We have to admire Bruce Jenner’s courage. We don’t mean his publicly declared intention to undergo a sex change, which these days doesn’t entail any risk except fawning press coverage and a lucrative reality show deal, but rather his willingness to publicly state that he is a Republican and Christian, which does invite public public scorn and ridicule and economic consequences.
Jenner’s surgical transformation is big news, judging by all the celebrity magazine and gossip tabloids that adorn the checkout lines at our local supermarket, although we’re not sure why. Older readers with good memories for sports trivia will recall Jenner as the boyishly handsome and seemingly wholesome fellow who once won the Olympic decathlon and wound up on the Wheaties box, but that was way back when we were in high school, and we assumed he had long since faded into the obscurity that eventually awaits all but the most storied athletes of the professional ranks. Apparently he was living next door to some people called the Kardashians, whose lives are apparently broadcast on a television program that is apparently popular for some reason, and that and a 39-year-old Olympic medal are apparently enough to make his sexual identity issues a matter of national importance.
Once upon a less strange time we would have been quite content to regard it as a private matter what Jenner does with his impressively athletic body, but these days there are no private matters and some public opinion must be rendered about everything, so we find ourselves almost forced to give some consideration to such unsettling issues as that surgical genital mutilation Jenner intends to undergo, and to publicly admit our resulting uneasiness. We realize that bien pensant opinion expects us to celebrate Jenner’s choices, along with whatever other choices less celebrated individuals might make regarding their sexuality, but some hidebound Burkean aspect of our temperament can’t quite muster the requisite enthusiasm. At this point the sample of people who have undergone sex-change surgery is still smaller than any properly apolitical social scientist would draw any conclusions from, and it no doubt includes some who found that having their genitals surgically altered did not alleviate whatever happiness them to do such a thing, and almost certainly includes some who find themselves regretting the procedure, just as people often regret such far less drastic body mutilations as rhinoplasty and breast enhancements and tattoos, and we’ve not yet seen any convincing argument that surgically altering one’s genitals into an approximation of the opposite sex is ever a good idea. Social attitudes have previously been so negative toward the procedure that only the most determinedly “transgendered” have endured the stigma, so we expect there are some out there who are determinedly pleased with the decision, but one wonders what the numbers will be once those social strictures have been removed.
Nor do we believe that a sex-change operation actually changes a person from one sex to another, any more than having a prosthetic fin implanted on one’s back will make him a dolphin, but of course this runs up against considerable fashionable opinion from the cultural left about the liberating diversity of sexual identities, which are now seemingly more plentiful than the cable television channels on a premium package. All these expansive notions of human sexuality are new to us, so we can’t claim any definitive knowledge to disprove them, but they’re also relatively new to the rest of humankind, and we are unconvinced that anyone can definitively prove them. The old-fashioned dichotomy of male and female sexes is based on an easily observable biological fact, and has been recognized as such by every major religion of every successful society for the past many millennia of civilization, and informed their views on matters ranging from marriage to public accommodations to parental responsibility to the propagation of both the society and the species. All of which makes it unacceptable to the cultural left, of course, which hopes to replace such archaic biological facts with a brave new world of bacchanalian delights in exponentially increasing variations of sexual identity along with a rigid list of new regulations for every other aspect of your life. As imperfect as the past many millennia of human civilization have been, we have little confidence that this brave new world will fare any better. The cultural left might yet succeed in ridding humankind of religion, even if they’re likely to some more violent resistance in the Islamized portions the planets, which will create all sorts of multi-cultural dilemmas, but eventually biology will prevail.
Which makes it all the more imperative for the cultural left to assail the two sexes and the rest of that religious hoodoo, and all the more remarkable that Jenner would admit to an interviewer that he is not only a Christian and Republican but a Christian Republican. Bien pensant opinion regards Christianity and the GOP not only as the enemy of such such oppressed transferred souls as Jenner but anyone having fun outside a procreative marriage as evil, according to the cultural left, but worse is standing in the way of that rigid list of new regulations of every other aspect of your life. Lest one think we’re prone to straight white Christian male paranoia, we note that Catholic nuns are being forced to purchase contraceptive coverage as part of their health insurance, Christian businessmen are being denied the right to sell chicken sandwiches or work at the computer companies they helped found because of their religious beliefs regarding same-sex marriage, and the woman widely presumed to the be the next President of the United States has declared that “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed” to accommodate her views on abortion. The cultural left is more upset with Jenner for being a Republican than any Republicans are about him wanting to transition from a good-looking guy to a rather ugly woman, and the Republicans are certainly less likely to boycott the sponsors of any reality show that results from the whole affair, and eventually one has to ask which side is more intolerant.
Jenner can do as he pleases, as far as our hidebound Burkean selves are concerned, and we’re certainly not going to show up at the operating room in a suicide belt, and we wish him well and hope he’ll keep voting Republican, even if it does little good in California. We also hope that his Christian faith serves him long after his surgically-altered body has come to pass, but we would have preferred that he’d kept it a private matter. A certain public queasiness about this sort of thing is not inappropriate.
— Bud Norman