I broke one of my rules this week and read the comments following a newspaper article on Caitlyn Jenner.
It turns out, I agree with the commenter, but 180⁰ distant from the disparaging way in which it was meant.
Stay with me.
In April of 1975, we left Viet Nam. In July of 1975, I turned sixteen. The war decimated our country’s spirit. The Left Wing was aghast that we spent all those lives over a tiny country. The Right Wing was aghast that we couldn’t up the tempo and destroy a tiny country. The Great Majority in the middle was glad to have everyone home. We were still in the Cold War. The economy was in shambles. The “misery index” was at an all-time high.
This was not a great period in US history.
Fifteen months later, Bruce Jenner, in the 1976 Olympics, set records that would not be broken for another 15 years. He destroyed the competition at the Montreal Olympics. Six of the top ten finishers were from Soviet-bloc nations. It is hard to imagine the scope of Bruce’s heroism to a USA desperately in need of a patriotic hero. Perhaps you are familiar with the TEAM USA hockey victory at the Lake Placid Winter Games of 1980? That big.
Wheaties, Tonight Show, TV guest spots, acting in movies, hanging with presidents big.
What we didn’t know was that Bruce Jenner, this handsome All-American boy, battled gender dysphoria every race he ran, every bar he leapt over, every shot put launched. Battle indeed, because these numbers don’t lie: Forty-five percent of people with gender dysphoria attempt suicide.
FORTY-FIVE PERCENT. That’s half, for the math-impaired. The gender dysphoric are real people- kind people, mean people, smart people, slow people. Maybe your son, or niece, or your doctor. Yet, Bruce didn’t just battle. He prevailed. Caitlyn is proof.
Kudos to Caitlyn, for beating the odds. Hats off to Caitlyn for recognizing that she needed to slay her dragon. Indeed, hats off to everyone out there who stares down a personal demon every damn day- depression, anger issues, schizophrenia- whatever you fight, stay on it.
Was Caitlyn mentally ill? Yes. So freaking what? I was ill- I had cancer, and later, a big ass pulmonary embolism. Maybe you’re a cancer survivor yourself.
But if you believe that those who battle mental illness are any less than those who battle somatic illness…
If you somehow think that because Caitlyn’s battle was on the inside, she is somehow less of a warrior…
then you, sir or madam, need to stare into a mirror, and remind yourself:
“There but for the a) grace of God (for the religious) b) luck of the draw (for the agnostic and atheist) go I.
So if “it reeks of mental illness” to see yourself as you really are, and to take action to get there, then I say, “reek away.”
Happy Birthday, Caitlyn Jenner. May you be as strong a symbol for the LGBTQ community in the future as you were for the USA in the past. Here’s a thought- maybe through your courage, you become a symbol of strength for the USA, too? That’d be nice.
Oh, and Caitlyn? Be happy. You’ve earned it.
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