There is officially no right and wrong anymore. Behaviour, beliefs, desires and preferences that were taboo, illegal, wrong, shameful and condemned a mere 50 years ago are today accepted and even celebrated, with Western society falling over itself to accommodate behaviour that not too long ago would have had its proponents sectioned.
Witness the case of a man, Bruce Jenner, a 65 year old three-time divorcee, father of six, step-father of four and soon to be grandfather; a champion athlete, Olympic gold-medallist and world record holder who triumphed in the 1976 games in what is hands-down the toughest contest of them all: The Decathlon. To be the best in the world in 10 different competitions in a monumental show of athletic prowess; to sire six children (three boys and three girls); to woo, win and wed three beautiful women; raise four children that are not yours; be respected amongst both your peers and the public who pay to hear you inspire them with the power of your words and glean knowledge from your success; to remain humble, loving and pleasant to both family and fans; to be law-abiding and free from the common vices that often ruin your sex: womanising, drugs, gambling and drinking – all these achievements to me speak of a man that has excelled as a human being.
Bruce Jenner: The Olympic Hero
Bruce Jenner, to all intents and purposes, had mastered the art of being a man.
So the fact that he has now begun the process of becoming a woman because he feels himself to be in the wrong body is not only baffling to the innocent bystander, but downright unbelievable. For how can someone who feels he is not actually a man, succeed so well in both public and private displays of masculinity? How on earth did his gender serve him so well if it was the wrong fit from birth? If God and nature got it so wrong, why did he accomplish so much as a man and succeed in feats ‘lesser’ men struggle daily to achieve?
Bruce Jenner: The man
If a gifted concert pianist who, for decades, thrilled audiences worldwide with his accomplished compositions confessed later on that he was blessed with the wrong gift, and in fact always had the desire to be an excellent violinist, and actually felt awkward and ill-fitted to playing the piano, would you not think that odd? How can you be so good at what you consider wrong for you? And if you were truly meant to be a violinist not a pianist, why didn’t fate lead you to a violin first and not a piano?
Can a girl be formed in the womb as a boy by accident? Or is this condition purely psychological or spiritual and nothing to do with the physicalities of gender at all?
The truth is that Bruce Jenner’s predicament, and that of many transgender people around the world is still unfathomable not just to the average person but to science, to religion and to common sense. It is a strange affliction that cannot be explained adequately, yet the sincerity of their desire can be ascertained by their determination to go through pain, ridicule, debt and broken relationships in their quest to right what they feel is wrong.
So I am not suggesting that Jenner’s desire to change his sex is not ‘real’, i.e. that it is superficial. For a man like him to go through this public transformation, it must be real. There were already sniggers about the desecration of his masculinity by viewers of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, the reality TV show centred around his ubiquitous step-daughter Kim Kardashian, his now ex-wife (her mother) Kris, Kim’s sisters and brother and his two daughters. The show that brought him fame with today’s generation too young to remember him as an Olympic hero often depicted him as a man of little importance in the background, ignored and often the butt of jokes from the uber-beautiful, hyper-feminine, financially powerful and assertive glamazons in his family, led by the matriarch Kris who seemed to wear the trousers in their marriage.
Bruce with 'The Kardashians'
I proposed at first that all the strong female stimuli around him weakened his masculinity so that his wanting to be a woman was like him throwing in the towel; an ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ admission of failure whereby his manhood was so thoroughly bashed that he in the end became effeminate to the extreme. His balls were handed to him so to speak, and he capitulated and decided to be ‘one of the girls’ so he can gain some respite.
I thought (with tongue firmly in cheek) that Bruce had been turned into a woman due to his environment, but no, he later revealed that this was a desire from childhood springing from deep within his psyche.
But, and this is a big but, is the power of his desire enough? What of a Black man who states that he has always felt that he was born in the wrong body and actually feels like a white man, would doctors and society run to his aide and grant him his wish? (I’m thinking of you Michael Jackson, RIP). What of the woman who always felt an affinity with dolphins and feels she should have been born a dolphin, should she be free to become who or what she wants to be?
Becoming a woman: Bruce with longer hair, feminine facial features and breasts
The medical, educational and political advancement of societies today mean citizens across the world enjoy many freedoms, and being free to ‘be who you want to be’ is a popular maxim. But the truth is that there are also many chemically- imbalanced people, those with mental illnesses and unstable people marred by previous trauma or whatever else, who come up with all kinds of desires. I read recently of the girl who fell in love with a tree as a result of previous heartbreaks, and the man who felt so inspired by a demonic character in a comic that he paid good money to distort his face to look like the demon, horns and all. In days gone by, society didn’t give room for such deviances of personality to flourish.
