Bruce Jenner has just been introduced as Caitlyn Jenner. I want to just be honest. I find this all very confusing (and not only because it’s not Katelyn Jenner… how did the marketing people not insist on a “K” name to fit the rest of the family.) The LGBT debate has moved through this country rather quickly in recent years. It was so quick in fact that I feel like I have not been allowed to even ask a question. There are a lot of mean and nasty people on both sides of the debate. The anonymity of the internet has seemingly made people even meaner and nastier. But I think there’s a lot of Christians like me trapped in the middle not wanting to engage on either side’s nasty rhetoric. I want to love everyone. I don’t agree with everybody because that’s impossible, but I can always be kind to people and show the love of Christ. I also want to tell the truth all the time. I don’t want to lie just because it’s easier. What I honestly want to do is just ask a transgender person some questions. But I guess until that time comes, I’ll just organize my thoughts here.
I promise these questions are legitimate. I am not being condescending or trivial or anything like that. I am not trying to prove my point by asking questions that lead to an obvious answer. To show my sincerity, I will watch my pronouns (i.e. I won’t refer to Caitlyn Jenner as a “he.”) I’ll admit that I’m cis-gender (if you are not sure what that means, it just shows how much definitions have changed in just the last few years… it means I’m a non-transgender person – my identity matches my biology.) And, I will take criticism if I’m not asking the right questions; but we all HAVE to be allowed to ask questions. Asking questions is what people do in civilized societies. And we need to be able to give civilized answers, including the answer neither side wants to say – “I don’t know.”
Question 1) How can someone know the difference between being transgender and having a mental-health disorder?
I remember watching an episode of the Tyra Banks Show (hey, we’re in a judgment free space right now). There was this lady on the show who weighed 85 lbs. She thought she was fat. Tyra had her look in the mirror and point out where she thought she needed to lose weight. She pointed to her waist and her butt. She looked at the same things that I looked at, yet she saw some areas that needed to just be a little bit thinner, and what everyone else saw was skin and bone. Tyra sat this woman down and said in all her Tyraness, “Guurl, you are beautiful. You are sick and it’s time to get healthy.” I believe the correct terminology for this is Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). You see your body one way, but clearly the reality is contrary. How can someone know for sure that they do not have BDD? It’s a mental-health disorder. They are sick. There is something in the synapses in their brain that is distorting reality. If a person born biologically male looks in the mirror and sees something different from how they feel, how can they know for sure that they do not have BDD? Maybe there are just a certain percentage of people who think they are transgender but instead suffer from BDD? How can someone know which one they are? The very nature of the disorder is that you don’t realize what everyone else realizes – your reality is distorted.
Question 2) How can a mental health professional know if they should help a person transition to a new sex or come to grips with who they are biologically?
Remember, I am not being condescending, I just want to use an extreme example to frame the question. If a person went to a doctor and said they were a cat and wanted to get plastic surgery to look more cat-like, I would assume that the doctor would refer that person to a clinical psychologist. I don’t think that any legitimate doctor would help a person psychologically transition from a human to a feline (let alone physically transition.) All licensed mental health professionals would use some sort of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy to help this person recognize the reality that they are a human and not a cat. I know I used an extreme example and some may have been offended by that, and I apologize. But I am asking a legitimate question I have. If a biological male wants to become female, why is the automatic response not to carefully help this person realize who they truly are biologically? Isn’t the entire mental health field supposed to help protect people from themselves? I am under the impression that presently, if a person claims to be transgender, they have the right to determine their own treatment (minors are another more complicated matter that I’ll have a different set of questions about some other time.) Basically, all the major counseling and psychological associations say that an individual has the right to determine who they are. But I suppose this brings me back to my first question, how can we be sure that a person is not struggling with a mental disorder? I legitimately want to help people. I honestly worry that the mental health community might not be helping some people because they are letting them determine their own treatment.
Question 3) Are transgender people happier after transitioning?
I am so sad at the number of people who identify as transgender that are committing suicide. “The suicide rate among transgender adults in an international study was almost 800 per 100,000. In comparison, the suicide rate in the U.S. for all people is 13 per 100,000.” This is staggering. Are we really saying that the only reason this number is so high is because they are not being accepted in society? I can’t help but feel that there are A LOT of factors going into that horrific statistic. This number should start going down drastically, because of present day acceptance. People are celebrating Caitlyn Jenner like I’ve never seen before. I’ve read a lot of stories on young children that are accepted as transgender by their family and anecdotally they seem happier. I see people interviewed on the news and they claim to be happier once they started looking on the outside the way they felt on the inside. I’m asking is that representative of the whole community? Are transgender people happier after transitioning? Before you start thinking that the 800 out of 100,000 people mentioned were “closeted” individuals, go read the article and the links in the article. They are people who are at least somewhat open with their new identity. It seems like a hurting demographic of people. I want to help these people, and I don’t know how I am supposed to help them.
Final Question) Are there transgender people who are true, born-again Believers in Jesus Christ?
People may hate me for even asking such questions, but my happiness is not affected by what other people think. I have intrinsic self-worth, because I know that God loves me, and saved me. I want everyone to experience that. I guess I just want to help transgender people the only way I know how. I want them to know Jesus as their Savior. In the words of Kyle Idleman, I don’t want them to just be a fan of Jesus, but a true, out-and-out follower of Jesus. Jesus came specifically to help hurting people. Do I think that getting saved “cures” you from being transgender? I have no earthly idea. I am thankful that God is the Righteous Judge of the living and the dead and not me.
Those were all honest questions I have, but obviously me having those questions reveals where I am in this debate. I am certainly interested in any insight on these answers, and I am open for questions in the comment section below if you have ever wondered how a Christian feels about this issue.