Give Anne Lamott (and all of us) grace on transgender issues


“I worry that Jesus drinks himself to sleep when he hears me talk like this.” You’ll find these words on page 170 of Anne Lamott’s iconic book about the craft of writing, Bird By Bird. But she could have been spoken them in response to her comments about Caitlyn Jenner this week.

On Twitter, the New York Times bestselling author of books such as Grace (Eventually) and Traveling Mercies confessed to being “a tiny bit tired of Caitlyn” while repeatedly using male pronouns to describe the transgender woman who has dominated recent headlines. Lamott added that she “will call him a she when the pee-pee is gone.”

Unsurprisingly, Lamott’s words sparked widespread condemnation on social media, but some outlets went further. A writer with Philadelphia magazine accused her of being transphobic, and the Daily Kos said she was bigoted. Lamott later apologized to transgender people and the parents of transgender children.

Even so, a couple of ignorant comments do not erase Lamott’s long history of defending marginalized people. And they certainly do not turn her into a transphobic bigot. They merely remind us that when people with limited knowledge begin to engage complex issues, those people often misspeak and misstep. Limited knowledge combined with a public platform often equals an embarrassing blunder.

American culture — and faith communities in particular — are in the first stages of serious conversations about transgender issues. Can we not offer each other a little grace in such a moment?