Bruce Jenner, in an interview with Diane Sawyer that aired 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. His reply: “For all intents and purposes, I am a woman.”

Jenner, 65, said he first began hormonal therapy to become female at age 40 but stopped the transition after five years because of his children (he didn't want to hurt them), his public image and his religious beliefs.

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, a gold medal winner in the decathlon at 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 transperson, 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; he was married to his third, Kris Jenner, from 1991 until their divorce this past December.

“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." ' "

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Jenner told Sawyer — who asked about his sexual orientation — that he's not gay, is heterosexual and has always been attracted to women. He said that as a little boy he dressed in his sister's clothes and his mother's scarves, and that he embraced his athleticism to prove his masculinity to himself. For the interview, Jenner 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 reportedly had been intended to follow his 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 that it would 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 transgender celebrities, including “Orange Is the New Black” star Laverne Cox, and film director Lana Wachowski, who with her brother directed “The Matrix” franchise. Perhaps the most famous is Christine Jorgensen, born George Jorgensen in 1926 in New York City, who later underwent sex reassignment surgery overseas. She died at the age of 62 in 1989.