On Friday night, we all sat down and watched as Bruce Jenner spoke to Diane Sawyer, revealing for the first time, in his own words, that Jenner identifies as a woman. Although there were many huge reveals during the interview, one of the most shocking moments came when Jenner claimed Kanye West helped Kim Kardashian come to terms with Jenner's gender identity. According to Jenner, Kardashian revealed that she and Kanye discussed it and Kanye said, "Look, I can be married to the most beautiful woman in the world and I am. I can have the most beautiful little daughter in the world and I have that. But I'm nothing if I can’t be me. If I can’t be true to myself, they don’t mean anything." After that, Jenner notes that "Kimberly has been by far the most accepting and the easiest to talk to about it."
Kanye West, who married into the famous family in 2014 with his wedding to Kardashian, has been a supportive presence despite all the controversy and gossip that surrounds him and his wife, but I don't think any of us quite expected him to be the catalyst for Kardashian's acceptance and understanding. After all, he is not a man who is well-known for his sensitivity and tact. Although Kanye has been outspoken on everything from Beyoncé's goddess-like status to his own title as an artistic genius of whose presence we are all unworthy, he has been surprisingly quiet on issues of gender before this.
In a February 2015 issue of People, however, he was said by a "source" to be in full support of Jenner's decision to come out as transgender. "He is totally fine with it. He believes in live and let live, and he took it all in stride. He and Kim are just trying to show Bruce love and acceptance — complete acceptance."
However, his silence on the subject of gender issues in the past does not necessarily mean he's been completely tolerant of people from all walks of life. Even if he hasn't spoken at all about trans issues, Kanye has said a lot about sexuality that doesn't exactly make him seem open-minded, or at best, like someone who doesn't articulate his views well. In 2012, Kanye came under fire for stating that bisexual men don't exist. "There's no such thing as a bisexual guy. If a guy is bisexual, that makes him gay. Don't try to re-term it or something like that," he says in the video.
And yet, in 2012, Kanye showed a surprising amount of growth in his views of homosexuality... although, of course, he expressed this growth in the most Kanye way possible. "Your dress don’t give away whether or not you like a man... People wanna label me and throw that on me all the time, but I’m so secure with my manhood. And that’s the reason why I can go to Paris, why I can have conversations with people who are blatantly gay. ’Cause I used to be scared to talk to a gay person," he said in a 2009 interview with Sway. "[I said I was inspired in fashion by how gay people dress] when I was ignorant to gays. ’Cause there’s a lot of gay people who don’t dress good at all. There’s a lot of gay people that I dress way better than."
Thus, perhaps it shouldn't come as any real surprise that Kanye is in full support of being yourself, whether that means storming an awards show stage (in his case) or identifying as a woman (in Jenner's case). In fact, Hollywood Life claimed that, when Jamie Foxx came under fire for joking about Bruce Jenner at the iHeart Radio Awards, Kanye was among those raising his voice to tell Foxx off. "Kanye wants Jamie to publicly apologize to Bruce and his daughters... He’s tight with Jamie but taking jabs at Bruce’s sexuality at an awards show, let alone one for kids, is just wrong," read the Hollywood Life article.
At the same time, it's probably a good thing that Kanye hasn't taken it upon himself to speak about trans issues publicly. Whether you're a fan of his or not, it's an unfortunate fact that he has a tendency to stick his foot in his mouth, even when he's right about something. Take, for example, something as frivolous as his assertion that Taylor Swift needed to take several seats because Beyoncé had the best music video of all time. Was he right that "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It" was a better music video than "You Belong With Me?" Yes. Did he need to snatch a microphone out of a teenage girl's hand on stage at her first MTV Music Video Awards to make this point in a manner so rude that Beyoncé felt the need to apologize for him? Absolutely not.
Kanye can be quite profound when he wants to be, and some of what he says is worthy of being someone's life inspiration, but most of what he says is infuriating and poorly thought out. So, yeah, while it's a pleasant surprise that he allegedly helped Kardashian on her own journey to tolerance, trans issues are a subject he isn't qualified enough or knowledgeable enough to speak openly about. It's even worth noting, perhaps, that in many cases, "silent support except for defense in the face of attack" is the best approach for any true, trans ally to take.
Maybe we haven't heard much from Kanye on trans issues before this interview simply because they aren't his issues to speak about? It's always worth remembering that when you aren't speaking about something, it leaves room for other people's voices — and sometimes making space for other people to make their voices heard is the most generous, sincere act of support you can offer. The simple fact that he is said to have stood in support of Jenner to the point of helping Kardashian to accept her father for who he is, without centering the spotlight on himself, is a tremendous mark of maturity and growth on the part of someone who has been defined by his egomania.
Editors Note: Per Jenner's stated preference, Bustle will continue referring to Jenner using he/his pronouns for the time being. We will follow his lead and make any changes to this policy as needed in the future.
Image: Getty Images