Wednesday, June 3, 2015

L'affaire du Jenner

I've been trying to stay out of this, I really have. I'm of the belief that whatever Caitlyn (née Bruce) Jenner does with her life is none of my business. Obviously, I am quite proud of her for having the courage to confront this difficult decision and go through with it in the face what is certainly public disapproval and private familial strife, but since I am neither related to Ms. Jenner nor sleeping with her, it doesn't affect me one whit. Therefore, why should I comment on it?

There's a saying on the Internet that, I think, originated with YouTube: Never read the comments. Sadly, I read the comments -- mainly because media, both traditional and social, has made L'affaire du Jenner inescapable -- and they raised my blood pressure enough that now I have to vent my spleen in order to calm down enough in order to sleep.

So just to clarify, let me explicitly state that the blog post is not aimed at Ms. Jenner, but at the commenters and the media in general. 

I) The only reason this is getting media traction is because it happened to a celebrity. 
"How many people go through similar things and don't get splashed all over the front page of everydamnedthing?" -- Linoge
Look, I get that our culture celebrates celebrity in an obsessive and unhealthy fashion, but this media circus is downright unseemly. As I said above, this ought to be none of our business. Instead, everything is "Transgender Jenner and the Kardashians" all the time now, and from my perspective there seem to be two simultaneous yet conflicting messages going out:
  1. This is now perfectly normal in our society, and we ought to accept her in her chosen identity. 
I don't see how these two concepts can logically co-exist within the same brain. Either gender transition is no longer scandalous -- in which case, why all the media attention? -- or it actually IS an issue, no matter how hard we try or how often we say it isn't. And if that's the case, why are we talking about the transgendered person when we should be talking about the issue of gender change instead?

I'm of the belief that even though we as a society say gender change is no longer a scandal, our behavior about this proves that it is, in fact, a very juicy bit of gossip. We can, and should, make it less of a big deal by simply refusing to gawk about it.

Our society will accept gender change as normal (albeit uncommon and unusual) the moment that it receives exactly the same attention as mixed-race marriages.

II) The ridiculous "God doesn't make mistakes, and Jenner's body was made perfectly in God's image, so this is an abomination" argument. 

I'm going to give this line of thought all the respect it deserves by this simple logical exercise.

Have you, at any point in time:
  • Gotten eyeglasses?
  • Gotten something pierced?
  • Had an operation for something that isn't an injury (like a heart murmur)?
  • Taken medication for something congenital (like diabetes)?
  • Otherwise received treatment for a birth defect?
You have? Then shut up. God made you "perfectly", and yet you had the gall to seek medical treatment to improve your quality of life. That makes you either a hypocrite or a blasphemer.
If you call yourself Christian, don't presume you know better than anyone else how God intended to make someone. You don't. If you believe God has a plan, don't presume you know what His plan for another person is. You don't. -- Sabra Morse Onstott

III) The exclusionary "He can call himself whatever he wants, he will NEVER be a woman" argument. 

This "argument" is usually followed up with appeals to the shared experience of the sisterhood, like this:
Their understanding of womanhood is extremely superficial. They will never be women. They will never even come close. And to say that they are seems to disrespect the reality of womanhood... They will never know what it is to have PMS, to have cramps, and to bleed...ahem...every single month. To think that their little flesh costumes or even their synthetic hormones can simulate womanhood is to reduce women to bodies.
So in other words, you have to earn gender through gender-specific pain.

