Caitlin Jenner, when she was Bruce Jenner, was married to Kris, the widow of Robert Kardashian and the mother of Kourtney, Kim, Khloé, and Rob. Thus Bruce Jenner was Kim Kardashian's stepfather.

But Bruce is now Caitlin. It seems inappropriate to refer to Caitlin as a "stepfather", but "stepmother" seems even more inappropriate, especially given that Kris, the "birth mother", is still alive.

So what term should be used to describe Caitlin's relationship to Kim and her siblings?

Example sentence: Caitlin Jenner is Kim Kardashian's ______.

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    given that Kris, the "birth mother", is still alive. So? Kids will have two "mothers" if their parents are lesbians, one of which may be the birth mother. I don't see why this is any different... – Laurel Oct 5 '16 at 0:34
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    step-parent seems the safest choice. We don't have conventions established for this kind of thing yet. – GrimGrom Oct 5 '16 at 1:12
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    My sister and I share the same father but have different mothers. My mother is my sister's stepmother. That her mother is alive and well has nothing to do with that. That's what the step in stepmother is for. – terdon Oct 6 '16 at 15:11
  • In terms of how useful such a word might be, and thus a coinage, I would hazard that there are more brother-in-law's sisters' husbands, and we don't have a word for them. If there is a need, it will be fulfilled. (I remember a similar question arising with the introduction of the British Pound coin - "What are we going to call it?" There were various suggestions but popular evolution decided on "a pound coin". – Greybeard Feb 12 at 0:34

The term stepmother is appropriate here. After all, it was Caitlyn's decision to transition to a woman*, and she appears to have adopted all the feminine terminology (for example, the pronoun "she"). Or, to be safe, you can refer to her as a stepparent. You could also just flip the entire thing and mention that Kim is Caitlyn's stepdaughter (as most tabloids seem to do).

I did find an article that uses "stepmother":

Reality TV star Kim Kardashian says that she first laid eyes on her stepmother Caitlyn, who was previously her father Bruce Jenner before undergoing a gender transition, when she attended the cover shoot of the magazine and she loved it.

Caitlyn Jenner is 'Beautiful', Says Step-Daughter Kim Kardashian

It's not unheard of to have two mothers (or fathers), with gay couples being the more prominent example.

In either situation, however, society tends to jump to cis, heteronormal conclusions. This fact is illustrated by the experiences of a man with an ex-wife, who has married another man named Dean:

Indeed, there have been occasions in which Dean has been introduced as a “stepparent” by my children in public settings when their mother and I were around. The common assumption? That Dean was now married to their mom rather than in relationship with me, because stepparents are an accepted norm in a straight world, and still an oddity in the world of same-sex parents. This would both bring gales of laughter along with the sad recognition that we live in a world in which only children with straight couples who remarry can have stepparents, leaving the LGBTQ stepparents out in the dust.

The Complicated Role of a Same-Sex Stepparent

Similar ambiguity exists even outside of LGBTQ contexts with aunts and uncles: you don't know who's a spouse and who's a sibling. The exact relationship can only be expressed in multiple words, though it often isn’t necessary to do so.

* Caitlyn fits into the most common category of transgenderism: her biological gender at birth was "wrong" and she was really the opposite gender. Of course, gender isn't always binary... Or constant, for that matter either (genderfluid).

In general, you should respect a person's preference for pronouns and other gender-specific language. Ideally, you would ask them (if they haven't already told you... or Vanity Fair, in Caitlyn's case) what they prefer. There are a lot of different terms that may be used: here's a list of some.

  • +1 for stepparent. That would have been my answer. – alwayslearning Oct 5 '16 at 3:21
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    If I prefer to be called rich when I may be factually poor, then by your logic everyone must call me rich, else they are a bigot. (In reference to pronouns, not names. Names may be legally changed, while pronouns will never have a legal process) – user105360 Oct 12 '16 at 6:04
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    @Physics-Compute Actually, there is a legal side to pronouns. In DC, for example, deliberate misuse of pronouns is harassment. But nobody would get fined for calling you poor, since that is not a protected class. – Laurel Oct 12 '16 at 18:48

Caitlyn would probably still go as stepmother no matter what, since her entire gender basically changed. In case you're confused with how to treat someone as a transgender, it's basically just treating them as the gender they identify as. So I would likely just call Caitlyn the stepmother of Kim and her siblings.

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    Good answer, apparently recorded prior to Laurel's similar answer, so I'm upvoting this one. Going one step farther -- if daughter and stepmother are particularly close, daughter may choose to forgo the "step" and introduce Caitlin to people as "This is my mother, Caitlin." Many stepfamilies do function that way. – aparente001 Oct 5 '16 at 3:48

One may choose to use the context of time to decide. If the frame of reference was before the operation, one would say stepfather. If the frame of reference was after the operation, and he prefers to be called stepmother, and the communicator chooses to disregard genetics and override with Bruce/Caitlyn's preference, then one would use stepmother.


If Caitlyn and Kris were eventually divorced; and if, during the marriage, Caitlyn had never adopted the children, then "family friend" is the closest to describing the situation, vis-à-vis the children, that I can think of.

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