Linda Thompson shares her support for Caitlyn Jenner in new memoir A Little Thing Called Life
Credit: Jana Cruder

Linda Thompson says she’s happy to be a a fountainhead of support for ex-spouse Caitlyn Jenner.

In the actress and songwriter’s new memoir A Little Thing Called Life, which is excerpted exclusively in this week’s PEOPLE, Thompson writes, “Caitlyn seems so much happier and freer in her feminine self.” But Thompson also acknowledges that for her, the transition hasn’t been easy: it’s hard to reconcile the the “masculine, virile” man – who married Thompson and fathered her two children, Brandon and Brody – with the striking woman who is now Caitlyn Jenner.

During their marriage, Thompson wasn’t aware of Jenner’s “gender dysphoria” until the former Olympian approached her about it in 1985. She says Jenner (then known as Bruce) explained, “I have lived in the wrong body my whole life. It is a living hell, and I really would like to move forward with the process of becoming a woman.”

For more about Linda Thompson’s relationship with Caitlyn Jenner, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE

Thompson, devastated and confused, suggested they go to therapy together and naively hoped there might be a way to “fix” the situation. In her memoir, she explains that this reaction stemmed from a lack of education and understanding about gender dysphoria at the time.

While Jenner wanted to remain married even after the transition, Thompson says she’s never been attracted to women. “I still loved him,” she writes, recalling the first time Jenner dressed as a woman for Thompson to see. “But now he felt more like my best girlfriend.”

Caitlyn Jenner Considered Sex Change in 1985, Ex-Wife Linda Thompson Reveals

Jenner moved out of their family home in 1985, but it wasn’t until their two sons were 31 and 29 that Thompson told them about their father’s desire to transition. Thompson was determined to keep Jenner’s secret until the boys had “enough knowledge, confidence and compassion to be able to deal with their father’s true self.”

Now, with the truth out in the open, Thompson writes, “I sometimes find it surreal to look into her perfectly made-up, beautiful brown eyes, while remembering the masculine, gorgeous man who fathered my sons.”

She adds, “I completely accept, respect, and support Caitlyn, but I must admit, I sometimes miss Bruce.”