Now some of you may be nodding your heads in agreement at this, so let me illustrate, by means of analogy, why this is a poor argument:
Jose wants to become an American citizen. All his life he has seen pictures of how wonderful and sumptuous it is in the United States, compared to how poor he is in Mexico. But rather than being angry at Americans for having what he lacks, he instead decides that he, too, will become an American and enjoy everything that this country has to offer. He works very hard to get an immigration visa, and then a green card, and then seek citizenship.
However, the official at the Immigration and Naturalization Service says "I'm sorry, Jose, but your understanding of American-ness is extremely superficial. You will never truly be an American. You will never even come close. To think that you will is to disrespect every natural-born American. You will never know what it is truly like to be born in this country, to struggle with our culture. To think that a little ceremony and a little piece of paper can make you truly American is to reduce citizenship to a simple bureaucratic entry."
I really hesitate to use the P-word, but this sentiment reeks of exclusionary privilege. The only way to be something is to win the genetic lottery? Well then, if you're born poor I guess you ought never to try to better your situation, because you'll never truly be anything other than a poor person masquerading as someone with money. And if you're born stupid... oh.

IV) The incredibly hateful "This is a mockery of womanhood and is misogyny" argument. 

This is... oh my lord, every time I read this I hear a rushing in my ears and I get lightheaded:
Even if they managed to succeed at replicating every single body part - the uterus, the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, the hormones, fertility, periods - everything, they still would never know what it is to be a real woman (and being a real woman isn't always as glamorous as they want to believe). And their "female envy," I believe, is a form of misogyny. It objectifies women because it reduces them to bodies. The whole thing is a grave failure to appreciate womanhood for what it truly is.... I think they need help for not only their hatred of women, but also their hatred of their own bodies. He's not a hero, he's not brave; he's a rich guy with a psychological disorder. That the media glorifies this doesn't make it right.
There are two discrete concepts here, and I'm going to destroy the easiest one first.

Just to be clear about what is being said here, the contention is that they hate women so much that they want to become them. Which is why so many members of the KKK marry Jews, Hispanics and African-Americans, am I right?  And this is why anti-gun zealot Jean Peterson is a member of the NRA, yes? I mean, it's logical that the first thing you do when you hate something is that you try become exactly like that thing you hate in every possible way, including ways that are permanent and irreversible.


Okay then.

Mockery of Women
So here we have someone who so truly wants to become a woman that she legally changes her name, gets surgery, and generally spends time, money and effort to look and sound and act feminine.

I just have to wonder if the women making the "mockery of women" argument (and this seems to be an exclusively female thing, as I've yet to see a man take this approach) are all bastions of femininity who always wear skirts and heels and makeup, always defer to their husbands like the Bible says, and are always heterosexual.

What's that, you say?  Some of these women wear trousers?  They not only don't wear makeup, but some of them actually refuse to shave their legs and armpits? They have careers and strong opinions and get divorces?  Some of them actually have sex with other women?

Why, clearly these women are making a mockery of men by acting like men! They need to be pointed out and shunned until they act in properly feminine ways, because only women are allowed to act feminine and only men are allowed to act masculine!

Oh, it doesn't work like that, you say? Women can wear pants and choose not to shave and sleep with whomever they want and make their own decisions, and still be feminine? And this behavior isn't mocking men?

Then the reverse of that argument doesn't work like that, either. You cannot have it both ways.

V) In Conclusion
3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. -- Matthew 7:3-5, New King James Version (NKJV)

Update #1:  6/4/15
(This was originally a separate follow-up post, but I also wanted it included here for completeness' sake.)
There's a lovely article at the Washington Post titled "For God So Loved Caitlyn Jenner".  Go read the whole thing, but here's a taste:
What I do know is insulting transgendered people by mocking them does not gain us a hearing for the gospel. Mockery is not a characteristic of Jesus.

We do not have to understand the situation to love those in it. We do not have to understand why some have gender reassignment surgery to love those who have had it. We do not have approve of abortion to love the woman who had one or love her boyfriend who, under threat of abandonment, coerced the woman into having the procedure. We do not have to approve of greed to love the businessman who made a fortune lying to customers. We do not have to approve of pride to love each other when set ourselves above the rest.
This post got me to thinking, and it gave me an excellent way to handle people who claim to be Christian and yet are saying Ms. Jenner has committed a terrible sin because God doesn't make mistakes.

"Jesus was a friend of whores, thieves, lepers and tax collectors. He loved them. How do you think he would refer to Jenner -- as Bruce or as Caitlyn?  Remember, this is the same man who saved a caught-in-the-act adulteress from being executed by saying 'let he who is without sin cast the first stone'."

