Let's get one thing straight: I don't give a rat's ass about that family of women whose clever mother somehow monetized their shallowness, complete lack of talent, and general worthlessness. I had marginal respect for Bruce Jenner, who at least achieved something worthwhile in his life; and when he decided to come out as a transgendered person and then made the very public transition to Caitlyn, at first I rolled my eyes and thought "par for the course, this family would publicize their bowel movements if they thought they'd make a buck off of it" ... but then I realized that for many people out there, the public transition of Bruce to Caitlyn is rather significant. I'd never call her a hero, but an inspiration? Not to me personally, but to many, without a doubt. And those people deserve some inspiration and support.
Jenner is, of course, very important to transgendered folk who are so marginalized in society. The prejudice, misunderstanding, bullying and hatred they receive on a daily basis is appalling. From people on Facebook who make it a point to post "Gross!" on every timeline referencing her, like a petulant six-year-old who doesn't like the dinner Mom just put on his plate, to daily mental, verbal and physical abuse --- no one, NO ONE should have to live like that, no matter what you believe about their "sin" or "mental illness", or whether you just think it's "gross". If you are one of those people who are filled with hatred or disgust towards trans people, that's your prerogotive --- but you should keep it to yourself. Why? Because your publicly proclaimed hate and disgust hurts people in a very real, tangible way, and that's not okay. Another important aspect of this very public transition is that it has revved up a dialogue about transgenderism, and where there is dialogue, there is the potential to educate. Some may never be comfortable with transgendered folk --- fine. For now, not actively vilifying them or acting out against them is a good step.
Caitlyn's public transition is more than an educational opportunity or inspiration to others like her. It's also started a very vital conversation about what it means to be a woman. When the Vanity Fair cover started to sprout up all over my FaceBook timeline, the first thing I thought was, "Well, Caitlyn, welcome to womanhood --- now all that really matters is how you look." The brilliant Jon Stewart remarked on it as well. The vast majority of media are going on about how pretty Caitlyn has made herself, and there's been an extremely snide meme comparing her looks to her ex-wife's.
That really made me mad. There are plenty of reasons to criticize Kris Jenner, but her looks are not one of them. First, she looks great. More importantly, however, attacking someone's looks is a low blow, and the main reason people do it to women is to invalidate them as human beings, because as we all know, a woman's first responsibility to the world is to be attractive, and she owes it to anyone who demands it, instantly. A couple of days ago, one of my friends was sexually harassed and assaulted on the street, on her way to an important concert engagement. Why? Because she did not respond the way some random man who complimented her wanted her to. The fact that she was a woman, and alone (not under the control of ownership of a man) meant that she was fair game for this detestable creep. Her prettiness made her a target; it made him feel that she owed him something and when he didn't get it, he got ugly and violent. This type of thing happens all the time and it is part of the culture that overemphasizes the value of prettiness and devalues womens' other qualities. As one of my friends remarked, "Nobody told Chaz Bono to lose weight or be physically perfect."
Speaking of physical perfection and the insane pressure on women to meet random people's standards of physical beauty at all times (or risk invalidation), Caitlyn Jenner is relevant because she is a 65-year-old who has --- thanks to her financial resources and social connections, but also to her athlete's body and knowledge of physical fitness --- been able to sculpt herself into the image of what she wants to be. Some people are, apparently, offended by that, because 1. Now that she's a woman, she should "act her age"; and 2. Relatively few trans people have the wherewithal to make that make themselves look like this. Well, for that matter, neither do most bio women. Believe me, if I had the money, I'd go in for a little nip-tuck. It opens up a very interesting conversation about a person's --- but especially a female person's --- right to look however she damn well pleases, at whatever age. It has to do with -- gasp! --- women's rights to control their own bodies. And yes, I mean that way, too. In the baby-making or not-baby-making way. It's all part of the same ugly puzzle.
Finally, Caitlyn Jenner's transition is significant for religious people, especially those who tend to be more outspokenly critical of lifestyles which they themselves do not embrace. If you call yourself a Christian, you are called to look inward and evaluate. You are called to look after your own sins before you go around calling people out on theirs. A lot of Christians skip right over that part.
Here's the thing. A great many of the people who criticize Caitlyn Jenner do so from a position of great privilege, and ignorance frequently goes hand in hand with privilege. Men enjoy many privileges not available to women, such as getting paid more for the same amount of work and being able to go about their daily business without fear of sexual assault or harassment that puts them in fear for their physical safety or job security. Male conservative religionists also enjoy the privilege of being part of a religion that actively subjugates females in deference to men. They are taught that they are the head of the household and that everyone in it must ultimately bow to their judgment. Depending on how conservative the particular religion is, they may be taught that they control their wives' and daughters' entrance into heaven and that women are incapable of running their own lives without male supervision. Straight people enjoy special privileges as well. Since heterosexuality is in our culture considered "normal" and many segments of society still largely see other sexual orientations as abnormal, we enjoy the privilege of not having to lie about and deny who we are every day of our live, or risk bullying, physical and emotional abuse, rejection, and a host of other negative implications.
How can someone from a position of such privilege, and especially someone who claims to be a follower of Christ and a lover of God, act hatefully towards others? None of us know what anyone else's struggle may be. It is not for us to say what God wants for others --- that's between them and their God, or their conscience. I've seen arguments against transgendered people saying that they will "never be the sex they think they are" and that they are "going against God for not accepting the way He made them". If that's your argument, here's a thought for you: how do you know what God wants for people like Caitlyn Jenner? How do you know that the struggle that God wants LGBTQ people and other outsiders to take does not involve finding the strength and courage to make the physical changes so their outsides match their insides? Who are you to demand others suffer to fit your personal idea of what God wants? It's enormously presumptuous to claim you have the answers for everyone. You don't and in fact, nobody does. And if you're going to quote the Bible at me, then you better follow ALL of what it says, not just the bits you've cherry-picked to support what your church teaches. If one bit is open to interpretation, it all must be.
I wish conservative Christians would quit obsessing about who everybody else is sleeping with and what kind of clothes they want to wear and what they want to do to their own bodies and how women are or aren't behaving and maybe think about LOVING PEOPLE and doing good in the world. Do you honestly think that when you stand before God He'll be proud of time spent tearing other people down and making them miserable because YOU decided they were sinners, and their sins are worse than yours? Or would you be better off being able to say, "I made people happy. I helped people. I lightened their burden." What sounds more Christlike to you?
Here is a beautiful take from a Christian writer and mother, who embodies Christianity by simply loving others rather than trying to control them by flinging Bible verses at their heads or making them feel guilty. I think she's got the right idea.
Nobody says you have to date a transwoman or man, or marry one, or even hang out with them (though frankly I'd LOVE to hang out with Miss Cox; I think she's great). Nobody says you have to approve (because honestly, there's another thing that matters a whole let less than you think it does). But it'd be nice if we all could at least stay out of each other's bedrooms, surgeries, and personal lives. It'd be nice if, if we couldn't all be nice, we could at least not be hateful.