Bruce Jenner’s First Wife Chrystie Crownover Watched “Cathartic” ABC Special With His Family

Bruce Jenner during his interview with Diane Sawyer
Bruce Jenner opened up about his gender identity in an interview with Diane Sawyer ABC News

All out in the open. Bruce Jenner captivated the nation on Friday, April 24, when he publicly confirmed the truth about his gender identity in a highly anticipated ABC 20/20 special with Diane Sawyer. The Olympic athlete, 65, watched the interview with his family members by his side, including first wife Chrystie Crownover.

The mother of Burt and Casey Jenner, who was married to Bruce in the 1970s, spoke to Good Morning America on Monday, April 27, about Bruce's reaction to the special and her thoughts on his transition.

"[It] was kind of surreal," Crownover told GMA. "It was great because the family was together and that's what I'm most proud of."

"I know it's been painful for him," she continued of Bruce keeping his true feelings a secret for decades. "I know it's been a torment in his life."

As to Bruce's immediate reaction as he watched the special, Crownover said simply, "Pain… pain." "He was tearful at times and it broke my heart," she added. "It broke my heart for him… I think it was cathartic to watch it together. It was pretty intense."

As previously revealed, the Jenner-Kardashian family viewing included Kim, Kylie, Kendall, Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian, as well as Bruce's third wife, Kris Jenner. While Kris was not interviewed for the special, Chrystie and the athlete's second wife, Linda Thompson, voiced their support and touched on their marriages. 

bruce jenner and chrystie
Bruce Jenner with first wife Chrystie in 1977 Ron Galella/WireImage.com

Crownover explained in her interview with GMA that Bruce told her early on in their marriage that he had interest in presenting himself as a woman. Bruce also told Sawyer on Friday's special, "Chrystie was the first one to know."

"Understandably, I was speechless," Crownover said of the moment Bruce told her that he identified as female. "I didn't really know what to stay. I was really pleased that he shared that intimacy with me, that he trusted me with his deepest darkest secret."

"It's so hard to wrap your head around it particularly because he was such a manly man and he didn't display any female style in any way," she continued. "He never indicated anything feminine in his demeanor… It didn't threaten me, it didn't threaten our marriage, it wasn't really a threat… It wasn't a problem." 

GMA also aired previously unseen clips of Bruce from his interview, in which he compares his coming out to the struggle of competing in the Olympics. 

"Life is much more difficult than running, I guarantee you," he told Sawyer, adding that the public transition is, in a way, the 11th event in addition to the 10 that he completed in the 1970s decathlon.

"I'm trying to live with myself," he added. "Trying to be myself… Everybody's got stuff, everybody's got their things they gotta deal with… I'm trying to do something about it for the good and I don't think anybody can be critical of that, at least I hope not." 

"I'm sure there are plenty of people that don't have the courage to come out at all ever and they live private, dark, tortured lives," Crownover added to GMA. "That's tragic. The fact that he did share it with me that first year… It was a gift that he gave it to me, that he trusted me with something so intimate." 

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