“I think the fluidity of gender is the next big wave in terms of adolescent development… Gender has become part of the defining way that youth organize themselves and rebel against adults.”- Caitlin Ryan1
“Our twisted passions are motivated by rebellion and self-love. It is God’s grace (empowerment!) that enables any of us to be free.” – Jerry Leach2
A “Brave New World”
A 12-year-old boy in Germany is being given sex-change hormones, making him the youngest sex-change patient in the world.3
In the United Kingdom, new school guidelines warn teachers that telling boys to act like men leads to “bullying of those who do not conform to fixed ideas about gender.”4
A New York principal was allowed to return to his job after undergoing sex reassignment surgery.5
Parents of children who struggle with gender confusion are being encouraged to raise their children according to the gender they want to be.6
Nationally, organizations are adopting gender neutral restrooms because ‘women’s’ and ‘men’s’ restrooms only acknowledge a two-gender system.7
In Thailand, one school with 2,600 students created a separate “transvestite toilet” for its 200 “transgender”-identified students.8
A man – dressed and made up to look like a woman – competes against real women to become “America’s Next Top Model.”9
The stories go on and on, but perhaps the most troubling examples were born in the trend-setting state of California. SB 777, a bill signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, prohibits teaching or activity that “reflects adversely upon” or “promotes a discriminatory bias” because of sexual orientation or gender. According to the bill, “‘Sexual orientation’ means heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality,” and “‘Gender’ means sex, and includes a person’s gender identity and gender related appearance and behavior whether or not stereotypically associated with the person’s assigned sex at birth.”10
Although the law didn’t go into effect until Jan. 11, 2008, the effects of the legislation are already playing out in classrooms across the state. Students are allowed to “choose their own gender” when deciding whether to use the boys’ or girls’ restroom and locker room. A teacher in Oakland lines her students up by sneaker color rather than by gender.11 A Fresno high school allowed a “transgender” female to run for prom king.12
Chaos in the Classroom
Randy Thomas, Executive Vice-President of Exodus International, says this is only creating more chaos in the classroom.
Schools are “being co-opted by a worldview that is undermining a child’s ability to actually learn how to be a responsible citizen,” Thomas said. “Teenagers are confused enough about their identity; they don’t need gay activists or ‘transgendered’ activists going into their schools confusing them even further. Gender identity, sexual identity, sexuality are all very complex issues. They should originate from the home.”13
Jim Kelly, a board member of the Grossmont Unified High School District in San Diego, couldn’t agree more. He is currently suing the state of California over SB 777.
“We have so many laws in California that already end discrimination against children, and this goes vastly farther,” Kelly said. “It changes what has been historically recognized as a way of classifying kids by sex or biology into a new definition of ‘gender identity.’ No longer are kids to be recognized as female or male based upon biology, how they were born; it’s now based upon this subjective definition of ‘gender identity’.”
Most of us grew up with the traditional – biblical, biological and binary – view that there are two sexes: male and female. But many in the “transgendered” community, and their allies in areas such as academia, believe that there are multiple genders – even an infinite number of genders.14 Knowing that whatever is taught to school children today will impact our culture tomorrow, activists have targeted schools for changing how we think about gender and sexuality.
In resources for educators such as Beyond the Binary: A Tool Kit for Gender Identity Activism in Schools, students and activists are encouraged to challenge the traditional “gender binary system.”15 Students are taught that gender is a social construct, that however an individual might wish to express himself is a “gender,” and that gender is fluid and changeable. When school officials sit down a group of third graders and tell them that “Johnny will now be coming to school as Janie,” children are inculcated into this ideology.16 As this teaching spreads, our next generation is moved further from objective reality toward a radical deconstruction of gender, based on subjective feelings and desires.
So What are “Transgenderism,” “Transsexuality,” and Transvestitism?
According to the American Psychological Association, “transgender is an umbrella term used to describe people whose gender identity (sense of themselves as male or female) or gender expression differs from that usually associated with their birth sex.”17 In other words, “transgendered” individuals do not perceive that their biological gender corresponds to the way they feel about their gender or how they self-define their ‘gender identity.’ This condition is also referred to as Gender Identity Disorder or Gender Dysphoria.18
“Transsexuals” are those who have “successfully” completed the “transition” from one gender to another through hormone treatment and sexual reassignment surgeries19 – ignoring the medical fact that surgery can not change underlying genetic biology. Indeed, every cell in a so-called transsexual’s body still retains the biological sex he or she was born with. While surgery and hormones may change the outward appearance, they cannot change underlying biological reality.
