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Caitlyn Jenner & My Own Family Story

It’s been difficult to avoid the media maelstrom surrounding the transition of Bruce Jenner to Caitlyn Jenner. For me, it had some personal resonance because about 8 years ago, when our daughter, Lily, was 14, she came out as gay.

I recall being completely caught off guard. Lily had been a tomboy, skater-girl, always pushing the envelope. She also professed an interest in boys, had boyfriends, at least to the extent 12 and 13-year-olds have them. It never occurred to me, or any of us, that she was gay.

Ruth Family photo

Of course, the way she came out was not the most well thought out, which is, again, the adolescent brain at work. During her freshman year “tolerance day,” she announced it during open mic to 600 of her fellow freshmen and teachers. I got wind of it on Facebook, where it was not explicitly mentioned, but I knew something momentous was going on. (our FB deal was that she could use it, but we had to be “friends” so I could spy.)

After much digging and asking and guessing on our part, her guidance counselor advised her that she had to tell her parents, who were so worried about her. She was not happy about that, so angry. All we wanted to do was protect her from the hate and prejudice we knew would be coming her way and , in fact, already had.

What didn’t get said then, naturally, was how our own perceptions had to suddenly change. How our hopes and dreams for her future were irrevocably altered. Because while the individual has been wrestling with the issue for quite some time, the people around them remain clueless. So when she announced who she really was, outwardly we were supportive (and we honestly felt that way), but inwardly, we were terrified. We needed to be there for her during this incredibly difficult time, as parents always do, and it was for the long haul.

The happy ending (so far) is Lily just received her B.F.A., turned 22, has a Tumblr following in the 10s of thousands, a very satisfying social life with lovely friends of all stripes. This is due to her ability to know who she is and be confident in it, accompanied by our ability to be led by her. In other words, her future is bright, we are a happy and loving family who know, for better or worse, what it means to be adaptable, sometimes very quickly.

What does any of this have to do with business? We are in a period of very rapid change. There are a variety of points of view. We need to be flexible in our thinking to survive and thrive as professionals. It is scary and very, very threatening. It can be exhausting. There are plenty of naysayers, haters, who will tell you you’re doing it wrong, that your POV is illegitimate. You have to know whom to trust and listen to. Those who do not adapt will be left out.

Don’t let that happen. Know what you know. Follow your passion. Project it with confidence. Don’t let the bastards get you down. Keep at it. Love your family. It is so satisfying.

24 thoughts on “Caitlyn Jenner & My Own Family Story”

  1. enjoyed reading this story about your family Ruth … touching and resonates clearly with the times. Lily is courageous and I agree knowing who she is provides confidence and ability to weather the worldly storm!

  2. Love the story which shares some of the struggles and triumphs of owning who we are! Lily is fortunate to be in a loving and protective family who understands the big world and it’s fickle ways. I agree about the rapid changes in business. A bit insane in many cases. I do think slowing down and recognizing we don’t have to jump at all points of view in vogue for a time. Settling in to who we are and bringing the message across generally trumps the idea du jour! Thank you for your transparency which is always refreshing Ruth..

  3. Ruth, such a touching and heart-warming article. Thanks for sharing that – and for the connection to business. You are so right – and I also agree…….family first!

    Much love to you all,


  4. Ruth, Love that you shared this challenging & very important story with us. I truly believe that when we start talking about things, it makes it real & gives people the opportunity to express (and deal with) feelings. Thankfully I think we’ve passed the point where anyone can stop the movement on this point.

  5. Great analogy for business, Ruth! And I hadn’t heard the story of how Lily came out – what a surprise that must have been to discover it through Facebook. Adaptability is key. What worked yesterday doesn’t work today, and we have to be okay with that!

  6. Thanks for sharing such an intimate story with us. And for being such a great mom. It takes time for any of us to know who we are and when there is something added to the mix that even we didn’t plan on for ourselves, we are not always the most gracious in how we reveal who we are to ourselves and others.

    Yet, it is with love and acceptance we can all support one another in becoming more fully who we are meant to be.

  7. I always admired people who have the courage to go up against whatever it is to be who they are. Lily is that and so are you, because you’re using hers and your story to support others to do the same…..and for sure we need it in business! Thanks for sharing!

  8. Lily – congrats on your BFA! What are your plans? a theater career? Your Mom & I did theater together in college. Hope all goes well. Stay true. If you are ever in the Philippines, let me know. I would love to meet you.

    1. Bo – she’s actually a Pratt grad, so fine arts like her dad. Metal sculpture to be exact. My other daughter is the actor/singer. Lily’s headed to China this summer. Thank you for your kind invitation and words. Perhaps some day she’ll take you up on it.

  9. Ruth, your vulnerability and perspective is absolutely refreshing. I enjoyed this piece because not only am I empowered by Lily’s story, whom I’ve met and adore, but it helped me to to further embrace an essential aspect of parenting, which is to understand that no matter what our children go through, our love and support is the best thing gift we can give them.

    Thank you for sharing this my dear Ruth!

  10. Thank you for sharing your personal story Ruth. I also like how you related it to business and the flexibility, passion and confidence that is required to survive and thrive in a rapidly changing environment.

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