Lily Burana

Lily Burana is the author of three books, including, “I Love a Man in Uniform: A Memoir of Love, War, and Other Battles.” Follow her on Twitter @lilyburana. A version of this article ran in Dame Magazine.

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In ‘I am Cait,’ Caitlyn Jenner Drags a Taboo Subject into the Light

by Lily Burana 07-27-2015
ABC / Image Group LA / Flickr

Photo via ABC / Image Group LA / Flickr

Caitlyn Jenner, Olympic athlete turned world-class glamour girl, took the planet by storm in June when she sat down for an interview with Diane Sawyer and announced her ongoing transition from male to female.

Now she’s back with an eight-episode miniseries, I Am Cait, that debuted July 26 on E!. The show, which airs in 154 countries and in 24 languages, serves as both classic reality TV lookie-loo entertainment and a spiritual exercise. Even the most Kardashian-resistant viewer can get something out of it.

Philosopher Martin Buber said, “All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware,” and it’s clear from the very first moments of I Am Cait, when we see Jenner lying awake strafed by insomnia at 4:32 a.m., that she’s not sure where this whole thing is headed.

“What a responsibility I have,” she says to her camera bare-faced and bleary eyed.

“I just hope I get it right. I hope I get it right.”

The Mark of Courage: Taking Ashes for the First Time

by Lily Burana 02-18-2015
Photo via Canticle Communications / RNS

Rev. Kara Wagner Sherer imposes ashes on a passerby. Photo via Canticle Communications / RNS

Lately, a particular quote has been wending its way around Facebook, popping up in the feeds of the most disparate names on my friends list. It appears written in feminine cursive script or blocky varsity letters or etched under a photo of leaping flames: “May the bridges I burn light the way.”

The words seem significant on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, when ministers mark a believer’s forehead with a sign of the cross — two simple finger strokes drawn as a reminder of the impermanence of this world and our own mortality. The imposition of ashes is often accompanied by words from Genesis 3:19: Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

Lent is the season of reflection, reevaluation, reconciliation, and — here’s a hundred dollar Christian word — repentance. For many, the word “repent” calls to mind a red-faced TV preacher banging a hammy fist on the podium, or a guy in a sandwich board, standing on a corner yelling through a bullhorn about the fires of hell and the threat of damnation. YOU MUST REPENT!

But repent means, in the most literal sense, to turn in a different direction. It is less about avoiding being struck down by God than embarking on our own particular course-correction.

A Christian Mother’s Response to Leelah Alcorn’s Suicide

by Lily Burana 01-09-2015
Photo via Lena May / Shutterstock.com

Tiny feet of newborn baby. Photo via Lena May / Shutterstock.com

My Darling Daughter:

I’ve been meaning to write you this letter in case you need it when you’re older, but after hearing about the Dec. 28 suicide of transgender teen Leelah Alcorn, I feel an urgency to get this down.

Right now, you’re not even a year old, far too young to understand the tragedy of how Leelah, feeling socially isolated and rejected by her Christian parents, stepped in front of a passing semitrailer on an interstate in Ohio. She was just 17. As a mother, her death breaks my heart. As a Christian, it moves me to speak out.

When I was a few months pregnant with you and the perinatologist told me that the prenatal blood test “showed no signs of Y chromosomes,” I knew that you were a girl. I was thrilled.

On the sunny spring afternoon that you were born, the nurses wrapped you in a blanket and put a tiny, gender-neutral pink-and-blue-striped cap on your little head. As soon as I started speaking to you, my voice a steady coo, you settled, and I knew that you were my daughter.

But what if it turns out you aren’t?

What if you are actually my son?

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