Specialist discusses Bruce Jenner's rumored transition, personal journey

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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

Speculations that Bruce Jenner is in the process of transitioning into a woman have created a buzz in headlines across the nation. Specialist Dr. Ellie Izzo provides insight to the mental and social process of this journey, and discusses issues faced by the transgender community.

Rumors of Jenner's transition and photos of his feminine appearance are circulating through tabloids, and advocates in the transgender community feel that he is being exploited unfairly. Many people are confused and do not understand issues related to gender transitions and gender identity.

"There's not a lot of information that's disseminated to the general public about the seriousness of transitioning regarding gender," Dr. Izzo said. "And it's all speculation right now, we'll need to hear from Bruce himself regarding what his particular journey is at this point in time."

Dr. Izzo explained how identifying with gender and sexuality is a very personal process, and that it is never an outsider's job to assign these roles to anyone. She also explained that gender is on a spectrum, with male on one side and female on another, on which all humans fall somewhere.

"Gender is both an identity and an expression of that identity," Dr. Izzo said. "We don't' spend a lot of time as individuals typically contemplating our gender. But when the inside identity, the very existence of a person, doesn't match how they're expected to express it, it really creates a lot of challenges. And we really need to develop an empathy about this."

Through much of his career, the 65-year-old Olympian has been considered a symbol of masculinity. Jenner has not yet confirmed what kind of journey or transition that he is going through, but his decision to acknowledge his gender identity may make him into a strong and positive role model for people in the transgender community.

"It takes an enormous amount of courage to be able to come to terms with this inner turmoil, to make these decisions about it, and proceed from there," Dr. Izzo said. "There are so few role models in the trans community, that should in fact Bruce be on this particular journey, he's going to provide a powerful role model for a lot of our transgender folk who don't have a lot of people to look up to as they find their way."

Jenner's interview with Diane Sawyer is scheduled to air tonight, where he will address the rumors surrounding his gender transition.

Dr. Izzo hopes that Jenner's journey will open the doors to discussion about transgender people and their experiences, as well as encourage the public to develop empathy for their community.

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