When Caitlyn Marie Jenner revealed that she had always thought of herself as female, America suddenly had a new hot topic of conversation. Here was an honored, decorated 1970s Olympic athlete who many of us saw as the very definition of perfect masculinity at the time. She had six children which added fuel to the notion of her masculinity.
Yet, throughout all of that, Caitlyn questioned being a man.
Sometimes, when I sit down with friends, Caitlyn still comes up in conversation. People don’t understand. Caitlyn’s experience is so far out of their comfort zones that they can’t grasp the idea of Caitlyn being female. Many of us are afraid of the things we don’t understand.
And the very first thing that people say is, “Well, ‘In the beginning, God created man and woman,’” quoting the Creation Story in Genesis.
The Focus Verse
The Ancient Story
This verse comes near the end of the seven-day story that explains how the world was created. It is a beautiful story steeped in tradition that many people can quote – at least the outline – without notes.
6 And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7 So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. 8 God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
9 And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together God called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made the two great lights — the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night — and the stars. 17 God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
20 And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.” 21 So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.
24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.
26 Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”
27 So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God, God created them;
male and female God created them.
28 God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” 29 God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 God saw everything that God had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
2 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. 2 And on the seventh day God finished the work that God had done, and God rested on the seventh day from all the work that God had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that God had done in creation.
Setting the Stage for the Ancient Story
Every faith tradition has its Creation Story. They come from sitting around the campfire or the dinner table and someone asks, “Father, how was the earth made?”
Not wanting to look ignorant, we learn a creation story so we can have an answer to this most fundamental of questions. We tell it with dread … knowing that the next question might be, “Yes, but how was I made?”
When the compilers of the Hebrew Testament were deciding which faith stories to include, the two Creation Stories that were most popular at the time were chosen: Genesis 1:1-2:3 and Genesis 2:4-3:24 (which also includes the “Fall of Humanity” story). Even though the two stories give different details about the Creation, they tell us how much God cared for God’s people.
They are important to us, and we are right to treasure them!
How the Story Got Twisted
But, it is highly arrogant of us to assume that these two stories are the ONLY stories of creation that God blesses. To do so would be to say that there are no new revelations from God that will ever be given to us. To think that would be to invalidate every other faith story in the Bible! They are all “creation stories” in one way or another. The first two stories were never intended to be the End of the Story.
Setting the Stage for Our Story
Every character in the biblical faith stories had their own personal creation story. I believe that each and every one of us has our own unique Creation Story. Each one of us is a new creation by God. And, until we die, those stories are not the End of the Story either. Many of us are being newly created every day.
Is it okay if my story is different from yours or from Adam’s? Of course, it is! And it’s perfectly okay for Kaitlyn Jenner’s story to be different from yours or mine.
Is my story any less valid because it isn’t included in the first three chapters of the book of Genesis? Of course not! It’s MY story, and, believe me, it is truly blessed by God!
What’s your creation story? Where did you come from?
If you feel comfortable, share highlights of your story with the group.
Other Questions from around the Table
“But, Bruce was a man and then he decided that he was a woman…,” my friend offered.
Notwithstanding the fact that one of the matriarchs of the Kardashian clan has been known to be a bit over-dramatic (I say with tongue firmly planted in cheek), and the fact that one of the best ways to keep people talking is to throw in some controversy, I admit that Kaitlyn’s revelation took me off guard as well.
So, doubt about the validity of Kaitlyn’s claim seems almost normal. But the more I sit with the “new” normal, the more I realize that I’ve been asking the wrong question. This wrong question, the one that begins with “… was a man and he decided…,” needs to be changed. It is a matter of perspective.
“Here is this person who, from the time that this person was born, has felt as if something just isn’t right. This person feels like there has been some mistake about this person’s gender assignment. What should this person do about it?”
The answer to that could vary greatly. It would be perfectly acceptable for the person to decide to just live with it. But there are other answers. The person could…
- begin asking questions about gender assignment and gender roles.
- ask what happened at the person’s birth. Was there anything unusual about it?
- begin living a life that better corresponds to their own internal feelings.
- consult medical professionals about alternatives.
- change their name to correspond to their sense of normal.
And the list goes on. That is what makes life wonderful. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all adapt to this new normal in a way that validates God’s love for each and every individual?