If these people then say "Well, Jesus would just heal Bruce so he'd have no desire to be a women," then you go "Ah, so Jesus would want transgendered people to be at ease with themselves. Since you aren't Jesus and you can't heal with a touch, tell me how you would fulfill your Christlike duty to put Jenner at ease? Wouldn't that involve the very simple action of calling her Caitlyn?"

I'm going to use this the next chance I get.

Update #2: 6/7/15
(Also its own post, included for completeness.)
Jenny Everywhere left a profound and beautiful essay in reply to the first follow-up to this article, and it was so eloquent that it deserves its own post. Everything below this is her work; I've simply done some formatting to turn it from a comment to a blog post.

Ms. Everywhere wrote:

I almost never quote the Bible. My tenure as a born-again Christian (yes, I was!) only lasted a year or so, and had the benefit of being at an MCC church, among other GLBT persons, and my then girlfriend with me. It was a comfort in a very dark time, and when it was over, it was over. But I had a thought back then, which I have returned to from time to time.

1 Peter 1:24-25 says:
24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:
25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.
The issue of the transgendered is a dichotomy -- the spirit and the flesh. Flesh is as grass. It is as a beast, and Man has the dominion over the beasts. The soul, however, is directly the work of the Almighty, and is not that which may be marred by the works of others. 

A soul may be lost or cherished by its own free will, but the Creator does not make a marred soul. The person is as the SOUL determines. Not as the flesh determines. 

The soul is the light of God within the temple. 
The body IS the temple. 
You ARE a soul. You merely HAVE a body.

When the roof of the church is broken by a falling tree, do you refuse to repair it, because it is the roof of the House of the Lord, and may not be altered? Of course not. The congregation holds Bingo nights and Carnivals, and passes the plate so as to gain the funds to fix it! What is unchanging and cannot be altered is the soul within the church, shared amongst the congregation.

So when a person believes, in their heart of hearts, that their soul does not match the structure of the temple, that something is awry, do we claim the soul is mistaken, and refuse to fix the temple? Or do we do what must be done so that the soul shines out strong and secure? 

You are a soul. You merely HAVE a body.
 Do we not fix the roof?

Over the past decades, we have polluted our world with all sorts of things. PCB's, vinyl softening agents, estrogen washed into rivers and lakes from sewage treatment plants, the remains of birth control pills peed into the water supply, and most importantly, drugs given during the 50's and 60's that were intended to prevent miscarriages. Those drugs were potent estrogenic compounds, and the dosages were little understood, and were thus heroic in size. They were usually given partly into the first trimester, right when the body might decide a developing child wasn't quite right and spontaneously decide to try again. I'm of the mind that the soul is not wasted, but simply held until such a time as "again" comes around, and is once again placed where it should be in those cases. And if strong drugs prevent the miscarriage, then what effect might they have?

They might prevent the second testosterone wash in a male fetus. The first wash causes the body to differentiate in keeping with a Y chromosome, but the second patterns the brain. If that second wash from the mother's body is overshadowed by an extremely intense dose of estrogen, might it prevent the second wash from repatterning the brain -- which, like the body, starts in the female pattern -- from finishing the Y-chromosome's work? Between drugs and estrogenic compounds of all sorts as environmental toxins, it's little wonder it happens all too often! We have a storm, blowing in the populace, sending trees crashing into the roofs of some of the churches!

And all too many of the Creator's ministers are telling us not to fix the roof, but to dim the lights inside so we cannot see the dripping of the water and the groaning of the rafters. We are told the soul must continue to suffer, so the body is preserved -- no matter how much the soul hurts, and the person cries.

I cannot see that as anything but cruelty.

I have known and dearly loved many transgendered persons, both M2F and F2M, and cannot bring myself to believe that their souls are all wrong, and we must instead believe flawed bodies -- though all flesh is as grass, and withereth.

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