A quick search online can yield headlines such as “5-year-old transgender child,” or even “3-year-old transgender child.” These are children who have begun at least step one in the transgender process, which is social transition, or being treated as the opposite sex. The four-step process only gets worse from there, including puberty-blocking hormones, cross-sex hormones, and finally surgical transition.
Throughout his research on the transgender movement, Ryan T. Anderson, PhD, of The Heritage Foundation discovered that “80 to 95 percent of pre-pubertal children will naturally grow out of a gender identity conflict if you just give them the time and the space.”
Unsurprisingly, therefore, the saddest parts of Anderson’s research were stories from people who regretted their decision to transition. Anderson addressed some of the reasons for these regrets in Part 3 of his speech at NC Family’s Charlotte Dinner on October 8. We are pleased to share that speech on this week’s episode of the Family Policy Matters radio show and podcast.
In our society today—with the issues of transgenderism, gay marriage, and even sanctity of life—there are three truths at risk, according to Anderson, “truths right in the very first couple of pages of the book of Genesis. That we’re made in the image and likeness of God; that we’re created male and female; and that male and female are created for each other. Foundational, anthropological truths.”
Tune in to Family Policy Matters this week to hear Dr. Ryan Anderson speak on the transgender process and how we as Christians can respond as God’s witnesses, in Part 3 of a 3-part show.
So, the first step is what they call social transition: you socially treat your child as the opposite sex. The second step is puberty blockade: you block your child from going through puberty in the “wrong body.” And so children at age 8, 9 and 10 are being prescribed off label drugs—it’s not FDA approved for this purpose—but they are being prescribed a powerful drug that will block their pubertal development. The gender experts say, “We don’t want the child to develop into the wrong body,” so they block their puberty. This then leads to the third step, which is cross-sex hormones.
Now, you have a teenager who’s trapped in a child’s body. You have a 14, 15, 16-year-old who is still in an adolescence body when all his or her classmates went through puberty, hit their growth spurts, developed into a man or developed into a woman. This high school student is still kind of trapped in a young person’s body. So what do they do for the high school girls? They administer testosterone. For the high school boy? They administer him estrogen, to try to masculinize her body to try to feminize his body. That then leads to the fourth and the final stage of this treatment protocol, which is surgical transition. And so the official recommendations are at age 18; increasingly this is being done at age 16. And this would be surgery to remove certain body parts and then use plastic surgery to create body parts that resemble the opposite sexes. It could entail top and or bottom surgery—top surgery being the removal of breasts or the creation of breasts, and then bottom surgery, the removal of external genitalia and internal reproductive organs.
The saddest part of the research that I did for the book were the stories that people have told about regretting these decisions. You can read the third chapter of the book where I go through many of these, but you can find them on YouTube; these are videos that people have made. The particularly troubling parts were young women who decided to transition in high school. High school is a difficult stage of development for anyone. High school is particularly hard for girls in today’s culture, right? In a “Me Too” culture and a very kind of sexualized culture, there are a variety of reasons why girls might feel uncomfortable in their own bodies. But the problem isn’t with their bodies, right? That’s where they’re being fed a lie.
So these are girls who at age 16, 17, 18 went on testosterone. Some of them had the mastectomies performed and then five, six, seven years later regretted it, and de-transitioned. They tell the story of, “I’ll never get my voice back after taking testosterone for five years; my vocal cords have changed.” And it doesn’t unchanged; you never get your original voice back. They talk about scarred chests after having a double mastectomy; your breasts don’t grow back if you go off the testosterone. These are lives that have been severely damaged. Bodies that have been damaged. Psyches that have been damaged.
Sadly, parents have lost custody because they said no to this. I thought this would happen in California and New York and Massachusetts; it happened in Ohio! Parents—Catholic parents—lost custody of their 17-year-old daughter because they said, “We want her to see a therapist and to undergo talk therapy about why she feels uncomfortable being a girl rather than receiving testosterone therapy.” And the hospital said, “No, testosterone therapy is the right way to go,” and the judge sided with the hospital instead of the parents. This is why you need something like the North Carolina Family Policy Council, to make sure that that doesn’t happen here—that parental rights are respected and protected, especially parental rights with respect to medical care.
Dr. Paul McHugh was the director of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins hospital—one of the world’s leading hospitals—and in 1979 he shut down the sex-reassignment clinic at Johns Hopkins because he said it was fundamentally participating with psychosocial struggles, not physical struggles. He said the problem with someone who has gender dysphoria or gender identity conflict isn’t with their body; it’s with their mind and their emotions. And so the proper medical response is directed at the mind and the emotions, not at the body. The analogy that he draws is to anorexia. He says no physician worth his or her salt would prescribe liposuction to an anorexic high school girl because the problem’s not with her body. What you would do is you would try to figure out what’s causing the anorexia. Is it a body image problem? Is it an eating disorder? Those can have separate ideologies—separate underlying causes for why you struggle with your diet, why you struggle with your body image. You try to figure out for this particular child, why do you have this body image problem? Why do you have this eating disorder? What’s your underlying cause for your anorexia? He says do the same thing for the high school girl who doesn’t feel comfortable as a girl: figure out what’s causing that discomfort. Is it something that she’s experienced? Maybe she’s been sexually assaulted. Is it something that’s going on in the school environment? Maybe the school has kind of like a toxic masculine environment, in which she wants to become a man precisely to escape some of the male pressure on her. This is frequently reported by high school girls who have transitioned. They said, “I wanted to become the type of person who hurt me so that that person could never hurt me again.” You can see that there’s going to be a variety of reasons why someone might feel uncomfortable in their own body. McHugh says figure out what’s going on and then address that. Give children a chance to grow through this.
