1. Because she has asked me to.
I wish I could just leave it at that. I wasn’t really planning on saying anything about this topic (goodness knows there have been more than enough thinkpieces already), but the more I’ve seen being posted on facebook, the more I’ve felt like maybe my perspective could bring something unique to the conversation among those who follow this blog.
I have seen a lot of articles and posts by Christians who are “worried about Bruce”, who are “standing by their convictions”, who are “loving by telling the truth”. Many of these start with the phrase “I don’t know Bruce Jenner,” which is exactly the problem. It is not our job to “lovingly discipline” anyone who is not directly under our pastoral authority or with whom we already have a close, loving relationship based on trust. And when we do lovingly discipline our brothers and sisters, I’m pretty sure we don’t usually do it in blog posts for all the world to see.
Biology, gender, and sexuality are all incredibly complex. Anyone who wants to claim differently is…well, I don’t know what they are. It seems obvious to me that these are not black and white concepts, just from my own personal experience. And yet I still see people arguing that biological sex and gender are one and the same; people who would never ignore the nurture side of the nature vs. nurture argument are ready to completely throw it out the window when it comes to gender. (side note: if all that determines manhood or womanhood is what’s between our legs, why have I had to listen to so many sermons about biblical manhood?)
This is ridiculous. Would you tell a woman who has had a hysterectomy or a mastectomy that she is not a woman? What about a woman who is unable to have children? Is she not really a woman anymore? “Well, those aren’t choices. Those are because of the fall.” Well, ok. Am I sinful for not wanting to have children? Are you going to lovingly correct me for going against God’s design when I say that I am choosing to never “be fruitful and multiply”? Am I not living as a real woman of God if I make that choice?
People have been using the rhetoric that Caitlyn Jenner has “chosen” to be a woman. That she looked around at the world and herself, and said, “I don’t want to be man; I want to be a woman.” Try thinking about it this way instead (this is shamelessly stolen from a post I’ve seen on Tumblr):
Imagine for a moment that you are exactly who you are right now. You have all your same personality traits, all your same likes and dislikes, you are a man or a woman or whatever. And now imagine that your body looks so much like a different gender that the world automatically treats you like that is what you are.
I know this can feel unimaginable. I don’t claim to fully understand it. But when they tell me that this is their experience, I will listen to them. I will not negate their experiences just because some people have decided they know exactly what God was saying in Genesis and Romans.
I love God and I love my Bible. I believe that Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness. But I also understand the nuances of translation and interpretation enough that I am not going to claim this is a black and white issue. I believe that a God who created all of the diversity in nature is also capable of creating diversity in gender. If someone tells me that God created them transgender, I will believe them.
Beyond all the theological arguments and psychological arguments and biological arguments, I will call Caitlyn Jenner by her name for two reasons: because she has asked me to, and because this past year one of my students came out to me as transgender. If referring to a celebrity by the correct name and pronouns will make it clear to my students that I am a safe place, I will do it.
Chances are you know someone who is transgender or queer* or questioning their gender identity or their sexuality. The way you respond to big celebrity stories like Caitlyn Jenner’s sends a message about how you would likely respond to them if they were honest with you. Consider carefully what message you want to send.
*I am using queer as the umbrella term used by many within the LGBT+ community. It is not intended as a slur. If it upsets you, please let me know and I will edit.