Having taught at a college for more than 25 years, I am very aware of political correctness, and hence I know that to say anything humorous inspired by the recent transitioning of the male Bruce Jenner to the female Caitlyn Jenner is taking a big risk. So I will say right up front that I am all for people being the gender they feel like, which may not be the one they were assigned at birth. But my view is that if you can’t laugh at things, there is no reason to get up in the morning.
Actually, there’s not that much reason to get up in the morning anyway, although the prospect of blueberry pancakes and coffee helps.
To be honest, I have never been a Kardashian fan, so I’m lost in all their family relationships, and who is who. What finally put the Kardashians on the map for me was all the excitement around Bruce coming out as someone who never felt comfortable as a guy. Transgendered people have been getting more and more attention lately, but to have someone as previously super-male as Jenner becoming the woman he always felt he was, should give courage to countless others who have not yet transitioned.
Actually, I have never felt comfortable as a guy either. But also I have never felt like a woman inside. I’m just not comfortable as a person. So what can I do?
In my 72 years on the planet I have been privileged to watch our country become more and more accepting of diversity. I know it’s not everybody, of course, and that bigotry and hate of those who are different from ourselves still exist, but the situation for African-Americans, women, gays and lesbians, and now transgendered people is radically different than it was when I was a kid in the 1950s.
But perhaps this is only the beginning. The idea that how you feel inside should be what you are ought not to apply only to gender identity, but should be extended to all kinds of other things. For example, suppose that you, like me, don’t feel like a grown-up. I’ll be honest: I have never felt like a grown-up, or adult, the word I was more or less forced to use once I reached the age of 21 or so. Caitlyn said that she always felt like a girl and then a woman inside. Well, long before all the attention to this, there was all this stuff about “your inner child.” Hey, if Caitlyn could finally let her inner woman come out, why do I, and so many others who feel the way I do, have to keep our “inner child” in?
One problem for me in this regard, and I know I’ve written about this before, is my name. One way we can have our true child-like nature recognized is when our name is “diminutized,” often, but not always, by adding the “y” sound. John can be Johnny, Judith can be Judy, William can be Billy, and James can be Jimmy. (Why has President Jimmy Carter always looked like he has a smile on his face? It’s because he’s Jimmy, not James.) Some names are simply like that to start with, like my wife, Shelley, who, I can tell you, is happy virtually every minute, especially when I’m not home.
But Mark is simply Mark. Harsh. Adult-sounding even when you’re a kid.
Well, starting today, I’m not Mark. I’m Markie. I’ve long objected to that since it seems silly and childish, but my inner child has been throwing tantrums lately, and it’s time to let him out.
(And, by the way, I am KIDDING. This is a humor column. If anyone really does call me Markie, I’ll let out my big angry man.)
But perhaps there are people the opposite of me, people who have never felt like children even when they were. They have been burdened, at least in childhood, by their “inner adult.” And for some, it probably goes beyond this. From the age of four or five, they feel like old people. Just think about how this works for them? Let’s look at something as simple as fares for public transportation. When they are young, these old-feeling children don’t pay full fare. So they figure they are getting senior citizen rates. But then, by ten or eleven, they do have to pay the full amount. How do you think that makes them feel? Now they have to go through 50 or more arduous years until they can once again pay the smaller amount.
And the humiliation some old people feel when they are treated like children? Old-inside children have to go through this from the time they’re born until they’re teenagers, and then again when they reach genuine old age.
For me, another problem has been that I have always had to try (with no great success) to keep in my “inner neurotic.” I have had to do everything I could to act normal. Well, I’ve had enough of that! I am a neurotic. Listen, when I was seeing a therapist back when I was in graduate school, and I said at one session, “Well, maybe I’m a little neurotic,” he said, and I’m not kidding, “A little neurotic?” Yes, it’s time to wear my label with pride!
Who knows where it all ends? Maybe there are professional athletes who have always felt inside like they were sedentary computer geeks, lawyers who have felt like they were doctors, and hedge fund managers who felt like they were Mother Teresa.