Another element of that slippery slope I seem to talk about here so frequently is the matter of “gender identity.” It used to be that we would hear occasionally about individuals who had had sex change operations, or about crossdressers. I think the first time I ever heard of any such thing was when I saw the movie Crocodile Dundee II, and there is a scene in which someone who appears to be a woman is actually a man. I was a teenager by the time I saw that movie. Granted, I grew up in a Christian home and may have lived a somewhat sheltered life, but the entire concept was foreign to me. Now, just 25 years after Crocodile Dundee came out, the issue has gone far beyond crossdressing and sex change surgeries.
So what is gender identity anyway? Dictionary.com defines it this way: “a person’s inner sense of being male or female, usually developed during early childhood as a result of parental rearing practices and societal influences and strengthened during puberty by hormonal changes.” Notice that this definition says nothing about anatomy; gender identity has to do with whether one feels make or female.
The Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago has a not-as-yet-officially-launched entity under its umbrella called the Center for Gender, Sexuality, and HIV Prevention, led by Dr. Rob Garofalo. According to a March 23 article in WORLD Magazine the clinic has already “treated about 25 patients.” One of those patients was a child younger than nine who began “wearing dresses, identifying as a girl, and struggling with anxiety.” According to the article, the clinic is “one of a handful of children’s gender identity clinics to spring up in the United States over the past six years. These clinics provide psychological counseling intended to help children choose whatever gender they feel is best, and offer hormonal treatments to delay the onset of puberty.”
A couple of things jump out from those sentences.
First, recall the uproar in recent months in California and other places where there are efforts underway to ban counseling for individuals who want to overcome homosexual thoughts. Reparative therapy, as it is called, is just about guaranteed to fail, according to the powers that be in California, and also to cause stress and depression in those undergoing such counseling, despite the fact that it is only done at the request of the individual being treated. So while California has passed a law banning “anyone under the age of 18 from receiving licensed counseling that in any way steers them away from same-sex attraction, including away from sexual acts,” (according to an article in the Washington Times), it is perfectly fine to provide counseling and even hormone treatment for children who just are not sure whether they want to be boys or girls? And no one sees any contradiction here? There is plenty of debate over the idea that some people are “born” homosexual. There is, however, no debate over the fact that people are born male or female; it is obvious at birth (often even before birth with today’s sonogram technology) and the sex of every child is on their birth certificate! So, just to be sure we are clear, it is not acceptable–and indeed California wants to make it illegal–for a professional counselor, upon request of the counselee, to provide treatment to help someone who is struggling with homosexual thoughts to overcome those thoughts, yet it is perfectly fine for a therapist to help a child decide whether he/she feels like being a boy/girl, and even for a doctor to provide hormone treatment to prevent the child’s body from doing what it was designed to do.
Second, notice the important word “feels.” The counseling in these gender identity clinics is designed to help children determine which gender feels the best. So if someone is born a boy but feels like being a girl, we should both encourage and allow that. (But if someone feels homosexual tendencies and does not want to, we must not discourage them or help them overcome those desires!) We must be extremely careful of creating a world where we both encourage and allow people to do what they “feel is best.” If we remove absolutes and standards and facts and leave it all up to whatever anyone feels is best we will soon have complete and utter chaos. Notice, though, too, that those who encourage this “whatever feels best” attitude toward gender identity are the same ones who want to shut up anyone who takes the opposition position, presumably even when that “feels best” to them.
The WORLD article goes on to point out that the website for the Gender Management Service Clinic at Boston Children’s Hospital says that its doctors “help children cope with the disconnect they may feel between the body and gender they were born with. … Therefore, we try to help them develop a body that is consistent with their identity.” For the record, there can not be many things more absolutely clear than whether someone is born male or female. we are in trouble when we start encouraging and allowing that disconnect between anatomy and gender identity.
The WORLD article concludes with the statement that “children’s feelings aren’t a reliable guide for deciding on life-altering treatments, though: studies show many kids who question their gender stop doing so after puberty.” Quite frankly children’s feelings are not a reliable guide for much of anything; that is part of the growing up process–the development of preferences and likes/dislikes and so on. I cannot think of any other area in which children are permitted to voluntarily make permanent or life-altering decisions; why in the world would we allow it with something so significant as one’s body?
This is not just an academic discussion, either. A colleague in another Christian school (in California, as it happens) recently shared this: “Our middle school is part of a sports league for small private schools–some Christian, some secular. One of these secular schools has just announced that they have an eleven year boy who believes that he is a girl. The parents and the school have decided to support the child’s feelings by allowing him to dress in girls’ clothes and use the girls’ bathrooms.” This creates all kinds of challenges for this school. Surely the Christian school has policies preventing boys from dressing in girls clothes or from wearing make up. Surely boys are not allowed to use a girls restroom–and I am confident the girls and the parents of the girls very much prefer it that way! But this boy has decided that being a girl “feels best.” I do not know what the outcome in that situation will be, but I hope that school stands its ground, even if it means leaving the sports league as a result. We cannot allow the whims and feelings of a few people to alter the Truth of God’s Word or to dictate our obedience to His Word. The rights of a very small minority cannot trample the rights of a vast majority.
What we need is someone with a backbone to look this boy in the eye, or anyone else who feels as he does, and say, “You are a boy. You were born a boy, God made you a boy, and whether you feel like it or not, you are a boy. When you become an adult, if you want to wear a skirt or put on make up, you go right ahead. Until then, you will dress like a boy and be treated like a boy. And when you’re an adult, we’re still going to call you a male and treat you like a male whether you feel like one or dress like one or not. You can call yourself a girl, you can dress like a girl, you can act like a girl, you can even claim to be a girl. But guess what? You’re a boy.”
One last thought…. We must, as always, be careful where this road will take us. If gender identity becomes a choice, why not species identity? Suppose someone says they feel best as a dog or a monkey or a platypus? Shall we allow that? What about national identity? Suppose someone says they feel like their Egyptian despite the fact that they’re Canadian, or they feel Australian even though they’re Chinese? Racial identity? If I feel black does that mean I am, even though I am obviously white? What about age identity? I hear people all the time say they don’t feel their age. Suppose a 38 year old says she feels 16. Do we let her enroll in high school, play on the school volleyball team, be claimed as a dependent on her parent’s tax returns? Silly examples all, but they are the logical conclusions of letting people make decisions that have always been determined by birth based on how they feel.