I am rarely awake at 11:00 p.m., but I was glued right to the last moment of the Bruce Jenner interview. I had watched every minute of his performance in the 1976 Olympics and I follow news about all things transgender, so I anticipated the interview for weeks.
As things were coming to a head for me, I longed to piggyback on his making public his transition. The stinker in me wanted to post, the day after, “I am Bruce Jenner.” I couldn’t do that, but it constantly came into my head. Every day, I wondered how I could use this for good. In the end, it had no influence on when and how I went about sharing my story, yet your feedback is telling me the timing was helpful.
The Jenner interview began and I was thankful the main question—are you transitioning?—was asked and answered immediately. For the next two hours, I often found myself stone-faced, teary-eyed, riveted to his face. “That’s me,” my inner voice spoke. “That’s what I went through.” “That’s how I feel.”
Some folks have noted how Jenner and I are similar in two ways. We both are men in public positions, and that we are males is key to our being known. On the one hand, he’s way more famous; on the other hand, my being male is more vital to my work. The Olympics is open to males and females; the ministry in my church body is a male-only domain.
There are many things on which I am treading lightly in public, and yearn to find the better way to write about them now. When he says, “I am a woman,” I am quite sure no one wants to hear those words from my lips. Actually, I know that I am not a woman. I know I am a male as far as goes my DNA. Yet, I have spent a lifetime dealing with feeling like a female and, since 2013, feeling so female that living as a woman has often seemed the only answer to reaching some level of contentment. So, Bruce, I hear you loud and clear.
I was surprised to learn that he was on hormone replacement therapy for five years in the 1980s. The surprise quickly dissipated as I pondered my own life and the need to hide, to conform, to suppress this thing.
Jenner spoke well to a topic that is terribly misunderstood: gender versus sex. We, with gender dysphoria and those transgendered, define these thus: gender is the mental aspect—how we see ourselves—and sex is physical—how we are seen. As one writer put it (more bluntly than I would): sex is who you go to bed with; gender is who you go to bed as.
Gender dysphoria and transgenderism is not about sex. I find that to be the biggest misconception. Jenner answered the common question: are you heterosexual or homosexual? He told us that he has always been attracted to women. I have always been attracted to women.
This hints at the internal struggle. I was a young guy, highly attracted to girls, wanting to date, to be with girls whom I found cute and fun and interesting, yet they intimidated me. From my reading, I have found this common among gender dysphoric boys. I wanted to be with a girl, and I so wanted to be that girl.
To be a young man, sexually driven just like the rest of the guys, yet with a female mind driving me intellectually and emotionally, was a grand battle, one which has never subsided. I have learned that my fear of girls is typical of teenaged boys like me. I even feared the guys; they, too, intimidated me. I very selectively had only one or two guy friends at a time. At the time, I thought it was nothing more than being shy.
That Jenner excelled as an athlete is common for males with gender dysphoria. Men, who cannot fathom that they ever will be able to transition, seek very male, physical activities. The number of trans women who have been in the military, even gaining high rank and valor, is astounding. Many trans women are professional people: teachers, doctors, lawyers, ministers. The point? We plunge ourselves into whatever we can to try to drown that screaming voice in our head.
I have been asked if I became a minister to run away from my dysphoria, and if I thought I should not have become a pastor because of it. Since all people have weaknesses, great challenges, faults, and sins, no, I never thought I should have stayed away from the ministry. Besides, I never imagined not being able to manage my condition.
What I did hope—much as with my desire when I fell in love— was that immersing myself in the Bible I would drown those thoughts, finally get rid of them. As I look back, I was terribly naive. As I listened to Bruce Jenner, he did the same thing in using athletics. Nothing in his world allowed him to think he could ever jump the greatest hurdle of his life.
What from the interview have I missed?
Bruce Jenner is transitioning. What does that entail? Does everyone do it the same? If you would like me to explain about that, let me know.