When Caitlyn Jenner revealed herself as a transgender woman, I was as surprised as everyone else. But one thought really nagged at me: Why would anyone willingly subject themselves to high heels, eyelash curlers, and leg waxing? Bandage dresses, girlfriend? C’mon now. Are you revealing yourself as a woman or as a masochist?

Of course, I jest, but this is a serious subject for people that believe they were assigned the wrong gender at birth.

For years, I have to admit, I couldn’t get my head around someone deciding to change genders. I subscribed to the notion that God doesn’t make mistakes, and thought it was too extreme an act. But over time, I’ve come to realize that there are many things I don’t understand in life, but it’s never given me license to judge or vilify.

For someone to live as another gender and endure ostracism and injustice, I have to believe this must be deeply felt. This must have been there all along. I can’t grasp it all, as I’m from a small town in my own head most of the time (population: me), but I know this must always have existed in them.

I went to high school with a girl who began dressing as a boy from an early age. The only time you knew she was a girl was when you saw her sitting next to her identical twin sister, who had long hair and wore dresses. If she was willing to put herself through the gauntlet of high school in New Jersey, this must have been deeply felt for her. (Let me re-phrase that, please.) If he was willing to put himself through the gauntlet of high school in New Jersey, this must have been deeply felt for him.

And even though I’m saying these nice, progressive words, I still don’t truly get it. I’m not sure why God would create anyone with another gender embedded inside them. It seems like a lot to put a person through in a lifetime. But maybe I don’t need to get it. Maybe I just need to walk the talk and treat everybody with respect. Maybe then they’ll be free to fully be themselves. Maybe those of us who believe can agree to soften our hearts, open our minds and let God take care of the rest.

Compassion isn’t a passing fad. Like so many things, it must be deeply felt.

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