I have been reading a lot of responses to Bruce Jenner's transgender transformation and just shaking my head. Physics teaches us that for every action there is an equal and opposite re-action. So, for everyone who is cheering him on, there are also those voicing their opposition to what he is doing.*
There are those who say he is going against God's design in altering his body. I can follow their argument [not agree, just follow] right up to where it says that "Satan targets man and woman and induces them to upend God’s design." It argues against anything but a rigid, bible-based view of male and female roles and of course condemns homosexuality.
My friend Scott, son of a conservative Presbyterian minister, wrote a review recently on his blog of the book by Bart Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. He points out that Christians pick and choose the parts of the bible we want to believe and enforce:
"Like the author, I grew up believing the Bible was the inherent word of God – God’s chosen words as inspired to be written by several select human authors. You had to believe everything. Of course, as I grew older, I began to have doubts. For instance, take all of Leviticus. No one stones their children for being disobedient, people eat shrimp and bacon, men cut their hair and beards, etc. But if you followed the Bible like you were supposed to, you couldn’t do those things, right? So that prepared me for the cherry picking that Christians do with the Bible left and right to suit whatever agenda they have."
I didn't grow up in a home where I was told the bible was the literal word of God, and it had to be followed to the letter. The Episcopalian view of the bible is to view it as inspired, but also a book that has to be understood in its historic and cultural contexts.
The idea that when it comes to the bible you have to believe "all or nothing" or you're going to burn in hell is one that I find very offensive. There are too many conflicting views. There is too much room for argument.
Scott on the Ehrman book: "The author then goes on to say that currently, we possess over 5,700 Greek manuscripts... and that there are now known to be between 200,000 and 400,000 discrepancies in the New Testament, or more words than exist in it."
The bible is a complex document with many authors and editors. To take a simplistic view of it doesn't serve God's will, in my opinion. Now, I'm not arguing we should throw the baby out with the bath water - reject the entire bible. I would argue that we need to thoughtfully and prayerfully examine what it says and TRY to do so without injecting our own prejudices.
I think the folks who are most uncomfortable with Bruce Jenner's transformation are folks who like to say that the world should be immutable and unmoving, and they want to use the bible to justify that view.
Then there are those who are not rigidly conservative but who are definitely dismayed at seeing a man transform himself into a woman. My mother is very uncomfortable with Jenner as a woman. It goes against how she was raised.
However, here's my hope for the entire controversy: it's opening up a dialogue. It's starting a conversation about gender identity.
We desperately need this conversation.
According to the Youth Suicide Prevention Program, based on national statistics:
More than 50% of Transgender youth will have had at least one suicide attempt by their 20th birthday.
That's absolutely horrifying to me. Even if we don't embrace and encourage transgender people, the least we can do is allow them to be themselves, however they define that. They deserve peace, like anyone else.
Am I totally comfortable around transgender people? No. I've been around a few in my life and I must admit that I was highly uncomfortable. However, that doesn't mean I should whip out my bible and use it to tell those folks they are going against God's law.
I am hardly an example of a "girly girl."
I hardly ever wear dresses. I prefer pants, and I don't like to wear makeup. I have no desire to be a male and I am not gay. However, nobody condemns me in print or threatens me because my appearance doesn't conform to gender stereotypes.
If Bruce Jenner wants to dress like or even become a female, that is nobody's business but his [or hers].
My overall view is basic.
Everyone has a right, in America, to choose the gender they want to be. Whether or not other people are comfortable with that choice really doesn't matter. As long as transgender people are not breaking the law, they should be left in peace.
If we let conservative Christians dictate our laws then we will be no better than ISIS or Boko Haram or any other religious extremists.
America HAS to stand firm for individual freedoms. It's the defining characteristic of our nation.
*I can't quite wrap my head around referring to Jenner as "she" or "Caitlyn" but that doesn't mean I disapprove or condemn him in any way.