Caitlyn Jenner was a name that caught my attention yesterday, as the name was extremely close to my daughter’s name, Caitlyn Jennifer. There are only two letters that make the names different and it spells the word “if”. So, it begged the question, “What if?”
The former Bruce Jenner introduced himself yesterday in the July issue of Vanity Fair magazine as Caitlyn Jenner. Her transgender story was greeted with numerous outlets responding in a politically correct manner. Jenner also received over a million followers on Twitter in support of her courage.
Transgender stories are not new to me. Having spent significant time in the film and television industry gave me great insights into the lives of many who struggle with being their “real” self. But, I learned more from my interactions with Tracy, who was once my cousin Tom.
Back in high school, Tom and I dated twins. They were both in the top ten of the most beautiful women in our school and their hearts were tender and their intelligence high. Tom and I didn’t know that we were dating sisters until we both picked up our dates at the same time on a Friday night.
Tom had what it took to connect with women and was raised in what I’d refer to as a matriarch. His mother was strong, bold and intelligent, wielding a lot of power in the community, while his dad was soft spoken and struggled to keep up with the other males in the family.
When he was a little preschool boy, Tom was invited to a little girl’s birthday party across the street. His mother provided him with a present to give the girl and hoped he would fit in, because he was the only boy present. Tom had no problem mixing with the girls and quickly picked up on what they liked and didn’t like.
Tom started to admire how the girls handled themselves and their discussions about their beautiful dresses. He longed to fit in and wished he too had a dress. When it came time to open presents, Tom was surprised and jealous to watch the girl open his gift, a beautiful new red dress that all the girls raved about. In that moment he determined that he too wanted a beautiful red dress.
Years later, I was invited to his house and was surprised to find him sitting in the living room in a pink and white dress. He shared with me his passion to become a woman and his need to get the full support of his family before proceeding. My mind reeled with “what if” questions.
Tom started the process that removed his facial hair and filled him with enough estrogen to alter his pecks into breasts. He also wore women’s clothing and had his Fortune 100 Company acknowledge him as a woman so he could use the woman’s restroom. The women on his floor were always careful about when they went to the restroom and some chose to use the facilities on another floor. It was awkward for most because Tom was physically still a man, albeit with small breasts.
In talking with several employees, I learned that being politically correct doesn’t emotionally protect women. Tom’s comments and his watchful eyes were still actively attracted to them. One woman explained that when Tracy began her physical journey, she was becoming an “unwelcome lesbian.”
On his deathbed, Tom told me that he was wrong and asked me to forgive him. He shared that his brain cancer was caused by his estrogen regime and he realized that God didn’t make a mistake when he was created. Tom shared that his wrong thinking developed a desire within his heart to be something he wasn’t and that he was foolish to follow his own warped thinking. He really didn’t want a red dress; he just wanted to fit in.
A year after his death, I spoke to a psychiatrist about Tom’s situation. The doctor told me that we think, then feel, then act. The way we choose to think causes us to develop feelings that we accept as real, because we feel them. Then, those supported feelings are acted upon.
THINK → FEEL → ACT
The psychiatrist also told me that we couldn’t feel anything without first thinking. Nor can our feelings change our thinking, but it can alter our actions. In other words, when we hit our thumb with a hammer our feelings cause us to cry out a phrase that we learned or thought about before the painful day ever arrived.
The person who cries out profanity most likely learned it by watching an adult’s reaction to a similar hit. In the same manner, the one who cries out “Jiminy Cricket,” learned to do so years earlier. Whether a pilot of a crashing plane calls out a profanity or calls to a deity, that person’s past will reveal what comes from his or her mouth in that split second – when there is no time to think up a politically correct statement, but only react.
With Jenner’s cover photo being seen by millions of people, I couldn’t help but to reflect back on Tom and wonder, “What if?”
In his last hours, Tom understood that the battle was not political, but within his own mind. He shared with me how his wrong thinking caused him to feel things that drove his actions, which ultimately took him farther away from who he really was.
So, what if Jenner realizes the same thing? Or, what if Jenner, after all the attention dies down, realizes that changing his physical appearance doesn’t help him to fit in any better than it did for Tom?
Copyright © 2015 by CJ Powers