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Cereal, Sexuality and Jenner the Transgender

Posted: June 03, 2015 | Author: Fr. Leo

(Feature image source: Vanity Fair)

The eruption of news and overflowing accolades for Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce, could be either pop culture hype or an invitation for our modern world to have a deeper discussion about the difficult topic of gender confusion.  This could be one long dinner discussion!

It would probably be best to start the conversation at breakfast and serve up some Wheaties - "The Breakfast of Champions," the same cereal that featured the picture of Bruce, the Olympian, in the 70's. 

I remember eating this "Breakfast of Champions" growing up and wanting to be an Olympian myself. 

I remember excitedly eating from that box of cereal as a kid.  I would stare at that image and think how I wanted to be like him - a champion!  Now, how am I supposed to see him? I almost have to remind myself that while Caitlyn looks like a beautiful woman, biologically and hormonally, Caitlyn still possesses the male's Y chromosome. On the deepest level, Caitlyn still has a body which is a temple of the Holy Spirit and possesses a soul as God's child.  Do I remember that when I see the new Bruce?

But before you think I'm "bashing" the LGBT community, I'm not. I'm simply recalling that my earliest memory of Bruce Jenner was that cereal box. Right or wrong,  I just didn't know that the image was not the entire person!  Anyone who saw that picture of Bruce Jenner in the 1970's must now have questions when they see the image he has chosen for himself.  

A child in adult clothes doesn't change the fact that he is a child of God.

I'll admit that I have more questions than answers, beginning with, "What happened to Bruce?"  Did he die, or does he still live, and if so, how? And, if his identity exists no longer, was there a proper "funeral" for people to say goodbye to him? I think a worldly spirit wants to quickly embrace Caitlyn, but are unsure how to respectfully deal with the ending of Bruce - who still exists in the hearts of his parents, the memory of his fans, and within the soul of his recently operated and altered body. So, where did Bruce go, and where did Caitlyn come from? From loving parents, or the production of a sterile operating room?  These are hard questions, and I wish there was a way to ask them in a way that won't offend.  

With all seriousness, I would love to cook a meal for Caitlyn and talk with the reinvented Jenner so that I can sincerely ask these questions, and learn how to ask these questions.  As a priest of Jesus Christ, who undoubtedly would have eaten with all types of people, I would try to understand how former Bruce, now Caitlyn, can reach some level of peace. If ever given that chance, I'll get my recipes ready!  

Prepping some food for a special dinner.

By eating with Caitlyn, I'm not saying that I condone or agree with the sex change operation, but I have to offer compassion for the pain and confusion that Bruce experienced, as well as provide pastoral, theological, moral, and practical support that come with Caitlyn's future.  After all, no matter what the old Bruce looks like now, the operation did not cut away the status of being a child of God.  That's the person I need to address and feed.

I'll repeat, I have more questions than answers.  But, I think that's a good place to start. In tough discussions, I find it helpful to humbly ask questions rather than immediately share my opinions and official church teachings. While we have a clear and accurate theology, we don't always have all of the answers in how to apply the Church's teaching, especially in sensitive issues in dealing with a person who was hurting (and possibly continues to hurt) in the midst of the life changes or tough choices.   


Mother Teresa, a shining example of compassion, feeds a poor child.

Clearly, we can all agree that we ought to "love the sinner and hate the sin."  My question is "how" do we love Caitlyn? Also I ask, in this case, what is/was Bruce's sin? Was it suffering a lifetime of gender confusion? Was it not being honest with people about his feelings in order to conform to norms and the expectations that come with being on that cereal box? Was it bringing confusion or possible shame to his family and friends - all who seem to have embraced him nonetheless? Maybe it could have been Bruce's rejection of God's gift of manhood, or his inability to carry a unique cross of gender confusion? Or is his "sin" simply trying to be honest with the world?  Either way, we need to determine what is "the sin", and then determine how best to pastorally love that sinner.  I'll take your suggestions.

What we can't do is use this headline to hurt or insult anyone.  I saw a biting, crudely humorous, satirical, but also somewhat offensive, and certainly unhelpful social media post.  On one side ("Then"), the picture was the box of Wheaties featuring Bruce, the iconic Olympian.  Next to it ("Now"), there was a box of Fruit Loops with an image of Bruce looking confused and admittedly strange. While it may cause one to chuckle, these type of comments are not helpful to the discussion.

In this situation, I want to encourage people of good faith to avoid the critical name calling or insulting the dignity of the person - no matter what they look like - and instead, to become instruments of compassion for those who are confused about life and sexuality.  That's a lot of people!  We need to bring Good News to this discussion, and we have to present it in a way that won't be hurtful or judgmental to people who live with gender confusion.  I know that Bruce's decision shouldn't have to create a morality war, but it could be a helpful platform for more moral discussions.  It really begins with humbly asking the question, and then being willing to patiently listen.  If people know they have a safe place to talk, then perhaps they will feel it's also a safe place to listen and learn. 

Confession - the perfect place for you to be yourself. 

Once again, I admit to not having any real "answers" in how to apply our church's teachings here. I'd really like to ask Caitlyn Jenner these questions myself.  I would have loved to ask Bruce these questions before the surgery and makeover.  I wonder if Caitlyn's answers would differ from Bruce's. Either way, I know in my heart that my questions are not meant to hurt anyone, but rather an attempt to love God more by learning how to love one another - no matter what they look like or how they see themselves.  Today, I'm praying that I'll be able to view people the way God sees them - not as an iconic image on a cereal box or on a magazine cover - but as a person with a heart and soul stamped with God's image.  

Jesus welcomes a man into Heaven.

Let us pray:

Father in heaven, our world is hurting for answers.  While I'd love for everyone to know, love and serve Jesus as Lord and God, I know that people are at different stages of understanding and even deep levels of confusion.  Help me to be an instrument to those who are hurting or are confused, especially when it comes to sexual questions, that they can see in me a man of compassion and love.  While I never want to condone sin, help me to communicate that I love the sinner.  Teach me this O Lord.  Teach me how you would love them.  I humbly ask, in a special way, to pray for the Jenner family, as they will no doubt experience the challenge of questions, transitions, and confusion.  May your peace permeate throughout all of our hearts and minds so that we can all carry our crosses well - even if the cross is deep in our being.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Food for Thought:  

(1) If you could ask Bruce/Caitlyn a question, what would it be?

(2) How do you try and "love the sinner" - no matter what the sin?

(3) How are you trying to teach compassion to your children, especially in trying to help them discern right from wrong in this highly controversial situation?