Why I Will Call Caitlyn Jenner By Her Name

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.

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10 Comments

  1. Becca M

     /  June 3, 2015

    Great job!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  2. A

     /  June 3, 2015

    If gender is not black and white, how do we raise children? “Ok, you can be a boy or a girl or both” It makes zero sense

    Reply
    • We should raise children to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly. None of that has anything to do with their gender.

      This infographic does a good job of showing the nuances involved with gender identity, gender expression, and sexuality: http://itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2015/03/the-genderbread-person-v3/

      Reply
      • A

         /  June 3, 2015

        I agree that we should raise them to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly.
        However, when they are born, in a hospital, they are called a male or a female…does this mean we completely treat them as a gender neutral being despite their anatomy until they are old enough to tell us with what sex they want to identify based on their own thought processes and desires? If so, how would that be beneficial at all? The world is steeped in confusion- adding the question of sex only adds to it.
        Unfortunately for the “progressive” liberal relativist, There are some things that are simply absolute, with no wiggle room for “what ifs”.
        They call people who believe in the absolutes intolerant~they, however are the intolerant ones- they try to push absurd agendas and then are upset when people don’t agree. Yes. As a society
        We must be progressive and forward thinking to make strides in many ways (technology; workplaces etc) but in some areas, people must understand, no matter how relative or progressive one may be, there are undeniable, unshakeable trutha.
        Must be

        Reply
        • I completely understand how the idea that gender is fluid can complicate parenting- and parenting is pretty complicated already! Of course it’s ok to call a female baby a girl and a male baby a boy and raise them accordingly! In all likelihood, their gender identity will closely match their biological sex. I think there are two important things to remember on this issue: 1. Gender is not everything. In the long run, it is WAY more important to raise a person who is compassionate, brave, and trustworthy (and a million other traits that make wonderful people). And probably make them take lots of math and science classes- that seems to be really important now, right? :) 2. Give them room to figure out who they are a speak respectfully about all people. It’s ok if your child is not the perfect specimen of our society’s current expectation of gender. Gender expectations are not passed down from God. They are trends and they change with the times. Teach your kids to be what is in their soul, even if that’s a girl who doesn’t love pink or a boy who really wants to learn to cook.

          As a member of the “progressive liberal” group you mention above, I feel it’s my duty to let you know that we’re really more of a live and let live crowd than you would think. I want you to be free to raise your kids in whatever way that makes sense to you. You seem like a good person with a good heart, and I’m sure you are a wonderful parent. I don’t want anyone to lay down some decree about what you can and can’t say in your own home to your own kids. But I also want you to understand that letting Caitlyn Jenner bet Caitlyn Jenner is not about pushing some perverted agenda, it’s about freedom, compassion, and love.

          Reply
  3. Anonymous

     /  June 3, 2015

    Great Read! Thank you!
    Casey said the other day how it is curious that “straight” people tend to and are far more willing to share experiences or feelings that are “against the norm” with their *queer friends than with any of their “straight” best friends. That was an interesting observation, and I agree with you in “that I am a safe place” can change someone’s life far more than we can imagine. :)

    Reply
  4. Gracie

     /  June 3, 2015

    Great Read! Thank you!
    Casey said the other day how it is curious that “straight” people tend to and are far more willing to share experiences or feelings that are “against the norm” with their *queer friends than with any of their “straight” best friends. That was an interesting observation, and I agree with you in “that I am a safe place” can change someone’s life far more than we can imagine. :)

    Reply
  5. Jacklyn Martin

     /  June 3, 2015

    1. Because she has asked me to.

    So. Right. On.

    Thanks for this thoughtful post, Rachel.

    Reply

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  • A collection of ramblings and musings on Jesus, life, education, family, and anything else that pops into my head.

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