I really don’t like celebrity culture. I don’t really care who is dating whom or if their current relationship may be on the rocks. I don’t get how some people get caught up in the goings-on of complete strangers. I am baffled at how people are so concerned about the activities of the royal family.
When it comes to gossip, I just don’t care. It is bad enough supermarket tabloids seem to proliferate, but when places that are supposed to be journalistic spend significant portions of time talking about the life and times of celebrities I get discouraged. I think we are too consumed with the lives of others, especially those who are considered to be famous.
There is a part of me that is cynical and jaded when it comes to celebrities. I tend to assume everything they do is a grab for attention or notoriety. I am often suspicious of even good things celebrities do: “They must be about to release something new and they need to garner some goodwill.”
But I do like stories. I like to hear about people’s lives and their experiences. Additionally, I appreciate when someone who has an audience or an influence is willing to share their story in the hopes of aiding others.
So even though I get upset with our culture’s obsession with celebrity, I appreciate when those celebrities are able to provide help, hope, and encouragement for others.
Which brings me to Caitlyn Jenner.
My initial response with anyone associated with the Kardashians is to think it’s all about attention. My initial response when a celebrity does something so drastic is to think they must be trying to get themselves back into the news.
And maybe that’s true. But it doesn’t matter. The reason behind this celebrity doing this thing at this time is irrelevant.
Caitlyn Jenner is going to do good for a lot of people. And chances are you don’t get it. But you don’t need to. You do, however, need to get this:
There are people who are struggling with their gender identity who do not feel safe enough to talk about it. Many of those people internalize their struggle and decide to live a life they know is not honest, but it is what everyone expects of them. Some turn to risky behaviors to find some way to relieve the stress that continues to build up inside. And many turn to suicide because not only can they not reconcile who they are, they have no one to turn to who will listen to them.
So when people post insults on social media, call Caitlyn an “it,” or refuse to acknowledge that Caitlyn is a woman, people who are questioning their own gender identity are learning how dangerous it is to ask their questions out loud.
Which is why I am glad Caitlyn is doing this so publicly. She will be ridiculed. She will be mocked. But she will be talked about. Gender identity will be talked about. Other people, famous or not, will begin to follow her example and speak up about their own experiences. Those who suffer in silence may possibly be encouraged by someone willing to suffer in public.
You may not agree with what Caitlyn Jenner has done. You may not understand the struggle of gender identity. You may be weirded out by this whole story.
And all of that is okay. As long as you remember this: everyone does not have the same story you do. There are people in our schools and in our churches and in our workplaces who are trying to figure out where they land on the gender spectrum and they need to know they have safe places to talk.
The response to the Jenner story has been largely sickening. The insults and disrespect she has been shown are nothing short of dehumanizing. This is especially sad when that response comes from Christians. Jesus, who came to seek and save the lost, would not shut the doors on anyone who is honestly searching what their journey in life should be. Unfortunately, many Christians and churches have essentially shut the door on the people who need us the most. We have done this with our words of insult and exclusion. I pray our words will change and we will be known as a people of refuge.
I don’t like celebrity culture. I think we spend too much time thinking and talking about the lifestyles of the rich and famous.
But I stand with Caitlyn Jenner.
Because I stand with the young people I have talked to who have questioned their own gender identity.
Because I stand with people who are too afraid to speak up about their struggle for fear of being ridiculed and excluded.
Because I stand with all who feel they have no voice and they need someone to speak up for them.