Responding Like A Christian to Caitlyn Jenner
I've been watching the story of Caitlyn Jenner play out on the interwebs and predictably on my Facebook newsfeed over the past couple of weeks.
Caitlyn Jenner (Formerly Bruce Jenner, Olympic star, ex-husband to Kris Jenner, stepdad to the Kardashians) recently began the process to transition from being a man to becoming a woman.
Bruce revealed some time ago in an interview with Diane Sawyer that he knew for a long time that he had a woman's soul, and had started to act on that knowledge.
You can watch the full interview here.
Vanity Fair magazine revealed that its upcoming issue would feature Caitlyn Jenner on the cover. Since the Diane Sawyer interview, Jenner (now calling herself Caitlyn) underwent various surgeries, procedures and hormone therapies. The photographs were startling.
If you haven't seen the photos, you can see them here.
I'm a little jaded when it comes to this kind of thing. Hollywood types are an odd bunch, to be sure. They do the damnedest things to stay in the spotlight when it starts to fade. So there's that.
It's also pretty sad that it didn't take long for the media to begin treating Jenner like a woman--focusing almost exclusively on the way she looks, which is basically what our culture does to all women--sexualizing them, essentially. Bruce Jenner used to be described as "former Olympic champion, husband, father, etc." Caitlyn Jenner appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair in a corset, with silicone implants, cosmetic surgery, tons of makeup and some airbrushing on the photographs to boot. And all anyone could talk about was whether she was desirable or not, how her clothes fit, what she was wearing, etc.
Is this what it means to be a woman in America, really?
There's also a distinct possibility that the transgendered are in a completely different category than gays, lesbians and bisexuals when it comes to sexual identity issues--despite the fact that they have become so inextricably linked. Some psychologists believe that many transgendered people suffer from a form of body dysmorphic disorder--similar to people with eating disorders. In other words, no matter what reflection is in the mirror, they see something else.
Recently, a former psychiatrist from John's Hopkins Hospital, one of the first hospitals to perform gender reassignment procedures, wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal about that very issue. Read the whole article here.
Further, I am absolutely convinced that ESPN's announcement that it plans to give Jenner the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at their upcoming ESPY awards show is nothing more than a stunt to increase ratings. No one watches the ESPY's. No. One. But this year they might.
Having aired all of my issues with this whole story, I have to admit at last that I can't possibly identify with Caitlyn Jenner's struggle. I can't imagine how painful it must be to feel trapped in your own body, to agonize over your sexual identity. I also have no idea what it would be like to do that in a fishbowl as a celebrity.
So does all this freak me out a little? Yeah. Listen, I'm a white, Southern, heterosexual male--so cut me some slack and give me a moment or two.
But I am also a Christian--a follower of Jesus. And I am a pastor, who, like it or not, kind of represents the Church universal to people I encounter throughout my journeys. So to anyone out there listening. I have a couple of things I would like to say:
First, To my Gay & Lesbian friends and family members: I want to apologize on behalf of Christians who have posted negative or downright hostile posts on their Facebook feeds or blogs--posts that you may have seen.
They don't speak for all Christians, even though they sometimes speak so loud it seems like they do.
Sometimes Christian hostility toward difference is masked underneath the ruse of being "loving." This is what I would call "a chocolate covered dog turd." I recently read a "loving" blog post from a pastor I know who lumped LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & Questioning) people in with a long list of "sinners" including murderers and child molesters.Second, to Christians who have posted or continue to post negative, hostile posts on your Facebook feeds, or blogs about this issue: Did you ever stop to think about who might be reading them? Maybe your friend who happens to be gay or lesbian, perhaps. Or maybe one of your own family members who is struggling with sexual identity. Perhaps even your own child who might be questioning, and unsure where to turn.
After reading your post, or re-post do you think they would ever really want to confide in you about their issues? Do you think they really believe that your God loves them?
They wouldn't. The fact of the matter is that not many LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning) feel welcomed and accepted in Christian churches--despite the fact that recent studies indicate that nearly 50% of LGBTQ people self-identify as Christian. (here's the report)
And if they are a young person, their reaction might be worse.
Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24.
• LGB (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual) youth are 4 times more likely, and questioning youth are 3 times more likely, to attempt suicide as their straight peers.
• Suicide attempts by LGB youth and questioning youth are 4 to 6 times more likely to result in injury, poisoning, or overdose that requires treatment from a doctor or nurse, compared to their straight peers.
• Nearly half of young transgender people have seriously thought about taking their lives, and one quarter report having made a suicide attempt.
• LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection.
• Each episode of LGBT victimization, such as physical or verbal harassment or abuse, increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times on average.
Recently, Pastor Andy Stanley, pastor of Northpoint Community Church in Atlanta, one of the largest and most influential evangelical churches in America, said the following during a conference on church leadership:
"We just need to decide from now on in our churches when a Middle School kid comes out to his small group leader or a high school young lady comes out to her parents... We just need to decide, regardless of what you think about this topic — no more students are going to feel like they have to leave the local church because they're same-sex attracted or because they're gay. That ends with us."
I couldn't agree more. It needs to end with us.
So to all my Christian brothers and sisters of all stripes---let it end with us. Regardless of how you feel about these issues... Regardless of how you choose to interpret the Scriptures to affirm those feelings... Regardless of your social and political worldview...
Let the negativity and hostility end with us.
I get that some Christians want to make a point. They want to let everyone know exactly where they stand on issues like this. For some reason this seems to be a compulsion of sorts with more than a few of them.
But as I've said before on this blog--more often than not whenever you decide to make a point, you often lose the opportunity to make a difference.
And making a difference by showing the love of Jesus is far more effective than making a point with a negative blog or Facebook post, don't you think?