Transgender activist in San Francisco discusses upcoming Bruce Jenner interview

Carolyn Tyler Image
ByCarolyn Tyler KGO logo
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
An exclusive interview with Bruce Jenner and ABC's Diane Sawyer will air on Friday, April 24, 2015.
An exclusive interview with Bruce Jenner and ABC's Diane Sawyer will air on Friday, April 24, 2015.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A lot of folks, including the transgender community in the Bay Area and across the country, are waiting to see ABC's exclusive interview with Bruce Jenner this Friday. Will be a teachable moment or will it be exploitation? One of the best known transgender activists in San Francisco sat down to discuss her journey and what could lie ahead for Jenner.

VIDEO: Transgender community hopeful for Bruce Jenner interview

Theresa Sparks is a Navy veteran, a former husband, a devoted parent, and someone in the unique position to empathize with the journey Bruce Jenner is apparently making.

Sparks used to be a self-described alpha male.

"I was the epitome of white affluence, white male dominance, you know, white male entitlement, and it didn't make me happy," she said.

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Sparks left that life behind about 20 years ago. Twice divorced with three children, she began her journey as a transgender woman.

"This is not something where you say -- I'll be transgender tomorrow," Sparks said. "This is something you've thought about, that you've, you've experienced all your life and at some point you just have to says it's time. I need to be who I am."

PHOTOS: Bruce Jenner through the years

Sparks moved to San Francisco and became an activist. In 1999, she was one of the coordinators of the nation's first Transgender Remembrance Day for victims of violence. Her activism led to an appointment on the police commission in 2004 and later a historic vote as its president.

"Which was a shock for me and the police," said Sparks.

Transgender activist Theresa Sparks talks to ABC7 News at the Human Rights Commission's office in San Francisco on April 22, 2015.

This trailblazer now heads San Francisco's Human Right's Commission. The 66-year-old knows a thing or two about being under the microscope and expects Diane Sawyer's Friday night interview with Bruce Jenner to open the Olympic gold medalist up to intense scrutiny.

The interview is expected to give Jenner the first opportunity to address reports that the reality television star may be undergoing a gender transition journey.

Sparks is hopeful the public spotlight will serve as an "aha" moment.

"I'm hoping people go, 'okay, I get it," said Sparks. "Or at least, 'I'm not afraid of it.'"

Sparks believes times have changed. When she received an honor at the California Capitol back in 2003 as "Woman of the Year," she says Republican lawmakers turned their backs.

When three transgender women were given that award last year, Sparks says they received a standing ovation.

For full coverage on Bruce Jenner, click here.