Transvestitism is commonly referred to as “cross dressing.” Typically, transvestites are heterosexual men who enjoy dressing in female clothing, but they also include “drag queens,” female impersonators and “gender illusionists.” “Drag kings” are women who impersonate men.20
Children with a strong degree of gender identity confusion often experience a “disconnect” or “estrangement” from their biological gender. At an early age, they begin to identify with the opposite sex and take on gender non-conforming mannerisms and thought patterns.
Nobody knows for sure how many people suffer from gender identity disorder or are “transgendered” or “transsexual.” The American Psychiatric Association notes that data from Europe “suggest that roughly 1 per 30,000 adult males and 1 per 100,000 adult females seek sex-reassignment surgery.”21 The National Center for Transgender Equality – a pro-“transgender” advocacy group – estimates that between .25 percent and 1 percent of Americans consider themselves to be “transgendered.” This figure includes transvestites and “transsexuals.”22
Common Risk Factors for Gender Confusion
Thomas believes that the popularity and acceptance of “transgenderism” emerged with the breakdown of the deeply held and historic sex-role distinctions that have been supported by previous generations. Today’s activists are preaching a very fluid, gender-less worldview and people are left confused.
“We’ve lost our history of what it means to be a man and our history of what it means to be a woman,” Thomas said. “And activists have worked to obliterate that history because they feel that it’s sexist. So if a man doesn’t know how to teach a little boy how to be a man, there’s a void there. It’s no wonder that they come up with all kinds of ways to identify.”
Disconnection from Same-Sex Parent and Same-Sex Models23
Though there are many theories about what causes this gender disconnect, the emotional and/or physical absence of a child’s father may play a significant role. Jerry Leach, director of Reality Resources, knows first-hand the truth of such a statement. A former “transsexual” and transvestite, Leach says the “disconnect” with his father was very much a part of his lifelong struggle with gender confusion.
In working throughout the years with more than 2,000 “transgendered” men, Leach is still shocked by the high percentage of those who had absent fathers. “The connection with the male, or the failed connection with the male – the most significant male being that of a father – has been one of the most blame worthy causes of the condition,” he said.
Throughout his career, Focus on the Family Founder Dr. James Dobson has emphasized the vital importance of father-son relationships.
“Someone has said, ‘Link a boy to the right man and he seldom goes wrong.’ I believe that is true,” Dr. Dobson said. “If a dad and his son can develop hobbies together or other common interests, the rebellious years can pass in relative tranquility.”24
According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, boys without fathers are nearly four times as likely to need treatment for emotional and behavioral problems as boys with fathers.
In his book, Bringing Up Boys, Dr. Dobson writes: “At about three to five years of age…a lad gradually pulls away from his mom and sisters in an effort to formulate a masculine identity. …When fathers are absent at that time, or if they are inaccessible, distant, or abusive, their boys have only a vague notion of what it means to be male. … One of the primary objectives of parents is to help boys identify their gender assignments and understand what it means to be a man.”25
Sexual Abuse and Trauma
Sexual abuse also may create gender confusion. Researchers have noted that men who have sex with men – whether they identify as gay, bisexual, “transgender” or not – have higher rates of sexual abuse than the general population. One group of researchers notes that childhood sexual abuse of a boy “can disrupt development of sexual identity” and that “gender roles and expectations regarding what it means to be a man are challenging for male victims of CSA [childhood sexual abuse].”26
When adult sexuality is forced and imposed on children, it can create confusion about what it means to be a boy or a girl – male or female. Men who were sexually abused may deal with “sexual identity confusion and struggle with masculinity, isolation and alienation.”27
Women who experience trauma and sexual abuse, likewise, may experience confusion and ambivalence about femininity. In her writing about lesbianism and gender identity confusion, Janelle Hallman notes that trauma for women may also come in the form of disrupted attachment systems, through emotional neglect or unavailability of nurture and care. This may lead to gender identity confusion, rejection of femininity or envy of the other sex.28
Self Hatred and Envy
Men and women who have struggled with this issue and researchers who have studied them have noted two common components: the first is a dislike of or discomfort with one’s own gender, and the second is a desire for or envy of the other sex. One woman – who lived as a man for almost 12 years – writes,
I asked God to reveal how I had become deceived about becoming a man. He showed me my wrong perceptions and beliefs—that women were weak and that men hated women. I had the mind-set that since I was a woman, I was hated, and I hated myself. So I thought in order to be accepted by others, I needed to become a man. This way of thinking trapped me in a web of lies, but the truth revealed who I really was and how I had been created.29
Jerry Leach, in writing about “transgender” issues, notes that envy is a root sin of those wrestling with “transgenderism.” He writes,
ENVY is the root evil in the trans-gender lifestyle. This envy of the feminine (or masculine, by girls) is deeply entrenched in one’s thoughts and emotions by puberty. The normal joys of childhood are stolen by the incessant demands of envy. When a little boy should be praying for a new Tonka truck, he earnestly prays to wake up in the morning as a girl.30
Scripture is clear that being made male or female – in the image of God – is a good thing and that God loves us and blesses us as He made us to be. To hate ourselves and envy others is highly destructive.
