"We didn't talk for years and now we see each other every couple of weeks," Caitlyn Jenner's eldest daughter tells PEOPLE
Goodbye Bruce, Hello Caitlyn! Subscribe now for exclusive details on her new life and the emotional decision to reveal her true self, only in PEOPLE.
In her 20/20 interview with Diane Sawyer – where she first came out as transgender – Jenner admitted that she was “really struggling” with her gender identity during Burt, Brandon, Brody and Cassandra’s “big, formative years.”
However, now that Caitlyn is living a more authentic life – especially following her cover shoot for Vanity Fair – she is intent on mending her relationships with her children, though it will be an ongoing, effortful process.
“My relationship with Caitlyn is much better than with Bruce, but we still have a lot of work to do,” Cassandra Marino – Caitlyn’s daughter with Chrystie Scott – confesses to PEOPLE. “We didn’t talk for years, and now we see each other every couple of weeks and talk on the phone, which I am grateful for.”
Adds Cassandra: “She’s happier and more appreciative of her family. She is trying harder and there is a softness to Caitlyn that is new to me. I think part of that is that when someone is happier, they are just nicer.”
Indeed, Caitlyn is happier than ever now that she is no longer “living a lie,” as a source told PEOPLE following the airing of her 20/20 interview. “[She’s] so relieved,” another close family source added. “Like a big weight is off [her] shoulders.”
As Caitlyn explores her life as an out transgender woman, Cassandra, 34, tells PEOPLE that she “enjoy[s] talking about girly things like makeup and clothes with [Caitlyn].” However, she adds, “There is so much more to being a woman than our external appearance. I am really looking forward to exploring that more with her.”
The first time Cassandra met Caitlyn, it was during a “girls’ night” – gatherings that Caitlyn began hosting as part of her transition, according to Vanity Fair, “where [Caitlyn] could dress as desired and feel natural in the presence of women.”
Months later, Cassandra remains a regular fixture at the girls’ nights. “I feel so honored to be invited to such an intimate gathering after all these years,” she tells PEOPLE. “I am pleased with how beautiful and comfortable she seems every time I see her. She seems to be having a lot of fun with it!”
Burt, 36, and Cassandra found out about Caitlyn’s transition when they were 13 and 11 years old, respectively – Caitlyn initially began physically transitioning in the ’80s. Their mother Chrystie told them of their father’s transition, according to VF
Brandon, 33, and Brody, 31 – Caitlyn’s children with Linda Thompson – found out much later, but earlier, still, than Kylie, 17, and Kendall, 19, and her stepchildren with Kris Jenner. Kim, Kourtney, Khloé and Rob Kardashian were “the last ones let in” on the transition, as PEOPLE reported back in March.
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After years of lies and half-truths – the pressure of which had her considering suicide – Caitlyn’s relationship with her children has come a long way. In VF, Caitlyn admitted that she wasn’t present for Cassandra’s birth – she and Chrystie were in the middle of divorcing when they found out she was pregnant with their second child.
When Chrystie gave birth to Cassandra in Los Angeles, Caitlyn was in a hotel room in Kansas City. Caitlyn was upset, but “under the circumstances I could not even see myself being there,” she told VF.
With the Jenner side of Caitlyn’s family closer together than ever before, they “hang out like any other family,” Cassandra, who has two children with husband Mark Marino, tells PEOPLE.
“We will cook, hang out in the kitchen, share recent stories and try to prevent my little kids from drowning in the pool,” she jokes.
For much more on Caitlyn’s new life, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday