Monday, June 1, 2015

Why Normal is not a bad word.

So Bruce is on the cover of a magazine . . . again.

This time he is as his alter ego "Caitlyn."  The airbrushed photos will probably make the magazine carrying them sell a lot of copy, but why are we interested in this whole thing?

My guess is that most people want to have a gawk at how successful Jenner is at looking like a woman.  Some may walk away impressed at how good he/she looks.  The smarter among us will marvel at the art of retouching.  Some may shake their head.  Probably most will go away with a "whatever makes you happy" sort of take on it. 

Regardless of your reaction, we care about Jenner because transgender is the hot thing for now.  It is another iteration of a global effort to connect the struggle for human rights with  the emancipation of ourselves from established social norms in the area of gender and sexuality.  

The problem with this is that we are blurring the lines between what we as people have the right to do and what we actually ought to do.  Most adults are not falling victim to the juncture of the two - we realize that what people want to do is not always in their own best interest. 

Where we have to be concerned is how this is being taught to the next generation.   Developmentally, the ten years between 10 and 20 are crucial for developing a sense of identity.  Sometimes we mistakenly think these developing years are an exciting flea market of picking and choosing who we want to be.  We forget that healthy adolescence is more about apprenticeship.  Young people don't need choices - they need roadmaps.  Figuring things out for yourself is desirable to adults, not kids.  Kids want and need stability that comes from established paths.  When society says, "hey - enjoy being young, just figure out for yourself what you want and who you want to be" - it abandons young people in the forest of identity.  Don't argue with me - argue with the research that shows us our young want to be informed, not left alone.  Young people want guidance and need paths.  Freedom sounds good in a magazine article but it is crushing in real life. 

The Bruce Jenner story is a sideshow to us but it becomes another reinforcement that there is no 'normal' with regard to one's identity.

There is a normal.  A boy becomes a man.  A girl becomes a woman.  This is normal.  The scriptures indicate it.  Biology presents it.  We should never use 'normal' to shame or oppress (as has occurred in the past).  However, we should not fear saying that it is not normal or healthy for a man to want to become a woman.  Perhaps instead of spending tens of thousands on hormones and surgery, we should be encouraging those who struggle with identity to figure out what is causing the lack of balance - beyond what we want.  

There is a drive much stronger than our desires.  Healthy lifestyles are often the result of battling our desires.  I have several friends who daily battle their inner drives for the sake of having an identity that is true to their maker.  Though they fight, they have a healthy view of what is right.  It is what we used to call integrity.  It is sad that those who struggle with their gender identity seldom are encouraged to reach for something higher than the expression of their want.

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