More recently, researchers and psychologists such as Ray Blanchard and J. Michael Bailey have suggested that some “transgender” people – in particular, men – may be motivated more by the erotic feelings they obtain by dressing and acting as the opposite sex. For these “transgender” men and women, dressing as the opposite sex has become associated with sexual activity of some sort and is like a fetish that creates arousal and leads to orgasm. Blanchard and Bailey’s view has been heavily criticized by some in the “transgendered” community who believe that it trivializes their contention that they are men or women who are “trapped in the wrong body.” 31
Are Hormones and Surgery the Answer?
As individuals detach further from their biological gender, they increasingly feel they are trapped in the wrong body and seek to transition from one gender to another. Some doctors and psychologists encourage individuals to undergo dangerous hormone injections and sex reassignment surgeries, and many businesses now offer health-insurance coverage for the surgeries, which can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $150,000.
Bernd Meyenburg heads up the Psychiatric Special Outpatient Clinic for Children and Adolescents with Identity Disorders at the University of Frankfurt Hospital. Even he says, “From a purely medical standpoint we are dealing with the mutilation of a biologically healthy body.”32
But several years ago, Johns Hopkins University closed its surgical gender reassignment unit because they determined that, just as you wouldn’t perform liposuction on an anorexic patient, it was inappropriate to surgically and permanently alter a person’s anatomy in attempt to treat a mental disorder.
Dr. Paul McHugh, professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University and former head of the surgical gender reassignment unit, said that the transgendered patients he has come to know are no happier after sex-change surgery than before.
“I have witnessed a great deal of damage from sex-reassignment,” he said. “We have wasted scientific and technical resources and damaged our professional credibility by collaborating with madness rather than trying to study, cure, and ultimately prevent it.”33
Dr. McHugh is amazed at the number of medical professionals today that make such quick diagnoses to perform sex reassignment surgery rather than point out how erroneous the procedure could be and the trouble it could cause in a person’s life.
“It’s become an advertised and promoted idea and very few are pointing out to patients that there are other ways of looking at their problem and finding a way of life for them,” he said.
Help and Healing for the Gender Confused
While the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV-TR still lists “Gender Identity Disorder” as a classifiable condition, there is much discussion about how to treat the gender confused.
But regardless of the causes of the disorder and the treatments available, there is no denying that people who struggle with gender identity disorder are often undergoing a great deal of emotional pain and confusion.
“It’s a deep-seated emotional disorder which is accompanied with a chemical rush that is equal in strength to cocaine. That’s pretty powerful stuff,” Leach said. “If there’s any one condition that I could have in my life that would … put me in the hospital, that would ruin my marriage and possibly, very probably end my life by suicide or overdose, it would be this.”
Leach explained that although it may be a lifelong, sometimes daily battle for those who struggle with “transgenderism,” there is hope through accountability, prayer, restorative work, support and the truth and power of the God’s Word.
“I’m not healed. I’m not cured. … I have to keep on the guard,” he said. “I have to make sure that everything is lined up and that I’m taking care of myself spiritually and emotionally.”
Reaching Out – With Grace and Truth
Though society may still not understand everything about the disorder, Christians are called by Christ to love His people, especially those who are hurting, while upholding God’s truth that He created humans in His image – “male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:27).
“As Christians, we know that male and female both uniquely represent the image of God and when they come together in the form of marriage they bear witness of Him in a way that they can’t do alone,” Thomas said. “So gender identity is very important to God.”
However, it’s not enough to fight the issue if we can’t love the person behind the issue.
“God doesn’t see a ‘transgendered’ person,” Thomas said. “He sees that person by name, and He might be using you to reach to that person and say…’God cares for your soul,’ and if you have the opportunity to share the Gospel with that person, that’s what comes first.”
In addition to reaching out to individuals who struggle with “transgenderism,” believers can raise their children with godly and healthy thinking about the goodness of masculinity, femininity and sexuality. We can teach our children healthy boundaries for gender and sexual expression. The church can embody truth for a culture that is broken and has adopted grossly distorted thinking about sexuality and relationships. We can proclaim hope in a world of gender confusion.