Pure Unadulterated Love

So, last Friday was family fun night at the Phoenix home. You’d think every Friday would be family fun night, but it’s not. Only on those Fridays when enough of us have had good behavior (parents included). Last Friday, Jeff, Savanna, Shianne, and I had been on our best behavior and earned the coveted snuggle time on the couch with our favorite blankets, DVR replay of an agreed upon favorite show (usually The Voice), and rainbow sour gummies. 

Our show ended and we were getting ready to say our goodnights, when I flipped to the channel that the Diane Sawyer/Bruce Jenner interview was to air on.  I had envisioned Jeff taking Sav & Shi upstairs to bed and joining me a few minutes into the interview.  This isn’t what happened. 

Both Savanna and Shianne saw an “up next” commercial for the interview and were instantly captivated. They asked to stay up for an extra special treat and watch it with us. Had I not read a helpful refresher article on how to have the hard, but important, conversations around sex, gender, sexual identity, and sexual orientation with children, I probably would have said “no”. My explanation would likely have been that is was an inappropriate show for kids to watch. 

So Jeff, Savanna, and I sat glued to the TV.  We all thought the interview was very well done. I found myself laughing and crying throughout. I couldn’t help but get excited for what I was anticipating to be some awesome essays coming from my favorite writers in the near future. 

I kept an eye out for said essays and was surprised not to see any. That is, until last night, when I was blessed to read something Matt Bays wrote. My friend Laura posted it, so I knew it was going to be good, and Matt didn’t disappoint. This piece is beautiful – poignant, direct, and so full of love. Pure unadulterated love. 

After reading his essay, Matt and I shared these comments with eachother. 

Me: Thank you for sharing this, Laura! We watched this and our 2 youngest were still up when it started. They, too, were listening. One fell asleep and asked to watch the recording the next day; and the second watched the entire thing with us. It took an extra 45 minutes as we paused and discussed/pondered/did our best to answer while Savanna asked and pointed out so many things that we probably wouldn’t have otherwise given as much thought to. I felt so blessed to listen and learn with her. I feel equally as blessed to have read this piece that Matt wrote for us.

Matt: Man, Burning Britely…that is a powerful evening. LOVE that you didn’t shoo them out of the room.

Me: I, too, love and am so glad we didn’t shoo them. It was one of those things that could have gone either way. The social worker in me took over and assured my husband it would all be okay. You’re right, Matt, it was was a such a powerful evening!! Love it!  Thank you for you’re writing – I’m hopeful it will continue creating positive momentum for more to open their minds, hearts, & spirits and listen. Not just hear, but truly LISTEN…

Matt: I love new friends.

Me: Me too, Matt. 

So, without further ado – here is the essay that sparked a new friendship between Matt and I.  

**No matter what your personal or religious beliefs on this matter are, I’m trusting you will be able to read this with an open mind, heart, and spirit . I would ask that any and all comments be made with love, grace, and kindness.**

Bruce Gender (Why Christians Should Listen to the Stories of our Transgender Brothers and Sisters)

“I hate the words ‘Girl stuck in a guy’s body.’ I hate that terminology, because I’m me. This is who I am. I’m not stuck in anybody’s body, it’s just who I am as a human being.” –Bruce Jenner

I watched Diane Sawyer’s interview with Bruce Jenner the other night. For two hours I got to hear her side of the story – not that I deserved to hear it. But her transparency was a gift, and I’ll be honest, I was grateful.

First thing you’ll notice in this article. She. Her. Woman. These are the words I’ll be using to identify him…Bruce Jenner. It might be a little confusing but you’ll be okay. We’re all grown-ups here.

As I watched Bruce show me her broken heart, I decided to listen to her story rather than fact-check my inner belief system. I dunno, I guess it just felt right to listen. In the midst of someone’s immense struggle to understand their inner chaos, it felt respectful to squint my eyes up with deep concern and nod my head empathetically. It seemed the decent thing to wrap my soul up with hers in hopes that she and others like her would know they’re not alone…never alone, but are loved instead, right in the middle of their brokenness.

And the brokenness they have been carrying around (some for decades), oh my friends, it is so real.

On December 28th, 2014, at just 17 years old, Leelah (Josh) Alcorn stepped in front of a tractor-trailer ending her life. She left behind this suicide note. It has been said she “blamed” her Christian parents. But when I read the letter I didn’t hear blame, I heard an explanation. Not only for her parents, but for all of us.

But…

WE didn’t listen.

WE didn’t pay attention.

WE were so concerned with being right we completely missed her despair.

I wish it weren’t true. But it is true. And Leelah is gone.

WE must do better.

Bruce talked about many things in her interview, giving me a deeper understanding of her world. She mentioned feeling like a girl at the age of eight, something Leelah felt at age four.

Hearing her talk about the lifelong game of hiding and vain attempt to make peace with herself as a man, was painful. But what really broke my heart was her experience at the 1976 Olympics. She had hoped by winning the gold-medal that her masculine spirit would finally overshadow her feminine soul. But it didn’t.

And who are we to say she is wrong? Go ahead and think it though. It’s okay. Just know that you might be wrong. Only God knows for sure…and perhaps Bruce.

