I’m always a little behind the times with my posts. Today I’ll talk briefly about Caitlyn Jenner, when it would be more apt to focus on same-sex marriage after this week’s US Supreme Court ruling. In truth, that’s a subject I’ve been thinking about for a long, long time, and at some point in the near (I hope) future I’ll put my thoughts down here.
But I don’t mind being late to the table on these matters, because there’s a good reason – I think long and hard about difficult issues. And I do that because I recognise that they’re difficult. Too many people think they’re easy. On both sides of these arguments people think it’s black and white, that anyone who disagrees with them is a bigot or a pervert, an apologist for inequality or for sin. I see hatred on both sides, and on both sides it can be disguised as love.
Well, I haven’t been keeping up with the Kardashians. The first I heard about Caitlyn was a news headline about her rapidly growing band of Twitter followers. Then I started seeing articles about her on Christian web sites and gathered the full story.
A typical article is this one by Jon Bloom. It begins full of compassion for the struggle Bruce Jenner faced throughout his life, but then suddenly, yet with subtlety, the language changes – “it’s not okay,” gender identity issues are equated with “indwelling sin,” and so on.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m absolutely sure that Caitlyn Jenner is a sinner. I’m equally sure that you are, that I am (in fact I’m even surer of that), and that we all are. That’s a truth that permeates the whole of God’s Word and I would never deny it. But Bruce Jenner’s understanding that ‘he’ was in fact female is not a sin, to my mind it’s the result of a genetic defect. We all have our many imperfections and that was one of hers. Her decision to go through the outward transformation is not a sinful act but an acceptance of who she is, a removing of her mask. If only we could all remove the masks we so often wear.
I don’t approve of her Vanity Fair photo-shoot. I suppose it was inevitable given her celebrity profile, but I wish she had been more modest and low-key in the aftermath of her procedure.
Maybe you think “God doesn’t make mistakes.” If so, I agree, but His ways and purposes are far beyond our understanding. Maybe you think “Yes, Bruce Jenner was born with this problem but he should accept himself the way God brought him into the world.” Maybe you should tell that to the parents of the next baby born with a heart defect or broken kidneys, and explain to them that they should accept their child the way God brought them into the world and will shortly take them out of it again. I know there are some people who believe that’s exactly how we should respond in those situations, but I’m not one of them. I believe that we should try to fix what’s broken, using the people, the skills and the knowledge that God has blessed us with.
Some babies are born with both male and female genitalia, or are indeterminate. Sometimes they will be surgically altered into a clear gender, and sometimes the wrong gender will be chosen for them. Every one of those situations is heartbreaking, and so is Caitlyn Jenner’s.
Jon Bloom’s article exhorts us to speak the truth in love, so I will end by doing just that.
Caitlyn, you’ve been struggling to come to terms with your identity for so many years, and I’m so pleased that you didn’t let that struggle break you. I admire your courage in publicly accepting yourself for who you really are. I don’t agree with everything you’ve done in your life, both before and since you ‘became’ Caitlyn, but I know that in God’s eyes you and I are both sinners, and we are both equally loved. I pray that your story will be an encouragement to others who have gender identity issues, and who may be hurting deeply as a result. And I pray that you will find your true identity where we all should – not in your gender, race, age or any other physical attribute, but in your relationship with God though His Son Jesus Christ.