You aren’t supposed to understand. I don’t understand. It doesn’t have to be your normal. It doesn’t have to feel like normal.
No one is asking you to wrap your brain inside the mind of another.
And I certainly can’t. I couldn’t even begin. I have no idea.
No idea where to even begin.
Because I wake up every morning and go to sleep each evening completely confident in who I am. I shower my arms and legs and breasts and feel comfort in my own skin. I stand naked in front of a mirror and the reflection is me.
So who am I to even speak to what it might possibly feel like to experience those routines so differently?
I’m clueless. Lack the knowledge. Could cite studies, offer up histories, share with you the anecdotes of so many. And never, ever, could I convey what it means.
I can’t even attempt to speak to what the life of a transgender would be.
Why try? Why should it matter? Why listen to me? I’m not an authority. No expert. And certainly not someone who could relate to the feeling.
I’m more like you.
But maybe less confused. But that’s only because I tried to. I tried to imagine what it must feel like, be like, to not feel free to be me. And I couldn’t. I’ve been afforded the absolute luxury to never have that shared experience.
So I try to imagine. And I can’t.
People say the Jenner interview is powerful because our masculine hero is suddenly feminine. But how sexist is that? Why should that spectrum matter so much? If a woman had persevered and shown athletic ability to that degree, would we celebrate any less?
No. That’s not what I see.
I see the reality that a fight to deny one’s true self drove so deep and relentless that it forced a global champion. That the determination to suppress because of norms and expectations was so strong it led to winning a decathlon. The desire to deny trumped so deep into the heart of a human being that the result was a brand on a cereal box.
That battle. That internal struggle. That kind of standard for hero ought to shake all of us to our core.
The celebrated national icon we chose gave us all what we said he should. All he thought he was supposed to. To prove something to us and himself. That he never needed to.
So you don’t have to understand that our man’s man wants to be a woman. You don’t have to grasp that your Wheaties champ wants to feel pretty in a dress. You don’t have to get it, it doesn’t have to make any sense.
You don’t even have to care. If that’s the privilege you’ll bank. Go ahead.
But you could maybe stop and celebrate the fact that someone reached a point in their life where they finally decided they didn’t want to live another moment if it meant not living as themselves.
No more denial. No more pretend. No more meeting expectations because if not it might offend. Himself. Or somebody.
Try hard to think about how powerful that pain must have been. To push that hard and that relentlessly to fit into a pattern the world expected to see. That he expected himself to be. Just try to fathom the absolute resolve it would take to live a life that way. And learn that so many just can’t.
And if you can’t wrap your mind inside the skin of another, then just don’t.
But at least try to feel your heartbeat delight in the fact that after sixty plus years of giving us what we wanted, what he thought he should be, Jenner feels free.
That instead of being one more horrifying stat, there’s hope this story puts collective empathy on the map.
At least try. Try to do that.
That, I think, would be a good first step.
*pronouns are used according to Jenner’s request.
If you want more information or are living in crisis: contact GLAAD
This piece published on Medium.