Bruce Jenner, Caitlyn Jenner, Compassion, Contradiction of Being, Emil Brunner, Identity, Massive Identity Confusion, Sexuality, Sin, The Scandal of Christianity, Trans-Identity, Transgender, Vanity Fair
Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover was expected to create a controversial, watercooler cultural moment, but it turned into something much more extraordinary. Because the image of Caitlyn Jenner – winner of an Olympic gold medal as a man named Bruce, and member of the Kardashians, the family pop culture loves to hate – brought no controversy, only applause. Kim Kardashian may have broken the internet, but Caitlyn Jenner did something even more astonishing. She united it.
Thus began Jess Carter-Morley’s astonishing assertion in her article for The Guardian. It doesn’t quite matter to me that she is the Fashion Editor for The Guardian. In other words, I do not diminish her insights based on her shallowness of topical experience; I contend she is completely unaware of what fruit this cultural moment will bear; her experience of “uniting the internet” is hyperbolic overstatement (hyperbole intended). Her assertions cannot possibly stand up under the weight of reality.
Dark and Troubling History
In profound contrast, transgender Walter Heyer writes:
The dark and troubling history of the contemporary transgender movement, with its enthusiastic approval of gender-reassignment surgery, has left a trail of misery in its wake.
Bruce Jenner and Diane Sawyer could benefit from a history lesson. I know, because I suffered through “sex change” surgery and lived as a woman for eight years. The surgery fixed nothing—it only masked and exacerbated deeper psychological problems.
The beginnings of the transgender movement have gotten lost today in the push for transgender rights, acceptance, and tolerance. If more people were aware of the dark and troubled history of sex-reassignment surgery, perhaps we wouldn’t be so quick to push people toward it.
Heyer is not alone in speaking in contradiction to Carter-Morely’s happy assessment. Over a decade ago Dr. Paul McHugh (Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University) wrote SURGICAL SEX: Why We Stopped Doing Sex Change Operations.
For an excellent article on this topic, I recommend Alastair Roberts’ Call me Caitlyn. I appreciate how he expresses:
… however we may feel about the transition to Caitlyn, Jenner’s story of lonely suffering and self-alienation should excite our compassion.
This call to “excite our compassion” ought to be a theme that runs through hard conversations about confused identity. In Whose I am – as a clue to Who I am, I told the story of “an Ottawa family whose 12 year old son has “come out” as a transgendered girl. I noted that the (loving) parents even knew there’s something confusing about this stage in their child’s life – by making allowances that could anticipate their son/daughter changing his/her mind (this child is 12 years old after all). The parents chose a course of action that would not be permanently genitally mutilating.”
The Scandal of Christianity
Sin has its origin in a will, in a conception of freedom dictated by hubris… evil is not founded or grounded in some element of his natural constitution, but in his relation to God, namely, in the negation of the God-given destiny and frame of [a person’s] life.
Evil understood in that fashion as sin is therefore neither an unfortunate combination of elements in human nature nor a consequence of the finality and limitations of his being; but evil is understood… as rebellion of the creature against the Creator, the distrust and ingratitude of the creature, to which it does not seem enough to receive freedom and life, but which believes itself to be free only if it leads its own life and is its own lord. By this attempt to emancipate himself from the divine dependance, [a person] entangles himself in a desperate incurable contradiction of his being. He is not God, but wants to be God.
There is no doubt that this world-view is rapidly being displaced by modernity’s rush to all things sensual. (Gosh, who talks about sin anymore?) But Brunner even predicts this (published 1951) when he writes about mankind’s sensual nature becoming a source of evil desire. “It is not sensuality which poisons the spirit, but it is the spirit which poisons his animal nature. And now when this has happened this perverted sensuality becomes a master… love of himself becomes the all-dominating motive.”
The truly astonishing thing in our day is not Caitlyn Jenner’s revelation… the profoundly astonishing thing remains the Creator’s ongoing revelation of Himself, and His continual initiative into our lives to redeem and reconcile us to Himself.