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I watched, adored, and cheered for Bruce Jenner in 1976. I can still see him carrying the American flag triumphantly as the world declared him our most outstanding athlete. He was the ultimate man. Every other Olympic athlete was good at one or maybe two events, but Bruce excelled more than them all. He was a decathlete—a person who competes in ten skilled events. I wanted to be like him because Bruce defined masculinity for me. He was also good looking, famous, and soon-to-be rich. What more could a man want (John 10:10)?
Bruce Jenner is in his sixties now, and he’s a woman. Or, that is what he would like for you to believe. In June 2015, Bruce showed the world what he thought himself to be when he made the cover of Vanity Fair as a babe. Before his provocative “coming out” spread, he revealed in a Diane Sawyer interview how he wanted “[To] be able to have my nail polish on long enough that it actually chips off.”
His perspective on what it means to be a woman has created a firestorm for feminists everywhere. Though they genuinely desire to be his ally, they have insisted for decades that being a woman is more than beauty, nail polish, and slim waistlines. Feminists believe a man can be a woman—but only their approved version of a woman.
The “I was born in the wrong body” rhetoric favored by other trans people doesn’t work any better and is just as offensive, reducing us to our collective breasts and vaginas. Imagine the reaction if a young white man suddenly declared that he was trapped in the wrong body and, after using chemicals to change his skin pigmentation and crocheting his hair into twists, expected to be embraced by the black community.
Many women I know, of all ages and races, speak privately about how insulting we find the language trans activists use to explain themselves. After Mr. Jenner talked about his brain, one friend called it an outrage and asked in exasperation, “Is he saying that he’s bad at math, weeps during bad movies, and is hard-wired for empathy?” After the release of the Vanity Fair photos of Ms. Jenner, Susan Ager, a Michigan journalist, wrote on her Facebook page, “I fully support Caitlyn Jenner, but I wish she hadn’t chosen to come out as a sex babe.” —Elinor Burkett, New York Times
Feminists have long decried the image of beauty as the antithesis to their cause. Now, Bruce Jenner, the torch-bearer for the transgender movement, has made feminine beauty the defining icon that supports his claim to be a woman. This unexpected definition of transgenderism is quite a problem.
Like pro-abortion activists, feminists believe you can do anything you want to do because the personal choice is personal, and nobody’s opinion should encumber it. The problem that Jenner has unwittingly brought to the forefront is that the feminist lobby has spent the last fifty years saying that how they look is not what defines them. Now, how Caitlyn looks is a problem because he did not choose the right path to destruction.
I have had little interest in this story because there is nothing I can do to influence it as far as voicing my opinion. The Bruce Jenner narrative is not a place where I am allowed, and to even try to speak into the public discussion would draw the ire of the mainstream—a distraction that rarely promotes Christ’s cause.
However, I have found it more than ironic that he has tossed a monkey wrench into the “to each his own universe.” In my view, there are two controversial talking points in this feministic dust-up. The first is about authority, which is a God question: who gets to determine what makes a man or a woman? The second is a human one: what is Bruce Jenner’s core problem?
You will benefit the most if you personalize the second query: what is my core problem? Who is the ruling authority in your life, and how do you respond to that higher power? For the Christian, the impulse response is that God is our authority, which may be accurate from a theological perspective, but can be a bit clichéd from a practical one.
But for Adam, there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man (Genesis 2:20-22).
My worldview is straightforward, direct, and unambiguous: God created the man and the woman. There are only two genders—male and female, even though there can be biological variances because of fallenness. It does boggle the mind that we’re in a place where this is an arguable talking point, though we understand if you reject God’s Word, you can make up anything.
Feminists say that being a man or a woman is not about biology or physicality. They do not believe biology makes gender. Like the gay lobby, they assert that anyone can decide what they want to be (Romans 1:22-25). They have done a remarkable job debunking what they call cultural stereotypes, e.g., boys don’t have to have blue and girls do not need to play with dolls.
Women like me are not lost in false paradoxes; we were smashing binary views of male and female well before most Americans had ever heard the word “transgender” or used the word “binary” as an adjective. Because we did, and continue to do so, thousands of women once confined to jobs as secretaries, beauticians, or flight attendants now work as welders, mechanics, and pilots. It’s why our daughters play with trains and trucks as well as dolls, and why most of us feel free to wear skirts and heels on Tuesday and bluejeans on Friday. —Elinor Burkett, New York Times
This public smash campaign has worked well for them. We’ve gone from binary persons—having two parts—to the uni-person that is neither male nor female. When men want to be women or when women want to be men, they typically choose to transform themselves into the traditional norms—long-standing cultural stereotypes for gender—to show the world what they hope to become, but that is the rub. You must change yourself the right way.
