On Caitlyn Jenner
An Open Letter to the Ignorant and Intolerant:
I’m addressing this open letter to those of you deep in the throes of a tizzy-fit about Caitlyn Jenner’s transition to a woman. I could also address it to those who oppose gay marriage, or refuse service to homosexuals, or to bigots in general, but odds are good that “ignorant and intolerant” covers my target audience. For some of you, Ms. Jenner is yet another fine example of how we, as a society, are spinning inevitably into a steaming, Godless cesspool of filth. While the majority of us carry on with our lives, understanding that this has nothing at all to do with us, some of you remain possessed by a sense of superiority that you seem to think justifies your bigotry and bullying.
I wish I could write you off as merely a handful of fear-mongering, hate-championing asshats. Unfortunately, that's not the case at all. Because we live in a day and age where any mindless tool with a cellphone can post their opinions on Facebook or Twitter for all the world to see, it has become painfully apparent that there are a frightening number of you out there. People that disregard things like facts and statistics and scientific evidence and describe anything that doesn’t support their narrow view of the world as “coincidental” or “irrelevant” or “manufactured.” I really would prefer to just ignore—or better yet block—your idiocy, but I can’t. Some of you are tangentially connected to my friends, and your nonsense gets through. Hell, some of you might even be my friends. And worse, some of you are family, and as much as I might sometimes want to, I can’t just unfriend you from my life feed. And I can’t ignore it because it affects me rather directly.
My daughter is bisexual, and currently in a relationship with a wonderful woman. They exist in a fragile and uncertain happiness, where tolerance isn’t always readily available. They were bullied in school. It was so extreme that my daughter attempted suicide, and later dropped out of that school altogether. Her mother refused to accept her and kicked her out of the house. Her partner’s mother calls her the devil for turning her straight daughter gay. My own parents called it sick, and a phase, and had a Jesus-sized conniption fit that nearly destroyed the entire family. I’ve gotta say, having a different gender preference or identity sounds like a blast. God knows I’d choose that if I had a choice.
I’m sure Caitlyn Jenner is thrilled to see your vile responses to her recent transition. I can only hope those are somewhat tempered by those that have sent support and praise and thanks for her courage. Yes, I used the possessive pronoun “her”. See, she is a she now. Yes, she was a he, but things change. People change. People become new things every day. Some will get a tattoo, or a nose-ring, or put a giant plug in their earlobes. Some will change careers, or join a convent, or decide to go live in the wilderness. Some will change their names. Some might shave themselves bald, or color their hair green, or sport a mullet. Some will change their gender, or emerge from the proverbial closet. And guess what? It’s all right for you not to agree with them. You don’t even have to like it. Not. One. Bit.
It’s fine to have preferences. We all do. But I think there’s something important that everyone forgot along the way. It’s a really simple line from a rather brilliant document drafted by our forefathers. In it, there’s a suggestion that we, as individuals—as human beings—have certain inalienable rights. We don’t need to earn them. We don’t have to be like everyone else to get them. They don’t have to be given to us, or purchased, or fought for. That group of brilliant minds said those rights were—get this—self-evident. They don’t need to be explained, or proven, or demonstrated. They’re obvious. They just are. Among them: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The Declaration of Independence doesn’t grant us this right to pursue happiness. It simply recognizes it as an inherent part of being human: provided we aren’t breaking the law (and some of those need a little work), we have the right to seek out those things that bring us pleasure and joy. Your particular pursuit of pleasure might not be mine. I may not like it. It may be appalling to me. It might even run contrary to my beliefs. And that’s okay, but it’s entirely irrelevant. Because you have the right to pursue whatever it is that you believe will make you happy. You might not even be on the right path, but you don’t have to be—like life, happiness is a journey and not necessarily a destination.
And therein lies the heart of the matter. While everyone has the right to pursue his or her own happiness, you do not have the inalienable right to be a giant douchebag about it (unless, I guess, that is how you pursue your own happiness—in which case we should all feel truly sorry for you.) Criticizing and condemning others for seeking what brings them joy is actually a hindrance to them finding it and is, quite frankly, a dick move.
Many of you will cite the Bible, calling same-sex marriage, gender reassignment and other LGBTQ identities, abominations in God’s eyes. For starters, you’re wrong. As I mentioned earlier, if homosexuality or any other gender identity or preference were a choice, no one in their right mind would willingly put themselves through the ridicule and harassment. It’s precisely because they do and have that it’s clearly not a choice, and whether you agree with that or not, who they love (or even who they choose to love) is obviously a fundamental component to their pursuit of happiness.
For those of you that still hold up God’s word as justification for your hate—this is precisely the reason that the founding fathers chose to keep church and state separate. It is why your beliefs (which are many and varied in this country) do not necessarily govern the laws of the land. They do not outweigh the Constitution, or the rights defined in the Declaration of Independence. You may choose to live by your faith, but it is not your place to impose your faith on others. And if your interpretation of God’s word insists that you deny other human beings the right to pursue what makes them happy, then your religion is flawed in the most basic sense. Why? Because it would mean that a handful of mere mortals some two hundred and fifty years ago knew better than an omniscient God that all people, though different, are equal and deserving of the same rights as anyone else.
So the next time you find yourself wanting to pass judgment or verbalize your distaste for someone that is different, I challenge you to remember that you are standing smack in the way of their pursuit of happiness. And really, you should find yourself ashamed. Not because you are a dickhead (which you are), but because you are wasting your precious little time trying to bring someone else down instead of exercising your own God-given right to search for something meaningful and worthwhile in this world. Like compassion. Or tolerance. Or love. All things, if I’m not mistaken, that are supposed to be at the core of virtually all religions.
And human beings.