Sunday, June 21, 2015

You're Not Being Courageous If You Don't Care

Caitlyn Jenner (or Bruce Jenner if you must) made a big splash recently when Vanity Fair did a 22 page cover story with pictures taken by Annie Leibovitz. She's certainly one of the greatest photographers of our time and it shows in the photos she took. The truth is Caitlyn Jenner looks pretty good.

She started a Twitter account when Vanity Fair posted her pics and in 4 hours had 1 MILLION followers. At the time of this writing (about a week later) she is already up to 2.5 million. Clearly, people are interested and supportive of her.

The most common term I hear used with her name is "courageous". I have to admit I am bothered by this. Before I tell you why, I want to use a saying I picked up from Denver radio host Mike Rozen; "tell me where you sit before you tell me where you stand".

I am not bothered in any way by what Caitlyn Jenner has done. It's her body and her life which makes it her choice. Who am I to judge? I heard those very same words from Stanley Biber in the early 90's. For those who do not know that name; he is considered one of the pioneers of sex change surgery.

I met Dr. Biber in Trinidad Colorado where he practiced medicine. Trinidad is a speed bump on I-25 near the northern New Mexico border. I was in Trinidad on business when I met him in passing. It was a surreal experience to be sure. An unassuming man, he looked like any other Trinidad resident. I watched him get out of a pickup truck and walk across the street to come into the bank I happened to be standing in front of. The banker I was with introduced me to him, and the conversation we had came up because my father was a doctor, and I was telling him about my father. To his credit it wasn't Dr. Biber who brought up what he did, it was the banker. Dr. Biber was succinct he said "People want what they want. Who am I to judge?"

I later found out that he didn't get into medicine to do sex change operations. It happened completely by accident. In 1969 he had a patient ask him to do a sex change because he couldn't find anyone to do it. Dr. Biber already did general surgery, so he studied all the information he could find on the subject and did his first one, developing technique as he went. For quite sometime, the little town of Trinidad Colorado was considered the "Sex change capital of the world".

That all being said, let me tell you why Caitlyn Jenner is not being "courageous". Because she really doesn't have to care what we the public think. While I realize I can't know exactly what is in her mind, I feel like I can make that assumption.

Why? Because what are we as a public going to do in "retaliation" for what Caitlyn has done? Absolutely nothing, that's what. Caitlyn has an estimated net worth of $100 million dollars. If Caitlyn were to lose every single endorsement and contract she had she would still be able to live the rest of her life in comfort.

I would also submit to you that in order for a person to change their gender, they would ultimately have to decide what other people thought didn't matter. It would be impossible to go through with something like that if you were worried about "what people thought".

Is she doing something good for the transgender community? Of course she is. She has put a name and a face to the process. She's started a public dialog about he subject. All (hopefully) good things for the transgender community.

 But calling her "courageous" takes away from those who have done true acts of courage. The people that have risked and even lost their lives for people they didn't even know.

I think we all know true courage when we see it. Caitlyn Jenner is not risking her life to do this. She may be risking her income, her standing in the community or relationships she values; but none of those translate to an act of courage to me.

In my mind she's showing resolve. She is showing a belief in who she is and what she needs to do to truly be herself. That is an admirable thing; but it is not courage. It shows she was able to get past being afraid of what people thought of her. That she was going to be herself, no matter what the cost.

If you want to use that as a "measuring stick" for courage ... then most of the standup comedians I know are "courageous". We go on stage every show knowing someone is probably going to dislike us. Yet we go on anyway. Knowing that someone inevitably will disapprove of us.

All I'm saying is that maybe the definition of "courage" needs to be refined. If you look up the definition of "courage" it does NOT include the fear of physical harm or the loss of life; I submit to you, it should. What Caitlyn Jenner has done may "technically" meet the definition of the word "courage" but I would submit what she's done would be better described as fearless.

Fearless is a component of courage, but without physical risk. Fearlessness alone just doesn't "cut it" for me. To illustrate, you're using the same word to describe both these actions:

A person changes her looks and lives her life as the opposite gender.

A "door gunner" on a Huey in Vietnam.

One is getting up every morning and their greatest fear is what are people going to think of them. The other has a pretty good chance of being killed every morning they get up.

I just don't see those two as being the same ...

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