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Linda Thompson, Bruce Jenner

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Bruce Jenner's second ex-wife Linda Thompson opens up about their married life and how she dealt with the Olympian and Keeping Up With the Kardashians star's gender identity journey in an essay posted soon after an ABC interview in which he revealed to Diane Sawyer that he is transitioning from a man to a woman.

(At this time, Bruce has not chosen to publicly identify as a woman and so E! News will continue to refer to him as Bruce and use male pronouns, until he indicates otherwise.)

Bruce, 65, and Thompson, 64, were married for about three years in the '80s, when he first began transitioning, and are parents to sons Brandon Jenner, 33, and Brody Jenner, 31. Bruce is a parent to 10 children, including six biological kids, and has three ex-wives, the most recent being Kris Jenner. She and more of his loved ones have expressed support for him following the anticipated two-hour interview.

"If Bruce had told me about his gender issue when we first began getting romantically involved, I would not have married him," Thompson wrote in her essay, posted on The Huffington Post on Friday night.

"But looking back, I'm so grateful to God, the universe and Bruce that I didn't know, and that Bruce played the role in my life that he did," she said, adding that had he told her about his journey in 1979, when they met, she "would never have experienced the joy, the honor, the privilege of being the mother of the two most precious gifts I have ever known, Brandon and Brody."

Bruce has not commented on her printed remarks.

The former actress, beauty queen and songwriter (who co-wrote the Whitney Houston song "I Have Nothing" from The Bodyguard ), recalled in her essay how she first laid eyes on Bruce while she and Elvis Presley (who she dated for several years) were watching the Summer Olympics in Montréal in 1976, during the Cold War. Bruce won the Olympic gold medal in the decathlon competition, making him one of the most celebrated athletes of our time. She said Presley called Bruce "handsome."

She said she met Bruce three years later. They wed in January 1981.Thompson wrote that when Brandon was 3 and a half years old, Bruce approached her with a "very somber look on his face" and told her "he identified as a woman."

In his interview with Sawyer, Bruce said, "For all intents and purposes, I am a woman." When asked about his sexuality (which is not the same as gender identity), he said, "Let's go with ‘asexual' for now."

Bruce had said in his interview with Sawyer that his "gender was a big part" of his breakup with Thompson.

"Bruce and I separated after going to therapy for about six months—just to exhaust any hope of keeping our family together," she  wrote. Being married to a woman was not what I had envisioned for my life."

"I was so heartbroken that I would get in my car day and night and aimlessly drive up and down Pacific Coast Highway, crying," she said. "I mourned the death of my marriage, my man, and my dream of enjoying a lifetime of family togetherness. But I was also empathetic to, and mourned for, the pain that Bruce had experienced every day of his life."

In the '80s, Bruce got a nose job, began taking female hormone supplements and had his facial hair removed permanently, and then stopped his transition, saying he lost his nerve and didn't want to cause his children pain.

Thompson said in her essay that one day, they sons told her they saw their father getting out of the shower and that "Daddy has boobs." Breast enlargement is a common side-effect for men taking female hormone supplements.

Thompson said she told the kids that Bruce had just stopped his Olympic training and that "his pectoral muscles have probably just gotten a little flabby," adding, "I was trying to shield Brandon and Brody from the truth and protect Bruce at the same time. It was exhausting."

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Thompson said in her essay that she told their sons about "Bruce's gender dysphoria" when they were 31 and 29 years old, adding, "I wanted Brandon and Brody to experience enough life and garner enough knowledge, confidence, and compassion to be able to deal with their father's true self.

Both Brandon and Brody also talked to Sawyer and expressed support for their dad.

"After having harbored his secret, and feeling in my heart and mind that I have protected him through these years, I can now breathe a little easier, knowing he now has found the strength and the courage to fulfill his dream," Thompson wrote. "He can finally realize his need to be who he authentically is, who he was born to be. That takes tremendous courage. For that I commend him."