Apr 252015 9 Responses

10 Reflections from the Bruce Jenner Interview

Friday night’s interview of Bruce Jenner by Diane Sawyer was riveting television. I was much more fascinated than I expected to be. Knowing it would be in the national narrative, I recorded the show with the plan of quickly skimming through the interview. Instead I watched the complete show, often not even fast-forwarding through the commercials because I needed the time to reflect on each segment.

While I am not convinced this a grand turning point in our culture, I do believe the interview is a true reflection of where we stand on many issues related to gender, sexual orientation, and the public/private nature of one’s personal decisions.

Here are 10 reflections from the interview:

1. The interview put a very human face on a truly difficult issue.

Many doubt or deny the struggle of the transgender community, but the Jenner interview helped show the confusion, struggle, and despair which many people face in feeling as though their gender is different from their biological make-up. The problem is real and it is good to see the personal side of the struggle.

2. Jenner was heroic in publicly showing his struggle.

We all have struggles. While it is tempting to pretend as though our lives are perfect, it is far more useful to reveal our pain and grief. Anytime someone has the strength to say, “This has been my struggle” or “This has caused me great shame,” they should be applauded for their honesty. (See: The Number One Rule of Disagreement)

3. More than male or female, we should recognize Jenner as human.

Being a human, we know full well life is full of many struggles, and what we need more than anything is compassion. Jenner deserves our compassion just as we deserve compassion in the midst of our deepest struggles.

4. I found it fascinating that Jenner said his desire to cross-dress and his struggles with his confusion were less while training for the Olympics.

Clearly the tension was still present, but what it made it less during this time? Why did he feel the struggle more after the Olympics were over and his life had less direction and clear purpose? Is it possible that when fully engaged in an important pursuit, our struggles have a lesser impact on our lives? Could a passionate pursuit be a more effective form of treatment than transitioning?

5. The interview quickly mentioned that transgender people who transition to their desired gender actually face a higher rate of suicide.

Why is that? Some will be quick to assume it is the lack of acceptance people receive. While clearly society needs to do a better job in showing love to those who struggle with gender dysphoria, it seems bigger issues are at play than just acceptance.

6.The most striking part of the interview for me was a minor comment Jenner made about other people.

He said he sees how other people are so comfortable in their own skin and he has always wanted that. I nearly laughed at the comment until I realized he was serious. As is often the case, humanity often sees our problems as unique and our struggles as radically different than others. This leads to the false conclusion that if we didn’t have issue X (for Jenner it is gender dysphoria, for others it might be a weight issue or a confidence issue) most of our problems would go away. Yet I’m not sure I have ever met a person who is truly comfortable in their own skin. (See: When You Feel What No One Else Has Ever Felt)

If Jenner believes transitioning will result in a deep sense of peace, he may be setting himself up for a tremendous disappointment.

7. While I believe Jenner is heroic in making his struggles public, I am not comfortable with the way many have called Jenner a hero for “being true to himself.”

Sadly, American culture now values the elevation of personal desires as the most heroic of acts. I compare this to my grandparents’ generation where men and women went to war to sacrifice their dreams and desires for others. My grandfather was a hero. Those who deny themselves and give of themselves for others are heroes. Those who elevate their personal desires above their spouses, children, and vows they have made are not heroes. On three different occasions Jenner made a vow to love a person for the rest of his life. Each time he placed his desire above his vow; he placed himself above his wife and children. The heroic act would have been to find ways to cope with his struggle while still being the husband and father he promised he would be.

8. Love does not equal approval and disagreement does not equal hate.

Any time an issue about sexuality is part of the national conversation, people foolishly make the conclusion that if you approve of someone you love them. If you disagree with their actions, you must hate them. Neither is the case. Knowing your view on same-sex marriage in no way helps me know if you are loving or hate-filled. Believing Jenner is right or wrong with his current decisions does not define love or hate. How you treat a person defines your character far more than your theory on gender identity.

I can disagree with Jenner’s decision to transition, but still show him respect, compassion, and concern as a human being. I can say he is wrong (about a few choices), but still love him.

9. We should not force people into uniformity of opinions.

Ironically, in the name of diversity and acceptance, many people are pushing for everyone to believe the same thing. While they demand acceptance of any personal choice regarding gender or sexuality, they fiercely rebuke anyone who has an opinion differing from theirs. So you are free to choose your gender, but you are not free to claim someone has chosen poorly. You are free to make any sexual decision you want, but you are not free to believe there is right or wrong within the discussion of sex.

It’s total hypocrisy. (See: Intolerant–Anyone Who Disagrees With Me)

I have no problem with someone disagreeing with my viewpoint on gender, same-sex marriage, or other issues within the realm of human sexuality. The issues are complex and people can fairly draw different conclusions than me. However, it is the height of arrogance to try to force my beliefs to be like yours. Feel free to persuade me, but feel no freedom to pressure, guilt, or coerce my opinions.

10. We could do better to listen more.

Too often, we quickly draw conclusions about issues without ever listening to opposing viewpoints. In so doing, we turn people into problems. We deny their humanity, minimize our similarities, and highlight our differences.

The Jenner interview was compelling because we were able to see the person. If we listened more to others, it might not change our opinions on issues, but it would clearly lead to more compassion toward those with whom we disagree.


9 Responses to 10 Reflections from the Bruce Jenner Interview
  1. […] of a race differing her own. On the heels of Bruce Jenner’s claims that he identifies more as ... https://www.kevinathompson.com/trans-affluent-the-great-american-deception

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