Life has been interesting for the past few weeks in my house. My son just graduated from high school, my job has been challenging and everyday life has gotten hectic. We are currently in the midst of an epic hockey playoff rivalry and at times the level of competition has escalated to a new levels. Whichever team wins, there are half of us who are upset. We are enthusiastic about our favorite teams and this enthusiasm has resulted in some family tension on a few occasions. No biggie. The reality is what happens with our teams has nothing to do with our ability to live our daily lives. The outcome of the playoffs does not alter the planned course of our lives. We may feel angry or disappointed in the moment but our lives go on unchanged in any way. When the level of stress rises in the house I remind everyone of this fact with the hopes that they will recover and let things go. It is just a game.
Which brings me to Bruce Jenner. Of course I watched the interview. As I watched, I thought about how brave he was to decide to finally live an authentic life. I know what that feels like. It is scary and no picnic. I could relate to his story. I could empathize about his concern about not wanting to hurt his children because of something that he knew he could no longer ignore. Coming out brought similar emotions, changes and circumstances in my life. I am not a public figure. He is. I cannot imagine having to go through what I did under the scrutiny of the public eye and surviving as he has. It was difficult enough as it was. I learned that no matter what you do, people will have their opinions, judgements and reach whatever conclusions they choose to reach. I also believed, much like the outcome of the hockey playoffs, what I was going through had no impact on their lives. His story is uniquely his and except for those in his immediate family, not a single one of us will be affected by his choice to be authentic.
This does not stop everyone from putting in their two cents and objections about transgendered people. Unfortunately, some have a difficult time respecting his choice and feel the need to share negative and passionate opinions. I know, it is a free country and everyone has a right to their beliefs. Understood. However, lately how we choose to deliver and express our right to free speech has been poor and often lacking in intelligence. A wise man in my life once said, “Opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one.” The internet gives anyone with a Wi-Fi connection the ability to illustrate this truth. I knew that it would be wise to put on my thick skin suit as I scrolled my social media feeds after this interview.
Many of the rants I saw were of the “I just don’t get it” variety. These are especially frustrating to me because these individuals do not realize the freedom that is theirs for the taking if they would understand that they do not have to “get it.” I was surprised by the sheer volume of hateful, mean and condemning posts. Other comments that broadened the scope to all transgendered individuals, including children who identify as transgender at an early age. Parents of these children are being criticized for allowing their child to live “other than the way God made them.” By total strangers. Last night I watched an interview with a transgendered person on our local news channel after the interview. She said “It is hard to hate someone once you know their story.” This may be true for some, but given the reactions that I have seen, I am not so sure that this is the case.
We may know parts of Bruce Jenner’s story, but how many of us truly know his story? This is true for every person we personally do not know. Do the details of his transition or how he was married to women in the past really matter to any of us who are looking from the outside in? Those who have a hard time ”getting it” should be grateful that they don’t have to. They should feel relieved that they have not had to deal with the challenges and difficulties that experiencing changes like these brings about. Understanding how someone could be gay, lesbian or transgender is not a prerequisite for behaving kindly or lovingly to one another. Last night I came across a letter his second ex-wife released after the interview. Her words. I know that many who probably could benefit from her words probably will never read it but I am an optimist. I remain hopeful that those who object or have a strong negative opinion will at the least be able to let go of the need to make sense of what happens in the lives of those they do not know.