Inspired by a very brave friend who came out as transgender on Facebook today, I can no longer keep my silence.
Since the release of the most recent Vanity Fair cover on Monday, June 1st, social media has been concentrated with emphatic and vehement opinions, posts, blogs and articles regarding the transformation from a “he,” Bruce Jenner, to a “she,” Caitlyn Jenner. I’ve tried terribly hard to keep my opinions on the subject to myself so not to invite debate and attract people who disagree with my opinions, to leave mean and hateful comments on my Favebook. I’ve decided people can attack and disagree with me, but I’m not going to allow those people to keep me from sharing how I feel about these issues. I can no longer keep my silence. I’ve never been that person; that woman.
Since the announcement of Jenner’s transformation surfaced the media, I’ve had many, many mixed emotions, feelings and opinions. I made it a point to read and listen to others opinions and came across a post by blogger, Matt Walsh, on The Blaze (http://www.theblaze.com/…/calling-bruce-jenner-a-woman-is-…/). Walsh acknowledged and argued a very interesting point about feminism and how Caitlyn Jenner being called a woman, not only takes away from what feminism stands for, but it demeans what a woman stands for. He made some interesting and at moments, valid, points about why women should essentially be down right angry that this person who’s actually a man, is being described as “beautiful,” “brave” and “an inspiration.” He believes she – he- is none of these things.
Further, he also said it was a disgrace to what feminism really means because feminism isn’t about looking a certain way and being called a woman because you put on masacara and a bra before walking out the door, it’s about establishing equality among men and woman and defying social norms of what makes a man, a man and a woman, a woman. As a young woman who considers herself to be a feminist, I could not have disagreed more with this man. Here’s why: Feminism means different things to different people, especially women. I don’t think the only definition of feminism is equality for people, specifically among genders.
For me, feminism means feeling empowered by and embracing who you are, regardless your gender, sex, race, etc, and having as much of the same opportunities as everyone else. Gloria Steinem is and has been for quite some time, a woman I admire and aspire to be more like. She was, and still is, the face of the Equal Rights Movement in the 70s and 80s. She’s absolutely stunning. She’s fashion forward. She wears makeup and does her hair. She’s by our society’s standards, a feminine woman. I could list hundreds and hundreds of similar women to prove my point but I don’t need to do that.
As a feminist, I’m not offended or angry that Caitlyn Jenner underwent multiple surgeries, changed her wardrobe, learned how to apply makeup and do her hair. Bravo. Those are hard things to master and it looks like she did it with grace and style. If that’s what makes her feel beautiful, confident and happy and she’s not hurting anyone by doing it, then I tip my hat to her and wish her all the best in the next chapter of her life. Changing one’s appearance is absolutely irrelevant from feminism and it frustrates me when people confuse the two. It would be impossible, in my opinion, to find the perfect feminist if being a feminist meant that men and women must act alike to be treated alike. It’s just not realistic.
The irony is, Walsh acknowledged that men could never know or understand women and even recognized the uniqueness and special qualities that only women possess. If he really believes that, then why argue that being a feminist means that women and men find equality in how they look and act. It’s a contradiction and made absolutely no sense to me. Even as I’m writing this, I’m finding it difficult to find the right language to use to point out this misconception and contradiction of feminism. Does feminism teach and value equality among genders? Absolutely, yes and I won’t argue that. Do looks, surgeries and makeup have anything to do with that? Absolutely not. If Walsh’s definition is based soley around equality among genders then riddle me this: should Caitlyn Jenner not be allowed equal opportunities at happiness even if it means changing her physical features?
Woman have been getting breast implants, tummy tucks, nose jobs, hair extensions, fake tans, fake nails and the list goes on, for years. Those women aren’t under the scrutiny of Walsh or so many other Americans so why should Jenner or any other transgenders be? If you don’t understand something, ask questions. Try to understand. Try to broaden your perspective and knowledge. No one said even after asking questions, you’ll understand or agree or even accept it, but at the very least treat others how you want to be treated.
The last point I have to touch on is all the posts I’ve read from people who are Christians and fear how to discuss these issues with their children. I am a Christian but I don’t have children so my opinion may mean little to a lot of people, but I’m going to share it anyway. While I understand it’s hard for one (as it was for me when I first learned about what it is to be transgender), to wrap their head around the idea of literally changing your body to be a different gender, try imagining someone taking you out of your body right now, and putting you into someone else’s body. How would you feel? Probably not good. I believe God made us in his own image and likeness. That means something different to different people.
To me, it means, God made us to be special. God made us to embrace who we are. God made us with free will. God made us the way he wanted and liked. Please ask yourself, even if you don’t agree with what Jenner did – from a Christian stand point- would God want you to accept and love that person any less? According to the Word, the answer is no. In addition, because I do believe the Lord made us in His image and likeness, perhaps that image and likeness evolves over time into things we never expected. Perhaps God’s image of us isn’t purely physically, it was the image and likeness of one’s soul, not their body.
While there are many who believe (including Walsh) it’s not mentally, physically, genetically or anatomically possible to change your gender, for some people, a gender is how one feels inside, not their physical makeup. There’s no actual way to know how another thinks and feels unless you’re that person. Period. I know it’s difficult for a lot of people to accept and understand that there are people in his world who are utterly lost and confused about who they are, but aren’t we all, just in different ways?
There are a lot of people who will have read this and have nothing but terrible and hateful things to say to me and to them I say, that’s okay. We are all entitled to our opinions and we should voice them. All the time, voice them because ignorance will continue to live on and thrive if we don’t talk about these hard and controversial issues.
Walsh said in his post that there’s a high suicide rate among transgenders post surgery because they often regret it. I want to know if they regretted it because they missed who they were/how they looked before, or because it was too hard living their lives out in the open, being who they were when people like Walsh write hateful and misguided posts about them. I’m confident you would be depressed to, Mr. Walsh. Let people be who they are. You don’t have to like it or even agree with it but just let them be.
All that truly matters is our soul. Our character and how we treat others. Do we help the poor and feed the hungry? Do we help those in need and even when it’s inconvenient or financially hard to do? Do we sacrifice for others? Are we kind and thoughtful? Are we caring, loving and gentle to others? Are we honest? Are we forgiving? Are we compassionate? These are the characteristics that make up the only genetic makeup that truly matters about who are.
Do I think it was brave what Caitlyn Jenner did? Yes. She knew she would be attacked, hated and misunderstood by thousands of people and she stayed true to who she feels she is and was honest with herself along with the rest of he world. In turn, I fully believe there are other people in this world who have felt the same way Jenner did and felt inspired and hope was restored in their lives. If no one is getting hurt, then we should be able to live our lives in peace, without feeling disdain and constant judgment from others.
Let’s be kind to each other. Let’s be sincere and genuine. Let’s be thoughtful and generous. Let’s be open-minded and accepting. Let’s be understanding and compassionate. Let’s grow together and remember that we’re only here for a short while and we all seek the same things while on Earth: happiness and acceptance.
– Katie Vandaveer