I wrote about transgender people a little while back. In recent months I’ve felt God leading me toward greater empathy of transgenders. I still don’t fully understand the transgender experience, but then I’ll never truly grasp the straight experience or blind experience or Braves fan experience either.
The more stories I hear, though, the more puzzle pieces slide into place. The more I see the humanity in transgender people, the more I see the humanity in all of us.
There’s hardly a bigger name right now, transgender or otherwise, than Bruce Jenner. I don’t know much about him other than his connection to all those Kardashians. Now he’s on magazine covers, and he’s showing Diane Sawyer his closet full of women’s clothing. His Nightline interview about his transgender identity blew up the Internet.
I just watched the interview, and it got me thinking a lot about transgenders and identity. The things I understand, the things I don’t, and what I believe to be the truest source of all our identity woes.
How I Get Bruce Jenner
When Diane Sawyer showed Bruce Jenner pictures from his Olympian days, he gave a self-assessment of that younger version of himself/herself.
He spoke about being a confused person.
He spoke about lying to himself and others.
He spoke about not wanting to disappoint others, even halting his estrogen treatments in the 80’s. He didn’t want to hurt his kids.
I kinda get all that. I get the confusion and hiding, and I get the daunting thundercloud of disappointment.
For nineteen years I lived in a Christian home and attended Christian schools and was constantly surrounded by all these squeaky clean Jesus people. Forget my sexuality — I couldn’t disclose any of my messy struggles to anyone.
So, I actually resonated quite a bit with the sadness in Jenner’s eyes as he reflected upon the person he once was. I imagine I’d speak of my old self with a similar despondency.
How I Don’t Get Bruce Jenner
Call me ignorant, but before watching Jenner’s Nightline interview I’d assumed all transgenders are sexually attracted to people of their same birth gender.
For example, if you were born a male but felt you were truly female, you’d be attracted to other males.
Or if you were born a female and actively pursued becoming a man, you’d be attracted to other females.
But when Sawyer asked Jenner point-blank if he were gay or whatever you’d call it, he emphatically stated he is not attracted to other men. He’s been married to multiple women, and he was attracted to each one. Still is attracted to women.
I actually wasn’t expecting that answer. Is he repressing his male attractions, or is he telling the whole truth?
If we take him at his word, I guess other transgenders must feel the same way?
How Everyone Else Gets / Doesn’t Get Bruce Jenner
On one side, angsty Christians are decrying Bruce Jenner as some haphazard soul further corrupting the minds of 700,000 transgender Americans in his pointed declaration to “change the world.”
And on the other side, angsty Christians are cheering Bruce Jenner’s bravery while bashing their own Church’s cowardice and prejudice.
Indeed, Bruce Jenner is brave for telling the world what’s been brewing in his heart for decades. The Church would do well to practice such unabashed openness rather than pretend no dust or skeletons exist in our closets.
But what if a transgender person just like a gay person like a straight person found our identity in something beyond ourselves? What if there’s so much more to our being than the empty closet? What if we could boast in something greater?
The more boastings in closets I see, my own story included, the more convinced I grow of this boasting in Christ. His is the ultimate reflection we are craving. His love, His affirmation. Girlfriends won’t fix us, nor will boyfriends, nor marriage, nor kids.
A trans life or a gay life or a perfectly straight life won’t fill us either. I’ve at least tried two of those.
I still don’t know much about Bruce Jenner. But I do know what Bruce Jenner and I and every last one of us needs. We need someone with a better view of ourselves to look us straight in the eyes and tell us who we really are and who we really need.
We are precious, and we need Jesus.
We need His blood to stain our old mirrors.
We need His light reflecting onto identities anew.