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From Bruce to Caitlyn, With Love
Call Me Bruce
In the television show THE INCREDIBLE HULK, they changed the name of Dr. Bruce Banner to Dr. David Banner because several executives at CBS thought the name Bruce sounded too gay-ish. Both Lou Ferrigno and Stan Lee thought this was stupid. Ferrigno even went on record, calling this decision "the most absurd, ridiculous thing I'd ever heard."
There is a story, probably apocryphal, which states that the decision to change the good doctor's name to Dr. David Bruce Banner in the show came shortly after Bruce Jenner became the American Icon for manliness in the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal—a man named Bruce managed to win the Gold Medal in the Decathalon and setting a world record of 8,616 points. This record would stand for several years.
Call Me Caitlyn
In 2015, Bruce Jenner came out to the world as Caitlyn Jenner.
This fact has caused many people to have issues. Some have even gone so far as to say that Bruce is still not a woman, or to state that they will refuse to call Caitlyn by her chosen name, or identify her by her chosen identity. And all of this begs the question: why do they care?
We have a formal, recognized disorder used by physicians (not just psychologist and psychiatrists) known as Gender Identity Disorder, in which an individual may experience significant discontent with the gender they were assigned at birth. This can also apply to those born hermaphroditic and who were assigned a gender by their parents prior to an age of awareness and whom, it would seem, may have been far happier with their lives and bodies had their parents made the opposing choice. So medical science knows that the brain and the body can, and often do, disagree as to the nature of one's own identity.
When an actor, or other public figure, decides to change their name—Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner becomes Sting, or Norma Jeane Mortenson becomes Marilyn Monroe, or a whole host of others—we do not bat an eye. The name is just a name. So society can accept that a name is a label, and that a label often does not fit the identity someone wants to live their lives by.
So why does society have such an issue with someone who was able to play a role for many years, but knew that this was a disguise? Why does a name (Bruce) have to conjure images of gay-ness to some, while another (David) conjures images of (Biblical?) masculinity?
Are you bothered by Caitlyn's transformation?
Color Me Confused
Who Caitlyn is—a question that can only be answered by Caitlyn—is at the center of this discussion. And this is not a new discussion. Granted, it is new as it concerns the American Olympian formerly known as Bruce Jenner. But the idea of biological gender (i.e., male, female, intersex) as distinct from social gender (i.e., masculine roles vs. feminine roles) goes back some time. According to Wikipedia:
Sexologist John Money introduced the terminological distinction between biological sex and gender as a role in 1955. Before his work, it was uncommon to use the word gender to refer to anything but grammatical categories. However, Money's meaning of the word did not become widespread until the 1970s, when feminist theory embraced the concept of a distinction between biological sex and the social construct of gender.
The idea of using the term Gender (as opposed to Sex) to distinguish these things came about in 1955. About two decades later, it becomes widespread. About two decades after this, we start to see some true social acceptance of a more fluid gender model within American society. And two decades after that—60 years after it was introduced!!—Bruce Jenner becomes Caitlyn Jenner and some people cannot understand that this is important, and it is worthy of our praise and support.
Why Is This Important?
Praise. Support. I used these terms in the previous section and this seems to be a problem for people like Steven Crowder (the guy not wanting to accept that Caitlyn is a woman, above) and Drake Bell (the guy not wanting to accept that Caitlyn is her name now, above).
Of these two, Steven Crowder has the better argument. He writes:
Listen, I don’t begrudge Bruce Jenner for wanting to be happy. Everyone wants to be happy. The problem is that with the recent, hyper-aggressive push to normalize transgenderism, we’ll no longer be able to discuss whether some decisions made in the pursuit of happiness are healthful. Because… hate speech.
Note that he wants to discuss this in terms of how healthful this pursuit of happiness may be. This may appear to be a strange way to approach this. But consider this... he goes on to say (emphasis mine):
Many people, including many in the gay community, think that transgenderism is a mental condition more effectively treated with psychiatry than surgery. I get where leftists are coming from; this person isn’t hurting anybody (aside from themselves), so what difference does it make? On the surface, it seems like a reasonable position to hold. One that quickly falls apart when you begin to examine it more closely.
What Mr. Crowder is about to step into is an argument that I have read about, and discussed with others, many times before. It was not something I considered until a beautiful bi-sexual woman explained it to me. Her position was that this particular argument was the only one to giver her pause when it came to her views of sex-change operations. It remains my only point of pause. Mr. Crowder goes on to say:
Apotemnophilia is a fetish in which people wish to become an amputee. They find sexual satisfaction and ultimately, happiness, through the act of the removal of limbs or simulating the removal of limbs. There are websites, message boards and get-togethers devoted exclusively to the activity. As a general rule, society doesn’t consider this to be healthful. Some of us may accept it, ignore it and move on with our lives, but we don’t praise it or trot apotemnopheliacs out as heroes. And let’s be honest… most of us think it’s pretty damn weird.
Weird? Yes. I would go on and state that those that go through with this—those that actually have limbs removed in their pursuit of happiness—are sick and need help (and I do not mean with keeping the saw steady). So why is this different if the limb is a penis or a pair of breasts?
It is what keeps me going in circles on this issue.
Is Caitlyn Jenner a hero?
In the end, I am confused. I am not sure how to feel about these things. And it is in that confusion that I have to err on the side of acceptance.
Despite my views on those that want to remove a limb in order to feel whole, or who feel that by becoming handicapped that can fulfill some part of their lives, I support Caitlyn Jenner and her choice to be who she wants (feels the need) to be. I do see her as a brave person who should be praised and treated with respect and dignity. She is brave and heroic in her choice to be who she feels she was born to be.
Is this a consistent view? No, not hardly. But it is the only view I can take and still look at myself and have any respect for the face I see staring back at me.