I do not read minds nor do I have the expertise to say what is going on in Bruce Jenner’s brain. “I am a woman,” he says. Since he’s undergoing some pretty radical alterations to back up that feeling, I’ll take the man at his word that he honestly believes this. Hollywood types will do some pretty extreme things as publicity stunts, but surely this one isn’t a gimmick.
My flippant side wants to listen to Bruce and say, “Oh, that’s nice. Well, I am a giraffe inside. I’ll be undergoing surgery soon to make my outer self match my inner self.” Since it would be insensitive, I probably shouldn’t say it, so I won’t. I also won’t suggest that Jenner’s main motivation is his declining golf game and a desire to use the women’s tees.
What does it feel like to “be a woman” on the inside? I don’t know. What does it feel like to be an inner man? I assume it feels like what I feel like, but I really can’t say that with any certainty. Maybe what I’ve felt for all these years is really feeling like a woman. How would I know? It’s kind of like that old bit of navel gazing that asks, “What if what we both call blue looks like blue to me and red to you?” In the end, all I can say with certainty is “I feel like me.” Presumably, Jenner’s “me” doesn’t feel good.
Today, we have people indulging kids who want to “transition,” boys who want to be treated as girls or girls who want to be treated as boys. When my youngest daughter was about five, she would have jumped at the chance to be treated like a schnauzer, but we somehow suppressed her inner dog and probably led to all manner of psychological damage.
I find it ironic that some of the same people who would argue that gender is a completely social construct, that little girls like to play with dolls and be nurturing simply because we give them dolls to nurture, are the same who applaud Bruce Jenner’s decision to embrace his inner (socially constructed) gender identity. If it is socially constructed, how can he really “be a woman” in a way that would require surgery? Similarly, some of the people who will man the barricades to defend Jenner’s right to transition are the same people who would gladly stand with pitchforks and torches around mental health practitioners who help homosexuals become heterosexual. Apparently it is okay to make your body match your perceptions but not to make your perceptions match your body.
God created Bruce Jenner with the hardware to be identified as a male. In 1976, Bruce stood on a podium as “the world’s greatest athlete,” proving himself as a physically exemplary male. At some point in his youth, he saw a goal and desired to make himself into the athlete that he wasn’t yet. Over those early years, Bruce must have said, “I am a champion.” Then he worked hard to make it a reality.
Where did this “I am a woman” thought come from? That I don’t know. Most of us want to be something that we aren’t. If your dream requires radical surgeries and rounds of pharmaceuticals, then perhaps it’s not such a healthy one. If your dream involves others working on you rather than you (with God’s help) working on yourself, then I would argue that it is dehumanizing.
I wish Jenner the best. But I feel pretty confident in saying that Bruce won’t find the end of all his misgivings when the final hormones are administered and surgeries are finished.