I’ve spent months trying not to write this blog. But the news won’t let go and the issue won’t leave me alone. So now, the least popular blog I will ever write.
I need to write about Bruce Jenner.
See, as a person who appreciates science and logic, I’m confused.
As the husband of an amazing wife and father of three wonderful daughters, I'm offended for them.
And as a person who empathizes with the pain of others, I hurt for Bruce Jenner.
On the science front, this is just the latest example of our culture’s inability to handle basic science. It seems, in the same way we decided there’s no such thing as absolute moral truth, we’re now saying there is no such thing as absolute scientific truth if that truth doesn’t fit with our agenda. Whether it’s true nutritional science, medical science, or genetics, if the science doesn’t fit with our agenda, we say the science is wrong. No matter the conclusiveness of every study.
Scientific fact: Jenner is a man. It’s not about the way he dresses, it’s about every gene in his body. When they finished the mani-pedi and hair styling that went into the Vanity Fair photoshoot, if you’d gathered up all the hair and nail clippings, and sent samples to DNA labs all over the country, each would have concluded without any doubt that the contributions came from a man. That pesky Y chromosome just won’t go away, no matter how many hormones we pump in, how much mascara we apply, how much we wish it wasn’t so.
Our anti-science bias met its match when Jenner pointed out to an interviewer that he was still attracted exclusively to women. “Does that mean you’re a lesbian?” the interviewer replied. And because we want to ignore the basic facts of science, very few people even caught the irony.
Which leads me to the women in my life and how I am offended for them. To make this one simpler to understand, let’s say that instead of saying he was really a women trapped in a man’s body, what if Jenner had said he was really an African-American trapped in a Caucasian body? Hey, I’m possibly the whitest man in America, and I would have been offended.
Being African American is about a whole lot more than skin color and hair style and cultural preferences. It’s about how people look at you when you walk down a street at night. About what goes through your mind when you see blue lights in your rear-view mirror. About how you are viewed by others every moment of every day, knowing you’ve been viewed that way your entire life, and will be viewed that way every day for the rest of your life. Knowing that if you succeed in many venues, some will say it was because of special privileges granted because of your race while you’ll know it was probably accomplished in spite of your race.
Now let’s add in the female components. Being a woman means your body—and your life—has run on a calendar since you were a pre-teen. It means you are rarely the most powerful person in the room, either in terms of physical or perceived power. It means that you have to work harder to be taken seriously, speak louder to be heard, and be exposed to standards no man has to deal with. I’ve yet to hear any discussion of the clothing choices of the male presidential candidates. Hillary’s pant suits, on the other hand…
I read a blog once that said if life was a video game, the “Easy” setting would be titled “Heterosexual White Male.” And now we’ve got the white Olympic decathlon champion, a person who has normally been the most physically powerful person in every room he’s entered, saying he truly understands what it means to be a woman.
If our culture wasn’t so ironically impaired, we might point out that the same week Jenner hit Vanity Fair, every female who entered the Army’s Ranger course failed to complete it, and The New York Times called for the WNBA to lower the basketball hoop. “Female athletes deserve a chance to really soar,” the Times proclaimed. Meanwhile, on USAToday.com, the main ad on the article about women failing the Ranger program is a picture of the former World’s Greatest Athlete smiling in lingerie.
Which brings me to my biggest problem, what we as a society are doing to Jenner and other people like him. This is a hurting person. He is hurt deeply and has obviously been hurting for a long, long time. But like many people he is trying to solve emotional (or maybe even dare-I-say spiritual) pain with a physical “solution.” And it’s not going to work.
If you don’t believe me, just look. Jenner has been trying to salve this pain with physical transition for years. That nose is not the nose he had in 1976, and I doubt there’s been just one surgery. Make-up and hormones and a new wardrobe aren’t going to help long-term any more than the surgeries.
But unfortunately for Jenner, our culture has decided that his issue, his pain, should be lumped in with sexual orientation, so whatever the person says is true. Even if it is verifiably not.
So Jenner puts make-up on his real pain, we cheer and call him brave, and I wonder what he’ll do when this latest physical attempt to solve an emotional/spiritual problem doesn’t work.