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

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.
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