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Caitlyn Jenner Is Right

Caitlyn Jenner Is Right

Note: While Bruce Jenner won his Olympic decathlon when I was still learning to walk, I started competing in track soon enough afterward that Jenner’s legendary victory was still a strong presence in the sport. I’ve admired him for basically as long as I can remember. Thus, the name and gender change have been difficult to get used to (as is the case for others of you, I assume). Still, I’ll use the name Caitlyn and female pronouns hereafter out of respect for Jenner’s wishes.

A phone call from a college student. An email from a young professional. An anonymous question submitted during a class on sexuality at camp. All within the past couple months. All asking the same questions: “How are we [regular, evangelical Christian folks] supposed to understand what is going on with Caitlyn Jenner? Why does this happen?

Disclaimer: There is a LOT to be said about the why’s of gender dysphoria. I do not want to give the impression that it is a simple issue – anything but. Still, I think there is a way of understanding Jenner’s discomfort with her original gender, even in this little space, that can be helpful. What’s more, I think every person in the world has experienced the same discomfort.

Here’s what I mean. When Bruce Jenner appeared on 20/20 in April, he described having a deep-seated sense that something just wasn’t right inside; that he wasn’t what he was supposed to be.

This is absolutely true!

I do not say that as a snarky, “That guy is just messed up!” dismissal of his feelings. Exactly the opposite, actually. I have had those feelings. So have you. We’ve had them because they are a core truth about the human experience.

Something is not right here.

When the world was as it was supposed to be in the first two chapters of Genesis, shalom was the foundational characteristic of creation. Peace, harmony, flourishing, completeness. There was no lack. There was no self-doubt (Adam and Eve were naked all the time, and liked it). God was present physically, as well as coursing through every relationship in creation. This specifically included gender, by the way. Humanity’s bearing the image of God is tied to the creation of both genders and the particular shalom that exists among them. It was a great time. Until it wasn’t.

In the Fall, all that shalom was warped. It’s not that harmony and peace and flourishing no longer exist, but even at their best they are distorted by sin – as is every part of creation. And let’s face it, humanity in particular is rarely at its best. Our innate desire for God is marred and misdirected. We don’t know what we’re supposed to do with creation. We don’t relate to each other very smoothly. We do not understand what is going on inside our own heads and bodies.

Something is not right here.

Fitness and weight obsessions. Eating disorders. Self-mutilation. Over-loaded closets. Mid-life crises. Gender dysphoria. All of these and a million other self-critical, self-defeating ideas and reactions to them come from the same place.

Something is not right here.

Caitlyn Jenner believes that her something is the male gender she was born with. It never felt comfortable. It never seemed to fit. So, given her relatively unlimited resources and the technology now available to the world, she changed it. I obviously do not know Caitlyn. I do not know how she currently feels about her transition or about herself. What I do know is that this won’t ultimately solve the problem for her. It can’t solve the problem, because the problem is not solvable by altering our bodies, fitting in with the right people, buying more clothes, climbing corporate ladders, or any of the other ways we all try to scratch the “something is not right here” itch.

The problem goes deeper than that. Deeper, even, than gender. The problem is sin. Every part of creation – every part of ourselves – is marred by sin. The universal self-evaluation that, “Something is not right here,” is completely accurate. The lie Caitlyn has believed – that we all believe at times and to varying degrees – is that we can fix it. We can’t. None of us. Not with all the resource, time, self-discipline, or courage in the world. There is one (and only one) force in creation that can truly fix any part of any of us – the gospel of Jesus. There’s real peace there. Shalom. Harmony with our creator and by extension, with our own limitations and brokenness.

So, I’ve been praying for Caitlyn. I pray for her because in a very real way, I get her. I hear the same voice.

Something is not right here.

I want her to find the answer. The real answer. The only answer.

ADAM 5.0 – Reflections on Four Decades of…Me.

ADAM 5.0 – Reflections on Four Decades of…Me.