The flame of your outlandish desires was either extinguished prematurely by the thought of the shame or ostracisation your wants would cause, the fact that there was no way, medically or otherwise to fulfil your longings and the knowledge that such things were deviant at best, and wrong at worst.
But today, all things are equal. No one is wrong. There is a website, community, advocacy group and even a cable TV documentary for every human pervasion you can think of, from those who defecate on each other for sexual pleasure and grandmothers who perform sex acts online, to men married to plastic dolls and lesbians who buy sperm from anonymous donors. Even what is illegal is glamorised in the media, e.g. Oceans Eleven and the glamorisation of theft.
All things are acceptable, no one is wrong – God, morality and common sense be damned.
So following his long-awaited televised interview with Diane Sawyer, in which he spoke of his transition to becoming a woman (I didn’t watch it), Bruce Jenner is a being hailed a hero, being called ‘brave’ for ‘living his truth,’ and many across the (Western) world support him. Of course the majority of people in Nigeria are appalled and shocked that such a thing is happening, but the enlightened West could care less about the views of Africans who, to them, remain under the yolk of religion and are tied down by archaic traditions.
But as someone with one leg in both the Western and African world, I’m firmly on the side of Nigerians here. Some things are just wrong. Some things should remain unacceptable and should not be encouraged. Some things remain unnatural, no matter the calibre of those going through it or how prosperous the societies that promote it.
I believe that those that believe that they are gay, transgender and all manner of unusual conditions are what they say they are and feel what they say they feel, but I put it down to something along the lines of a hormonal imbalance or genetic abnormality at birth – the kind of developmental malformation that results in physical deformities also resulting in psychological deformities; spiritual forces not of this world that the non-religious know nothing about – forces of darkness that seek to destroy humanity; and finally, straight up psychosis on the same level as a man who believes he is a poached egg. Some people, to put it crudely, are just crazy and should not be given medication to further their crazy.
And the fact that many transgender people who do have surgery to change their sex commit suicide afterwards to me indicates that getting what we want isn’t the answer, and messing with nature can never lead to true contentment. The intricacies involved in the formation of a foetus of either sex is so complex and far-reaching , and being male or a female encompasses the entire psychological, mental, social, spiritual, hormonal, biological, developmental, cultural and personal as well as physical being, that attempting to ‘correct’ it later at a superficial level can only lead to disaster.
Changing sex should be as wildly incomprehensible as changing brains or skin colour. Some things should be sacrosanct, some desires discouraged, and some wants suppressed. Not everything you feel is right, not every human desire is good or correct. That you’re in love with your brother or your mother (yes, I’ve read about such) doesn’t make it OK; the existence of a desire doesn’t legitimise it.
Some feelings should not be explored further. I believe there were many would-be transgender or homosexual people throughout history, but due to society's norms back then were able to successfully suppress or eradicate such desires for the greater good. Some thoughts only grow stronger with encouragement.
I will not attempt to diagnose Bruce Jenner. I actually like the man, and thought him far more worthy of global adulation than any of his famous family, because he had actually achieved something worth celebrating. But there is something wrong with his desire to be a woman. And the way (Western) liberal society rebukes anyone that even dares to call a spade a spade and say that what Bruce is feeling is not kosher, and forcing everyone – at least publicly anyway – into a faux acceptance of what is blatantly unnatural is wrong, and a gross imbalance of freedom of speech.
We have lost all sense of shame, propriety and decency, and nothing is allowed to be sacred anymore, to the detriment of our collective ethics and stability. What we want – no matter how senseless – must be allowed, and to hell with anyone who stands in our way. The enfant terribles, the lewd and the crude, the mentally-imbalanced, the freaks and the fetish, the dishonourable, the abominations, and the dangerously outlandish have been allowed to set the moral temperature; the former outcasts have been given the microphone and they’re spreading their gospel of anarchy.
That my father is now a woman is a thing wild jokes are made of, and it cannot be easy on his children no matter how much everyone says it’s OK. Deep down, we all sense that there’s something unpalatable about it; it just doesn’t seem right.
Because it isn’t.