The religious debate about what Christians are supposed to do with the LGBTQ community is still going strong. We may think we need to defend the faith. (Well go ahead then.) We may think a girl feeling like a boy on the inside is an attack on Jesus. (Although I’m fairly certain Jesus can handle himself just fine.) Or we may think if we accept and love those people we will only be contributing to the moral decline of America and eventually all hell will break loose. But all hell broke loose about 2000 years ago, and that only gets to happen once.

Stand against them. Stand for them. Accept them but not their lives. Stick with the truth. Reach out to them but don’t get caught up. Fully embrace their lifestyle. Don’t go near them.

There are many different ways of approaching “them.” But one thing that works for sure – that always works…

LOVE them. No strings. No need to qualify your relationship with them. And certainly no need to qualify your love.

BRUCE:
“God looks down and chuckles a little bit, you know, and goes, ‘Hey, let’s give him the soul of a female. And let’s see how he deals with that.’”

Or maybe God said, “Let’s see how the Christians deal with that.” And I can’t help but wonder…

How have we done?

Listen, I don’t fully understand gender identity issues. But I do understand compassion, which is all I need to make a guaranteed difference in anyone’s life.

The truth? I love you. I don’t need to know why you believe what you believe. And I don’t need to agree with you to express that love.

I love you.

The end.

Period.

And I’m not talking about “love the sinner, hate the sin” love. You know the kind…love that doesn’t feel much like love at all, at least not on the receiving end.

Pretend love is not okay anymore. It’s time for something else.

Esther, Bruce’s 89-year-old conservative Christian mother, said in a video message to her son, “I was very proud of you when you stood on that podium in Montreal. I never thought I could be more proud of you. But I’m learning…I can be.”

Thank you, Esther. We’re listening.

BRUCE:
“I imagine God is looking down making little Bruce and he says, ‘Okay, what are we going to do with this one?’ He made me a smart kid, very determined, all of these wonderful qualities. And then at the end when he’s just finishing, he goes, ‘Wait a second. We’ve got to give him something. Everybody has stuff in their life that they have to deal with, ya know? What are we gonna give him?’

“I would sit in church and always wonder, In God’s eyes, how does he see me? But maybe this is my cause in life. I would like to think that we could save some lives here.”

Perhaps Leelah’s life could’ve been saved.

The suicide stats among transgender individuals is staggering. Over 40% attempt suicide. That number is not okay. So if Bruce can use her life to remove the kind of devastating loneliness that makes people want to die, literally, who am I to get in her way? I mean, seriously…hasn’t God used stranger things?

I understand wanting or feeling entitled to an answer to the question: Is Bruce Jenner dressing like a woman, or is he a woman who has spent his entire life dressing like a man? The truth? I don’t think we will ever know for sure. But if our desire to reach the hurting is motivated purely by love, I don’t think the answer will be so important to us. Love will be important though, because love will call them into a safe place with us.

Because love listens.

Near the end of the interview, Diane Sawyer held up an old magazine with a picture of Bruce from the Olympics. She had just launched a javelin in one of the most strenuous sporting events of all time: The Decathlon. Once called, “the world’s greatest athlete,” her biceps were bulging and her face was filled with victory.

Diane pointed to the twenty-something Bruce in the picture and said, “Help everyone struggling with what…this…is.”

Bruce simply replies, “That is me. That…is her.”

Thank you, Bruce. We’re listening.

*Related articles on compassion:
Love Riot
The Q&grAy
Kyrie Eleison

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About Kristin Phoenix

daughter turned teacher turned social worker turned wife turned foster parent turned mom When people who don’t know our family story find out that we fostered and adopted the girls, we generally get one of two reactions…”I would have never known. They look just like you!” or “Oh, how beautiful.” Both of these things are 100% true – on the surface. The picture perfect, shiny, pretty surface. But, just below the surface is a whole lot of mess and brokenness. Our girls endured things that I never even read about in my textbooks. Our family endured things that go completely against the 3 philosophies of safety, permanency, and well-being that the child welfare system is in place to protect. When we have the chance to share a little bit more, the response always goes something like “but…how?!…and why?!” I believe in dreaming big. Part of my dream is a child welfare and healthcare system that would have prevented unnecessary trauma for my girls, my family, and our community. The other part is one of redemption and recovery for everyone involved in our story – which is everyone. I now believe part of why our family endured what we did is so that people would hear our story and ask the hard questions of how and why. With sexual abuse, trauma, foster care, and adoption, we never truly know until we find ourselves in a position of not knowing. Because of the nature of our case, I often found myself in a position of not being able to really answer the hows and whys. I reached a point where staying silent was the only option. Now that our adoptions are finalized, it is time for me to break the silence. This blog is me daring to run after my dreams – even when I find myself out of breath (which is mostly every. single. day.) It is stories of how the collective we have lived up to the Phoenix name and are rising from the ashes to burn bright! I also currently write and edit for Social Justice Solutions
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One Response to Pure Unadulterated Love

  1. mattbays says:

    Thanks for sharing this, newest friend. I’m honored you’ve trusted my heart into the lives of those you love.

    Liked by 1 person

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