“The greatest athlete in the world” is a grandiose title for one who accomplishes an incredible athletic feat. In 1976, Bruce Jenner earned it by breaking the world record and winning the gold medal in the decathlon at the Summer Olympics in Montreal. Then Jenner cashed in: General Mills put his image on the front of a Wheaties cereal box—one of the coolest things that could happen to an athlete once upon a time—and numerous other sponsorships and endorsements followed that enriched him. As the years passed, Jenner found some success in acting and auto racing and went on to start his own aviation equipment business. In recent years he has been part of the popular reality TV show Keeping Up with the Kardashians. His estimated wealth: $100 million.
Bruce Jenner was successful by every earthly measure. And yet he was not satisfied. It was not enough.
To this point I have referred to Jenner as “Bruce” and “he,” but as you’ve no doubt heard, neither of those is considered correct any longer by secular society. Bruce now wants to be called “Caitlyn” and self-identifies as a woman. While Jenner has yet to have a complete sex-change operation or filled out all the necessary legal paperwork, he has undergone plastic surgery and some hormone treatments to make the transition. His interview with Diane Sawyer on ABC’s 20/20 broke ratings records and millions have celebrated it. The national conversation about what exactly is a man or a woman has gone topsy-turvy.
But let’s set aside those conversations, the debates over masculine and feminine pronouns, the questions over whether Jenner is actually a man or woman. For a moment let’s consider why a man with all that success would want to be something so different. Why wasn’t all he accomplished enough?
I can’t understand the impulse to change one’s gender. I can’t empathize with those feelings. But I can understand the heart that birthed the desire. I too am never satisfied with myself. I too want to be better than I am. I too feel empty, yearn to be whole, to be full. My heart, like Jenner’s, is a desire-making machine that cranks out more wants than this life can ever satisfy. And you are the same.
What Jenner expressed by trying to transition from a man to a woman is a deeply human reality . . .
Worldmag.com is a paid subscription site, but you can read this article for free and get 30 days of free access by registering with your email.