I just got a message via Twitter (@ijbailey) that I ‘misgendered’ Jenner in multiple places. I thought I had called Caitlyn ‘her’ because that’s who she now is, but also used ‘he’ and ‘his’ to talk about Bruce Jenner. I’ve since change them all to ‘her.’
As I said earlier, this is new, which is why it is a bit confusing and why people are understandably initially uncomfortable. Even Bruce Jenner, when he sat down with Diane Sawyer before he became Caitlyn, told Sawyer to use male pronouns.
We all have a lot to learn.
I can’t say that I’m fully comfortable with Caitlyn Jenner, the female version of the person I grew up knowing as Olympic gold medalist, world record holder, Wheaties box staple Bruce Jenner.
I can’t fully explain why.
Though I am happy that she’s living the life she believes she was born to live - a person finding her freedom is a beautiful thing - I won’t pretend that looking at her photo on the cover of that magazine didn’t give me pause.
I’m guessing that part of it is environmental. I was raised to believe that there were two genders only - male and female - and that who you died as you were born. It was binary, black and white. Clear.
Apart of it is also the novelty of the thing. Something new, different, has a tendency to knock even the most reasonable person from his stride - at least for a little while. I’ve found the same thing in my four decades of living with a severe stutter. It initially makes people uncomfortable because they aren’t used to listening to someone speak the way I do. But most reasonable people adjust after the novelty wears off. The same will happen with me and my initial uncomfortableness with Jenner.
Another part of my uncomfortableness likely arose from my upbringing, during which I was taught about humankind’s “sin nature,” birthed by the Adam and Eve decision to eat from the “Tree of Life” in the “Garden of Eden.”
Related: What is sin nature?
Though I haven’t heard from them yet, I suspect many people in the Myrtle Beach area believe Jenner’s change - and the praise for her bravery that have come with it - is more evidence of man’s fall from God’s grace because it upends the black-and-white, clear-cut view of gender and sexuality, that the only proper relationship is between and man and a woman, and everyone who falls outside of that dynamic should be celibate or try to become “straight.” But Jenner took that counsel for more than 6 decades.
She did the “man” thing, did the marriage and father thing. And it was killing her inside. Given that reality, maybe more people who believe in the “sin nature” will at least pause before just chalking up Jenner’s change as the latest sign that humanity has forsaken God.
If that doesn’t do it, maybe the story below will.
From “The Sports Gene” by David Epstein:
“Why Men Have Nipples”
Certainly, Maria Jose Martinez-Patino never had reason to doubt her womanhood. Her face was slender and regal, its eggshell skin stretched delicately over high cheekbones. She grew up a very normal girl in northern Spain, save for being better than her peers at running and jumping.
In 1985, Martinez-Patino, an internationally accomplished twenty-four-year-old sprint hurdler, arrived at the World University Games in Kobe, Japan, only to realize that she had forgotten the doctor's certificate that declared that she was a woman and could compete against women. So, in Kobe, she had to take the customary precompetition cheek swab to establish her biological sex.
Sex testing had been in place since the 1960s, when the International Association of Athletics Federations had seen enough brawny Eastern Bloc women - many of whom were on elaborate doping programs - that it instituted regulations to ensure that male athletes were not masquerading as females. (No such case has ever been confirmed.) Early on, testing was a crude affair. Women were made to drop their pants in front of a doctor. By the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, that degrading procedure was replaced by tidily objective technology: swabs of cheek tissue that were tested for chromosomes. Women have XX sex chromosomes and men have XY.
Except, that is, when they don't.
Late on that August day in '85, the Spanish team doctor came to Martinez-Patino with news. There was a problem with her test, and she would be unable to compete. Martinez-Patino wondered whether she might have AIDS, or perhaps leukemia, which had taken the life of her brother. But the doctor would say no more.
She lived with crushing anxiety for two months. She visited doctors, but always alone, to spare her parents, who were still mourning her brother. Then the letter came. It wasn't AIDS, or leukemia, but the diagnosis would change her life. The letter said that each of the fifty cells analyzed from her cheek contained XY chromosomes. Surprise! You're a man. Team officials urged Martinez-Patino to fake an injury and slink softly into retirement.
Not only did she refuse to retire, but three months later Martinez-Patino won the Spanish national title in the 60-meter hurdles. The glory of her victory ensured her own public ridicule. The result of Martinez-Patino's sex test was leaked to the press. The spiraling descent was swift, and cruelly thorough.
Everything that could be taken was taken. Spanish officials stripped Martinez-Patino of her national title. They evicted her from the national athletes' living quarters. They revoked her scholarship. They expunged records of her athletic performances, as if she had never existed. Her friends sorted into those who stayed and those who fled. Her finance was among the latter.
Martinez-Patino was ashamed. She lost her energy. but her resilience held fast. She maintained in the press that she was sure of her womanhood. She vowed to fight back, and help came from afar.
A Finnish geneticist named Albert de la Chapelle saw a news article about Martinez-Patino's struggles and spoke out. De la Chapelle knew quite well that chromosomes do not necessarily make the man or woman. He had pioneered the study of individuals with XX chromosomes who develop as males. "De la Chapelle syndrome" can occur when the parents' X and Y chromosomes don't line up perfectly as they exchange information, and genes from the tip of the Y chromosome break off and end up on an X.
Martinez-Patino paid thousands of her own dollars to be examined by doctors. They told her that she had testes, hidden from sight insider her labia, and that she had neither a uterus nor ovaries. But the doctors also discovered that, while her testes were producing male levels of testosterone, Martinez-Patino had androgen insensitivity. That is, her body was deaf to the call of testosterone, and so she developed entirely as a woman. Most women can take advantage of the athletic benefits of the small amount of testosterone their bodies produce, but Martinez-Patino could use none at all.
Nearly three years after her sex test became public, the Olympic Medical Commission met at the 1988 Games in Seoul, South Korea, and decreed that Martinez-Patino should be reinstated. By that time, though, her career had been derailed, and she missed qualifying for the 1992 Olympics by one tenth of a second.
... The trouble is that human biology simply does not break down into male and female as politely as sports governing bodies wish it would. And no technological advances of the last two decades have made the slightest difference, nor will any in the future.
... Doctors ultimately decided that Martinez-Patino had been treated unfairly. She was, they determined, a woman for competitive purposes. A woman with both a vagina and internal testes, breasts but no ovaries or uterus, and male doses of testosterone that circulated inertly through her body.
Neither body parts nor the chromosomes within them unequivocally differentiate male from female athletes.