicling other people in Bruce and Caitlyn’s sphere who are impacted by this, chronicling his fear, his pain, his confusion during his career – and I think people are gratified. You know what? This is a serious piece. This is not fluff. This is not cotton candy. But the reaction is we really have a feel now for Caitlyn Jenner that we never had before, so it’s been great.”
Bissinger admitted he was not that familiar with transgender issues before writing this piece.
“My training, so to speak, really came from watching ‘Transparent,’” Bissinger said. “It’s a wonderful show in which Jeffrey Tambor plays a transgender woman transitioning late in life, but it’s also about his family. So I learned about it there. But when I began to interview who was still Bruce Jenner, there was a lot I didn’t know and there’s still a lot that I don’t know. But I tried to get up to speed. It’s a complex issue. It’s an uncomfortable issue. It was an uncomfortable issue for me initially. It’s a weird story. I know people say, ‘How can you say that? It’s common. It’s normal.’ I hope it will be normal. As I did this, it became more normal, but at the beginning it was just hard for me to get my hands around. I’m old enough to remember the Bruce Jenner who won the decathlon (at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal).”
Bissinger had full access to Jenner for the cover story.
“Some stuff was off-the-record like it is in any story, but the access was total,” Bissinger said. “I spent dozens of hours – well over 100 hours – there were no restrictions, and it’s beyond interviewing him. It’s interviewing other people around him, some of it controversial.”
Bissinger was the ideal writer for this feature due to his sports background (he is the author of “Friday Night Lights”) and his issues with gender confusion and identity.
“I cross dress,” said Bissinger, who admitted as much in a 2013 article for GQ. “I’m certainly not ashamed of it. I like to do it. I like women’s clothing. And that created really the real bond because at least I knew on a much smaller level than Caitlyn – it’s hard to be different. It’s scary to be different. I can tell you: I wrote that GQ story and I got crucified and mocked and ridiculed, and it was a wakeup call for me. And so it led me to really want to handle this with a lot of care and sensitivity.
“Plus, we talked a lot about clothing.”