Seven years later, Caitlyn Jenner is reflecting on her divorce from Kris Jenner.
During the latest episode of Rob Lowe's podcast, Literally! With Rob Lowe, the former Olympian looked back on her gender identity journey. The star, 70, publicly came out as transgender in 2015, two years after she and Kris, 64, announced their separation. But, as she explained, she had struggled with her gender identity for as long as she could remember.
"I was never comfortable with my identity, even as a very young kid," she said. "I was fascinated by my sister's clothes, never comfortable in my own shoes, fascinated with all that kind of stuff. But, you keep your mouth shut, you know? I'm talking the '50s and '60s. [Transgender] wasn't even a word back then. So I found ways to just distract myself from those feelings. Sports — what a great way to do that. Prove your manhood. But those feelings … it was always there."
"My distraction was going to work, and then eventually it became family, it became all these things," she continued. "And of course my kids yelled at me: 'Is that all we were? A distraction?' I go, 'No, no, no!' I loved being a dad."
Caitlyn shares sons Brandon Jenner, 39, and Brody Jenner, 36, with ex-wife Linda Thompson; daughter Cassandra Marino, 40, and son Burt Jenner, 41, with ex-wife Chrystie Crownover; and daughters Kendall Jenner, 24, and Kylie Jenner, 23, with Kris. She also helped raise Kris' kids with the late Robert Kardashian Sr.: Kourtney, 40, Kim, 39, Khloé, 36, and Rob, 33.
"I had 10 kids — raised six genetic, four step. Raised these amazing, amazing kids," she said. "It's what I've been able to accomplish and I'm very proud of that. I'm proud of all my kids. All 10 of them. They've all done amazing."
Before Kris came into her life, Caitlyn was at a particularly low point, she said.
"I just couldn't go any further," she recalled. "And I thought to myself, 'You've got to get on with life. … If I can't [transition] — because I can't do it, okay? — I've got to move on in life.'"
She was introduced to Kris through mutual friends, and they "hit it off from day one."
"We were married five and a half months later. She had four kids, I had four kids, we tried our best to try to blend that family. Never an easy job," she said. "But we kind of blended this family the best that we possibly could. Kris kind of came in and took over. She was honestly a Beverly Hills housewife at the time, but she was always around very strong businesspeople and had great skills."
"She just started getting the ball rolling again, because I had not for the last six years. The rest is kind of history," she continued. "That was the next 23 years. Kris and I had two kids — Kendall and Kylie. They've done okay for themselves."
Asked how aware Kris was of her struggles, Caitlyn indicated that she had opened up to a certain extent.
"I mean, I told Kris my issues, but I never thought that at some point down the line, 25 years later, that I would ever transition," she said. "It wasn't a possibility. I was in this, I was going to be committed to the family, but these are my issues, this is what I deal with. She was okay. And so we just went on with life and again, the distraction thing. Which my kids hate when I say that, but it's not them — a distraction from myself. And they were wonderful."
"Then we started doing the show, everybody's working, they were great years," she continued. "I didn't think it was at all possible at those times in my life. … That went on for years and years and years."
Over two decades later, the couple decided to part ways.
"After 23 years, Kris and I went our separate directions, my identity, it was not a big part of us separating," Caitlyn said. "There were so many other bigger issues out there. The only thing, I think, because of my frustration with myself, I might have been a little bit shorter with her near the end. But there was a lot of things going on."
"And then all of a sudden, we didn't have any issues, it was calm," she recalled. "'You know it's not working, I know it's not working, you have this house, I'll go find another place.' And she even found the place. She decorated the place. She did everything in Malibu. She said, 'I want you to feel comfortable.' And that was it."
The extent of Kris' awareness about Caitlyn's gender identity crisis has been a point of contention for the exes, who went through a period of estrangement after Caitlyn's memoir was published in 2017. In The Secrets of My Life, Caitlyn alleged Kris knew more about the situation than she says she did, and both Kris and her daughters have been open about the fact that the book created a rift in the family.
During a December 2017 episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Kris said the memoir was "full of inaccuracies."
"There were things that happened that [the kids] didn't tell me, because they were told not to," she said, regarding signs that Caitlyn wanted to be a woman. "I'm not resentful about it, it just makes me really sad. Because I'm a protective mom — I would do anything for my kids. And had I known some of the things they were experiencing … it just broke my heart, hearing some of that stuff."
Kim has said that she thinks her mom and Caitlyn "kind of avoided" discussing the topic.
"[Kris] was so in love," she said during an appearance on The Alec Baldwin Show in 2018. "She didn't think anything would be an issue in their relationship. Did she ever dream that [Caitlyn] would transition into a woman? I don't think that was ever something she would have dreamed in a billion years."
"That's why I love that we did share our story on our show, because it gave people the understanding that you can have every different emotion and that's okay," she continued. "At the end of the day, we just want Caitlyn to be happy and be herself."
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