A lot has been written already about Bruce Jenner’s gender transition and his emergence as Caitlyn Jenner on the cover of Vanity Fair, but I have to say that it never ceases to amaze me how quickly society and its standards have changed over the last few years when it comes to LGBT rights and acceptance.
For some that change is disturbing. For others, a revelation.
Take, for example, two online articles I happened to see about Jenner, both written from a “Christian” point of view.
This blogger echoes a common point of view, saying about Jenner (and strangely, all of us) that, “We seem to want to erase the idea of gender and reinforce it all at once. We don’t want to have to conform to gender stereotypes. We don’t want to be put into categories and yet we want to be able to transfer ourselves by self-declaration from one category to another.”
The author goes on to say that her “Christian world view” forces her to decry Jenner’s transition. It is her rational conclusion that we are what God made us and we don’t get to “self-declare” something else.
Strangely, another author I came across by chance uses her “Christian” point of view to come to the exact opposite conclusion, asking, “Can you IMAGINE? Spending your whole life being told that who you are and what you feel is wrong on every level? What that would do to your mind, your soul, your spirit?”
I think it’s time, as a society, that we admit that our reactions and beliefs about issues like this have nothing to do with Christianity or any rational standards of right and wrong.
The Christian Bible says nothing about transgender issues and precious little about homosexuality. True, there are a few not-so-nice lines about it in Paul’s letters and some stonable offense bits in the Old Testament. But Christians willfully ignore or reinterpret plenty of stuff that’s a lot more prescriptive than those few lines.
The opposition to LBGT rights is, to my mind, actually about something else.
Take a critique of gay marriage I heard a while back on NPR (Sorry, no link available). The man being interviewed related his views, without rancor or animosity, that for him, marriage should be defined by tradition and biology.
The tradition, he reasoned, was for a man and a woman to be paired in matrimony.
The relevant biology was the pairing of male and female for reproduction.
It was a simple, rational explanation for a defense of “traditional” marriage.
But the tradition of marriage has been wildly diverse throughout human history, even in the Christian era. The Bible itself–again in that inconvenient Old Testament part–allowed for polygamy, a tradition that survived for much longer than paired marriage. What’s more, there are many other “traditions” of marriage that we have radically altered in today’s world, not the least of which allowing women to be partners in marriage and do things like, oh, actually consent to be married.
Marriages were, traditionally, arranged by families or set up as binding economic contracts. All these are traditions that have defined marriage in recent history.
The rational conclusion from any study of history is simply that traditions change.
That may seem paradoxical, but it’s the reality that, rationally, we have to accept. Trying to hold cultures steady, to protect them inveterately is to try to hold back flood waters with our bare hands.
And what of biology?
Surely here, the opponents of gay marriage and other LGBT rights have a rational argument to make. After all, gender and sexuality exist as hard biological facts. We can’t change that.
Well, this is what opponents to LGBT rights just don’t get. People like Caitlyn Jenner aren’t trying to thwart their biological natures–they’re trying to reconcile them.
Biologically, we now know–based on scientific evidence that any rational point of view must consider–that human and mammalian sexuality just isn’t as simple as male and female. The wiring and plumbing that define gender and dictate our sexual natures just aren’t as locked down as people once thought–or as some people would like them to be.
There’s a spectrum out there with all sorts of possibilities.
This is not unnatural. It is not rebellion against God. It’s just who these people are.
What it’s not, I suppose, is normal.
And that’s important. We know from psychology that “normal” is an important comfort blanket for human beings. Any time we are exposed to something that is outside our own “normal,” it is a stressor.
The weird rings the same kinds of bells in our brains as danger. So it’s no wonder that people react negatively to LGBT issues emerging so publicly into our social discourse.
It’s weird for a lot of people. I’ll admit that homosexuality was weird for me until I had gay friends. My own children will never experience that because they are growing up in a world where almost nobody feels the need to stay in the closet anymore.
Now, I’ve only ever known one transgender person, and that was a young person I never got to know too well. I hope he or she is doing well now and I’d bet that Caitlyn Jenner’s public transition is an important moment in his or her life. (Probably “her” by now, but I can’t be sure.)
So I can relate to people who think that Bruce Jenner’s transition is off-putting. Bizarre, even.
But it’s time that those people get it.
I think they need to do some rational thinking. They need to imagine how hard it must be to live one’s life with such a tension between the way one looks to the world and the way one looks to oneself.
All of us who are “normal” need to strive for some empathy toward those who aren’t, who have been marginalized in our society for so long because of who they are.
That’s what everyone needs to get about LGBT rights.
The only choice they get is to hide who they are and suffer for it or to come out and be true to their natures.
Now, I’m not a Christian, but I’ve studied Christianity and read a great deal about it. It seems to me that the main lesson of Christianity is about compassion. It seems to me that once we understand that biology is diverse, that people come in all sorts of gender/sexual arrangements, then the “Christian” thing to do would be to accept them and embrace them all.
I’m quite certain that that’s the rational thing to do.