Judging Caitlyn Jenner

There’s this idea out there that the existence of a transgender person is incompatible with the existence of a perfect God. One variation of this argument, which I have encountered goes, roughly, as follows (1) God is all-powerful, loving and unable to make mistakes (2) creating a woman with a male body would be a mistake (3) therefore, Caitlyn Jenner wasn’t a woman with a male body, but just a delusional man who wanted a new name and cosmetic surgery. Although it may be one of many, this particular argument doesn’t hold up.

Most Christians will agree that we cannot know or claim to understand the workings of an infinitely complex God. “God works in mysterious ways” is often cited when there is no clear explanation for an event. The humility required by the Christian faith is one of its advantages — theologians have used it to respond to a range of issues, including the problem of evil (“Is God compatible with the existence of evil?”) and the problem of divine silence (“Why isn’t God’s existence evident to all believers?”).

This humility — combined with the rationale of a redemptive account of suffering — provides members of faith with a way to make sense of what may seem inconsistent with an all-powerful and loving God. Proponents of redemptive accounts of suffering state that God allows suffering as a means for people to develop virtue, for “soul-making” or to enter into communion with God. For example, an athlete’s handicap may serve as a means to develop incredible self-discipline, dedication and appreciation for capabilities most people take for granted. Generalized quite a bit and in the simplest terms, a handicapped athlete’s situation is similar to a transgender person’s; both have limitations which cause them some degree of suffering, suffering that gives them an opportunity for moral improvement. Caitlyn Jenner had to demonstrate courage to handle her gender dysphoria, just as many other transgender persons have had to when informing friends and families of their gender identity. It seems arbitrary to draw the line for what God might allow at gender dysphoria, denying the legitimacy of a transgender person’s claims, especially considering the world’s atrocities.

Now, it is not my intent to convince you of a redemptive account of suffering. I am not denying that there are other reasons some Christians are uncomfortable with Caitlyn Jenner and transgender persons in general. The dilemma is false: It isn’t the case that either a perfect God made mistakes or that Caitlyn Jenner merely prefers having a female body and feminine name. Instead, we have to consider a third option: A man born into a female body and vice-versa isn’t a mistake, but God allowing somebody an opportunity for moral improvement or future communion.