Bruce Jenner, the 1976 Olympic gold medalist and member of the Kardashian family, ended months of speculation Friday night in announcing during an ABC television special that he identifies as a woman.
"For all intents and purposes, I am a woman," he told Diane Sawyer in an interview.
The announcement made him among the highest-profile people to publicly come out as transgender. In the early part of the interview, he continued to refer to himself as he, and Sawyer continued to call him Bruce.
Jenner teared up even before the questions began, telling Sawyer, "I've been thinking about this day forever and what I should do with my life and how do I tell my story" and reaching for a tissue.
"I've always been confused about my gender identity since I was this big," said Jenner, 65.
It was, he said, as if God had put a little boy together, adding smarts and athletic ability and more, and then said, "Let's give him the soul of a woman and see how he deals with that."
The two-hour special reviewed Jenner's Olympic glory in the decathlon before stepping back in time for a look at an early childhood in which he would put on his sister's dress and his mother's scarf, taking care to put everything back exactly the same, so as not to get "caught."
"I didn't know why I was doing it," he said. "It just made me feel good."
Jenner said this interview would be the last as Bruce Jenner. "She," Jenner said, would be the next to speak publicly.
Early in the interview, Jenner took out his ponytail to let his long hair flow behind him.
"My brain is more female than it is male," he said.
Jenner said he hopes that speaking publicly about the gender issues would do some good in the world and vigorously denied that the interview was some sort of publicity stunt to promote the Kardashian reality TV show.
"If the Kardashian show gave me a foothold to do some good, I'm all for that," Jenner said.
He and his wife, the former Kris Kardashian, divorced in 2014, and he and members of the extended Kardashian family — among television's biggest reality stars — have remained coy about his plans.
Jenner said he told his first two wives about the gender confusion, and it was a factor in the breakup of his second marriage. During the 1980s, he began taking hormones, had surgery to make his nose smaller and was having hair removed from his face and chest.
Jenner said he has never been sexually attracted to men, and he wanted to make clear to viewers that gender identity and sexuality were separate things.
"I am not gay," Jenner said. "I am, as far as I know, heterosexual. I've always been with a woman, raising kids."
Jenner said he has gone back to say he was sorry to people in his life hurt by the gender identity issues.
"I've apologized to everybody," Jenner said. "I've apologized my whole life."
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Jenner said it was hard to talk about gender issues because of concerns about disappointing people.
Rumors about a possible transition have been trumpeted for months by tabloids and celebrity magazines.
With Friday night's announcement Jenner joins transgender celebrities like Lana Wachowski, who directed the Matrix films with her brother, Andy, and Chaz Bono, Sonny and Cher's son.
Nick Adams, the director of programs for transgender media at the gay rights organization GLAAD, said that any time a transgender celebrity comes forward with his or her story, "it goes a very long way toward educating people about who we are and the challenges that we face."
Information from the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Associated Press was used in this report.