Being first is a national pastime. The World Cup, the World Series, the Super Bowl, and now being the first celebrity to announce being transgender has taken society to a new and more inclusive level. 

To be different used to be a curse. The goal was to fit in and be part of the group. Even dating outside of one’s religion was considered “dangerous” and wrong. As a teenager, I remember the angst and confusion I experienced when I wanted to date a girl who wasn’t Jewish.

With a lot of anxiety I brought up the issue to my uncle, the goto adult when a troublesome issue plagued me. 

“So Uncle Bill, I kind of have a problem,” I said, during a slow time at the auto accessory store where I worked for him.

“What kind of problem?”

“I want to take out this girl. She’s really nice…, but she’s not Jewish.”

He nodded and said, “So what’s the problem?”

“She’s not Jewish.”

He nodded again and said, “So what’s the problem?”

I just stared at him, comprehension and relief overtaking me. “Thanks,” I said. “Thanks a lot”.

Validation and permission were and often are important. Uncle Bill’s reaction to a young Bruce Jenner asking what he should do about feeling like a girl, even though he is a boy, might have required a lot more thought and exploration. But, if the Uncle I so fondly remember stays true to my memory, he would have eventually hugged Bruce and supported his decision.

To support someone whose ideas and life seem not only “out of the box” but on a different planet, is not easy. It calls on us to ACCEPT what we instinctively feel to be wrong. To really hear and respect the right for an individual to be different from what “everyone” says he should be.

Often agreeing with “Everyone” is just another way of being safe and not taking the time and risk to evaluate what you really believe. Standing up against the majority always takes courage and the intellectual strength and curiosity to pose the question, “What do I really think?” And,”Do I have the courage to back up my idea with action?”

Bruce Jenner is a brave man. His courage will surely help other men and women have a better life. 

Art Smukler is an award-winning psychiatrist and author of Chasing Backwards, a psychological murder mystery, Skin Dance, a mystery, and The Man with a Microphone in his Ear. All are available as paperbacks and eBooks.
Sent from my iPhone

9 thoughts on “COURAGE? WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO HAVE IT? THOUGHTS ON BRUCE JENNER, by Art Smukler author & psychiatrist

  1. People with real issues and resolve them, don’t seek publicity—they live their lives and move on. They don’t ask others to ‘accept’ their choices. Hats off to the trouble person who seeks a solution and doesn’t destroy others in the family while in the process. Publicity seekers—beware of their inherent quest.


  2. Uncle Bill…dating a non-Jewish girl– smart advice. I’d bet my last dollar, though, the wiser, older uncle would say, ‘hey, this guy with a penis and several children needs some help with his head, not with what clothes he wears.” Seems like Bruce had a long time to adjust to this so called life—and chose not to do it. Narcissistic publicity seeker. And that’s why many have no compassion for Bruce guy. A mockery for those young people who might have real issues. Courage—ask a veteran what courage is all about. Ask a mom with seven children what courage is all about.


  3. Art, you’re spot on with this one. Sure people are different but they’re still people and it takes a lot of courage to go public, expecially on an issue such as Bruce’s.

    I used to work with a colleague (who has since moved to a different company) who was an extremely smart engineer. I’ll change names to protect the innocent. People with the company for a long time originally knew this engineer as Tammy. I knew him later on as Tommy. Although many folks know that Tammy had undergone a sex change operation, I like to think that most people accepted Tommy for the talented person he was, as he received a number of advancements. I can’t imagine what the frustration, depression and other feelings it was like for Tammy to feel like a man trapped in a woman’s body. Over the several years I knew Tommy, he seemed happy, outgoing, and I hope that after the surgery he was at peace with himself and made the right decision.


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