Though the transgender person is unaware, they have angered more than their feminist counterparts. It’s a problem when you choose to defy God by creating “gods” made in your image. Whenever you step outside of God’s design for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), you run headlong into traps (Galatians 6:1; James 4:6). Bruce Jenner, and those who have gone before him like Renee Richards, have created a dilemma for the God antagonist.
The solution to the “Bruce Jenner problem” is to accept God’s design, which is casting my pearls (Matthew 7:6), but it does not have to be that way for you or me. What can we learn from the culture’s intramural squabble about how to reject God? The impulse reaction is to chastise them for their biblical indifference. We can do better than that by asking the Lord to help us not fall into the same traps.
Bruce Jenner is like you and me. Bruce Jenner has communicated what we all have said at one time or another (Romans 7:24). Bruce does not like himself—his Adamic self. He wants a change into an image of his choosing (John 3:7). He is like the person who looks in the mirror and says, “I don’t like the way that I am.”
Our hearts’ cry is that we want to be something that we are not. Thus, I am not that disgusted with Bruce Jenner. Yes, I feel sorry for him because he has not found what was given to me (Ephesians 2:8-9). He has sipped from wells that hold no water (Jeremiah 2:13). He has tried to alter his inner dysfunction by using a different means from what the Lord provides. Haven’t you gone down that path, too?
All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing (Ecclesiastes 1:8).
Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee. —Augustine of Hippo, Confessions
We know what Bruce wants. It’s as plain as day. He put the desire of his heart on the cover of Vanity Fair: he’s a sixty-something-year-old man, who has turned himself into an artificial thirty-something-year-old model. We all have an image or a life we want. We all long to put off the old Adam that has made us miserable and put on something that we believe will bring us happiness. Some of us have put on Christ.
Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24).
I hope you are dissatisfied with yourself. I hope that you have a holy hatred for how you are and that you want a change into something better. I hope that something better is Jesus. Bruce does not want to look like Jesus. Bruce wants Caitlyn—a transformation into his version of perfection, an image in his mind. His diagnosis is called autogynephilia: a person attracted to women in the form of oneself. The path to this kind of narcissistic idolatry follows a four-step process:
The problem between Bruce and his peers happened when his image of what a woman should be conflicted with the feminist movement. They have spent half a century debunking the June Cleaver stereotype. According to the feminist lobby, in an ironic twist of dark-fate, Bruce became an image of the anti-woman. While they are fighting over how women should present themselves, we must come back to a more probing question: how does discontentment manifest itself in your life?
Images, ideas, and people manage us all the time. The ambitious Christian is looking for fame, so he compromises biblical integrity. The insecure teen wants someone to like her, so she adapts herself into an image of her making, hoping someone will approve. The stay-at-home-mom endlessly scrolls Facebook while drowning in discontent because she can’t have what they have.
Bruce needs to know that gender reassignment will not change him. He may look like a woman on the outside; he may surgically alter himself into his preferred image, but Caitlyn will not find satisfaction through man-engineered alterations no matter what they are.
When “the tumult and shouting dies,” it proves not easy nor wise to live in a counterfeit sexual garb. The most thorough follow-up of sex-reassigned people—extending over thirty years and conducted in Sweden, where the culture is strongly supportive of the transgendered—documents their lifelong mental unrest. Ten to fifteen years after surgical reassignment, the suicide rate of those who had undergone sex-reassignment surgery rose to twenty times that of comparable peers. —Paul McHugh, The Witherspoon Institute
It’s easy to admonish those who walk in darkness or even those in the light with us. We know there is a way that seems right to us, but the path may lead to death (Proverbs 14:12; John 4:13-14). And though a strong rebuke might be the right reaction, there is another assessment we must make. It’s that blooming log projecting from our eye socket (Matthew 7:3-5)
Rick Thomas leads a training network for Christians to assist them in becoming more effective soul care providers. RickThomas.Net reaches people around the world through consulting, training, podcasting, writing, counseling, and speaking.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology, and in 1991 he received a BS in Education. In 1993 he was ordained into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University in Santa Clarita, CA. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).