Bruce Jenner, in an interview with Diane Sawyer on ABC Friday night, said he has spent his life self-identified as a woman.
"I've been thinking about this day forever and what I should do for my life and how do I tell my story," Jenner told Sawyer, who asked if he was a woman: "For all intents and purposes, I am a woman."
Jenner, 65, also said he had undergone hormonal transition therapy at age 40 but stopped after five years.
Ceaseless tabloid coverage in recent weeks had prepared millions of viewers for Jenner's revelations Friday night. Nevertheless, this interview was his first public confirmation of his gender orientation. "I just can't pull the curtain any longer," he said.
Jenner, the gold medal winner of the decathlon in the 1976 Olympics, and a longtime cast member of E! series "Keeping Up With the Kardashians," becomes the most prominent celebrity to have declared an intention to become a trans person, or "transgender," a term designating someone's preferred gender identity as opposed to their sexual orientation. Jenner is the father of six children from three wives, and from 1991 until recently was married to Kris Jenner.
"I would say I've always been very confused with my gender identity since I was this big," he said, indicating the size of a toddler. "I've tried to explain it because I've had all my children sitting in that chair, and explain it this way: 'God's looking down, and making Bruce, and [saying], "What are we going to do with this one? Let's give him the soul of a female and see how he deals with that." ' "
Jenner told Sawyer -- confused by his sexual orientation -- that he was heterosexual. He said that as a little boy, he dressed in his sister's clothes. As of Friday night, he preferred being referred to with male pronouns, "him" and "he."
Jenner had been expected to tell Sawyer about the transition after the announcement of an E! "docuseries" last year that had reportedly been intended to follow the transition process. The series was shelved after Jenner was involved in a fatal car accident in Malibu, California, on Feb. 7, but ABC said Friday night it will go forward this summer.
In an interview with The Associated Press last month, Jenner's mother, Esther Jenner, said "I am at peace with what he is and what he's doing."
Jenner tops a short list of trans celebrities, including "Orange Is the New Black" star Laverne Cox, and Lana Wachowski, who with her brother directed "The Matrix" franchise. Perhaps the most famous was Christine Jorgensen, born George Jorgensen in 1926 in New York, who later underwent sex reassignment surgery. She died in 1989.