Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner has taken over social media by having a surgery to look like a woman and Jenner says this is what brings him/her happiness. So then why would Christians not want Jenner to be happy? Why do Christians always seem to try to stifle people’s happiness whether they be gay, or want to have sex outside marriage, or want to drink to excess, or make us be virtuous which is hard and takes effort with little pleasure? Are we Christians Hell-bent on making sure everyone is miserable? Do we want everyone to give up on happiness or maybe just realize happiness is actually an illusion (similar to what Buddhists believe)?
I think we have to clearly define what we mean by happiness because this is the crux of our discussion. Typically when we discuss happiness we mean something emotional. For example,
- Jenner wants to go from a man to looking like a woman because Jenner believes he/she will feel happier as a woman.
- A young couple wants to have sex because it feels good not just physically but it also emotionally, we feel “in love”.
- Getting drunk makes us feel good because we have less inhibitions and more confidence to do things or say things we usually wouldn’t, which makes us feel more free.
All three of these are examples of happiness that are emotionally based in different ways. In all three cases we perceive ourselves differently and perceive the world around us differently. This perceived new confidence is what makes me use that very vague term “feel”. We feel good, we feel happy, we think the world is better and we are better.
The problem is these feelings are merely perception and not reality. In reality nothing much has changed. When you are drunk you are still you and the world doesn’t change. Anything you have the confidence to do drunk you could do sober but you simply choose not to. If you have sex you are still you and the world has not changed even though it may seem that things are different or that you are different. Jenner has not changed and the world around Jenner has not changed. People don’t want to condemn Jenner because, “now she is happy!” The question is for how long does this emotionally based happiness last? With alcohol you wake up with a hangover, with sex the feeling wears off and you want to have sex again. With Transgender surgery, well the same thing happens…
Long-Term Follow-Up of Transsexual Persons Undergoing Sex Reassignment Surgery: Cohort Study in Sweden
Persons with transsexualism, after sex reassignment, have considerably higher risks for mortality, suicidal behaviour, and psychiatric morbidity than the general population. Our findings suggest that sex reassignment, although alleviating gender dysphoria, may not suffice as treatment for transsexualism, and should inspire improved psychiatric and somatic care after sex reassignment for this patient group.
This is the conclusion of a scientific study that looked at people who have had transgender surgery in the long term. The study suggests “psychiatric and somatic care after sex reassignment surgery”, but what about before? It makes more sense that the problem is in the brain not the body.
I believe Gender Identity Disorder is a real thing, and that it is very serious. However, I don’t believe the best solution is any kind of surgery. If someone feels that they are truly a bird deep down and wanted to graft feathers into their arms and fashion a beak to their face , would we let them? If someone wanted to cut off their limbs because they felt they were truly an amputee, should we chop them off? This may sound like a ridiculous analogy but BIID is a real disorder that was covered by the National Post.
Body integrity identity disorder (BIID, also referred to as amputee identity disorder) is a psychological disorder wherein sufferers feel they would be happier living as an amputee.
The key to all this depends on our definition of happiness. If happiness is not the emotionally charged good feelings that we experience, then what is happiness? The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it nicely,
“The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for.”
– CCC 27
If we believe God is our ultimate happiness then no merely physical things will ever make us really feel any different, not alcohol, not sex and not surgery.
I write this because I care about Bruce Jenner (and yes I’m going to call him Bruce now). He deserves to be happy, but not a superficial, fleeting, emotionally based happiness. He deserves to be truly happy, not just feel happy and I believe the only way for him to find that is to find God. I hope and pray that the journey he is on through this sex change thing eventually leads him back to God. I think one thing we have to remember as Christians is that just as physical appearance doesn’t define who you are, neither does the morality of your decisions. When we speak of Bruce Jenner, we must remember that he is on his own faith journey and that it is God’s job to draw Jenner to God. Some people need to do something that we may see clearly is completely wrong for them, but they need to in order to figure themselves out and find God. Let us focus on our own lives, our own relationship with God so that we may be able to find that true happiness and share it graciously with others, especially those who are unhappy.