Culture

Bruce ‘Caitlyn’ Jenner Needs Our Prayers, Not Our Applause

Vanity Fair tweets out the Caitlyn Jenner cover. (Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty)

A surgically damaged man appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair, and the applause is mandatory. There are some who call this latest turn in the sexual revolution “radical” or “transformative.” Yet, in reality, the only thing radical about Bruce Jenner’s transformation into “Caitlyn” is the harm to his body, inflicted in a desperate quest to be something that he’s most assuredly not: a woman.

The transgender movement is but one small branch of the immense, self-regarding tree of the sexual revolution, and since it shares the same logic as such cultural catastrophes as no-fault divorce and abortion on demand, its acceptance by elite culture was and is a foregone conclusion. After all, if the sexual revolutionaries believe — with religious fervor — that personal fulfillment and self-actualization are so important that it’s worth inflicting a grisly death on a wholly innocent baby to preserve, then a little gender-reassignment surgery is just one more, small step for (person)kind.

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All of this self-regard comes at high cost. To those who say that Bruce Jenner’s body is his own — that he can do what he wants with it — realize that during this process his many children lost a father, and his wife lost a husband. These losses occur during every “transition,” as the sexual revolution demands — upon pain of shame and banishment — that family members treat fathers as mothers, sons as daughters, and husbands as wives. The Jenner/Kardashian clan has expressed support (though Kris and Kylie Jenner are still obviously struggling), but really, what other option did they have? For people who inhabit the pop-culture tribe, you disapprove of sexual radicalism at your own– very high — professional risk.

The only thing radical about Bruce Jenner’s transformation into ‘Caitlyn’ is the harm to his body, inflicted in a desperate quest to be something that he’s most assuredly not: a woman.

We’re growing increasingly accustomed to bearing the costs of sexual selfishness and radical personal autonomy. Robert Putnam’s new book, Our Kids, reads like one long treatise on what happens when families fall apart. The battle over same-sex marriage treats adult sexual fulfillment as the highest social good, one worth trampling core civil liberties to enact and preserve. In spite of this obvious cost, liberals recently exulted over Gallup-poll results showing that Americans had “shift[ed] left” on virtually every significant social issue — with increasing support for divorce, extramarital sex, gay sex, polygamy, and adultery. The formula for cultural decay is by now quite clear: Short-term gratification leads to longer-term misery. Yet the sexual revolutionaries maintain their cultural grip by owning the pleasure and blaming others for the pain.

Liberals trumpet the flexible family relationships that allow people to escape dysfunctional unions. As for the poverty, depression, and increasing inequality between two-parent families and the transient remainder? Well, that’s the fault of globalization, insufficient funding for public schools, and the war on unions. Leftists applaud a sexual libertinism that allows a person to enjoy a life of “play” and maximize their pleasure. As for the feelings of guilt, shame, and confusion that accompany a life of casual sexual intimacy? Well, that’s the fault of religious scolds or insensitive and predatory men.

RELATED: The Burdens of Thought Policing

The one-sentence philosophical summary of the sexual revolutionary is “My body is my business.” Yet that comes with an unspoken corollary: “Consequences be damned.” While there are necessary legal and political responses to sexual radicalism (preserving religious liberty and working to ban abortion is a good start), the true response to these trends isn’t encapsulated by the phrase “there oughta be a law” but rather “there oughta be a culture.”

#related#There is no single person who can shift an entire culture, much less materially restrain cultural drift, but we can each do something. Increasingly, that “something” means resisting the temptation to stay silent, to acquiesce in absurdities for the sake of temporary social (or social-media) peace. Intimidated silence advances the cause of sexual radicalism every bit as much as enthusiastic acceptance. By refusing to speak, we contribute to the notion that even conservatives understand that something is wrong — something is shameful — about our own deepest beliefs.

Why does the intolerant Left so vigilantly police speech — introducing even a Twitter “bot” to automate the scolding about the “correct” gender pronoun to use in reference to Jenner? Because they know speech — including simple pronouns — matters. Don’t consent. Laverne Cox is not a woman, and neither is “Caitlyn Jenner.” He is a man with breast implants. He’s always been a man, and he will always be a man. Yes, he’s deeply troubled. Our hearts go out to him in his pain, but the answer is not found in radical self-regard, and it’s certainly not found in surgical mutilation. He is a man created in God’s image, yet a man experiencing deep anguish about his very creation. He needs our prayers, not our applause.

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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