This is particularly true for younger kids. When I mentioned that they’re doing social transition for two, three, four, five-year-olds, the best research here shows that 80 to 95 percent of pre-pubertal children will naturally grow out of a gender identity conflict if you just give them the time and the space. If you let them explore, you let them go through a phase in life, they’ll naturally reconcile their identity with their body. By contrast, if you block their puberty—if you give them cross-sex hormones—it seems that you’re locking in the transgender identity. It may very well be going through male puberty is what helps that boy who doesn’t quite feel comfortable being a boy, feel comfortable being a man. That the rush of testosterone that he receives at puberty—hitting his growth spurt, becoming taller, becoming more muscular, his voice deepening—all of those developmental changes may be the very thing that helps him feel comfortable in his own body. And remarkably, in now I think it’s 17 states, Dr. McHugh would lose his medical license if he practiced medicine with a minor the way that he thinks it ought to be practiced. 17 states have banned what they call “conversion therapy.” They say, “Look, if the gender identity of this 10-year-old boy is really girl—if he identifies as a girl—and you try to convert his gender identity to being a boy, that’s unlawful.” And if a medical professional engages in that type of therapy, the medical professional could lose his or her medical license. And in all 50 states, it’s perfectly legal for a medical professional to give that boy puberty-blocking drugs and then estrogen. Which is actual conversion, right? That’s where you’re actually converting the body of that boy, feminizing the body. But if you try to help the boy feel comfortable being a boy? In 17 states you could lose your license.
So, let me wrap-up with two thoughts. I’m Catholic, and so I’m obliged to, at some point, quote a pope in any sort of public address. And the first is from John Paul, back when he was just a philosophy professor in Krakow, Poland. He said in the 20th century that the crisis of the 20th century was a crisis of “faulty humanism,” “faulty anthropology,” and “secular humanism.” What we thought we were doing in the 20th century was that by abolishing God, we’d be elevating man. The exact opposite happened; by getting rid of God, we degraded man. And when you look at the 20th century: you look at the two World Wars; you look at the Holocaust; you’ve got the killing fields; you look at totalitarian regimes; you look at communism, socialism, et cetera, et cetera. What you see here is a consistent degrading of man—degrading of the creature made in the image and likeness of God. If you get rid of God, you’re actually doing damage to His image.
And so John Paul analyzed this back when he was a philosophy professor in terms of what was going on in the middle of the 20th century. He then extended that as Pope to the abortion scourge. He said what we’re doing with abortion is we’re neglecting to respect that image of God in the womb. And if he were with us today, he would extend that same analysis to the sexual revolution, the redefinition of marriage, and now transgender ideology. What’s at stake here are three truths, right in the very first couple of pages of the book of Genesis: that we’re made in the image and likeness of God; that we’re created male and female; and that male and female are created for each other, right? Foundational anthropological truths. “Made in the image and likeness of God”—that explains all of the abortion, embryo-destructive research, euthanasia, assisted suicide, rejecting that each and every one of us made in the image and likeness of God. “Created male and female”—everything that we’re seeing with the transgender question, gender identity disputes. “Male and female created for each other; the two become one flesh”—everything we’re seeing with the gay marriage debate.
And then all of the religious liberty disputes that touch on all three of those questions, right? Hobby Lobby has to pay for abortion. Jack Phillips has to bake the same-sex wedding cake. Two Catholic hospitals are currently being sued because they won’t do sex-reassignment surgeries. On all three of those issues, if you try to stand for biblical truth and the government disagrees, that’s where you hit the religious liberty issues. So that’s the insight from John Paul is that what we’re seeing here are two competing accounts of human nature: one that’s in accordance with God’s creational design, and one that discards it, ignores it.
The second quote, and this is the closing thought, is that as important as all of these ideas are—I have a PhD, I write books, I do political philosophy—as important as all that stuff is, it’s not the most important thing for any of us in the work that we’re doing to kind of build up a culture of life, and a marriage culture, and a culture that does honor God. The most important thing—and this is the lesson from Pope Benedict—is our witness. If you’re familiar at all with Benedict, he’s a world-class intellectual. He was a theologian, a professor of theology; he debated all of the leading intellectuals in Europe. There’s a quote that’s always stuck with me, it says, “It’s not the arguments of the philosophers and theologians that win converts; it’s the lives of the saints; it’s the beauty of holiness.” What actually is attractive to other people isn’t kind of the witty book chapter that we can give them; it’s what is our embodied witness. How are we living out the truth when it comes to marriage, when it comes to religious liberty, when it comes to life? What are we doing to welcome the stranger to our table? What are we doing to help out women facing unplanned pregnancies? What are we doing to help out the couples who are going through a rough patch in their marriage? How are we in our own families living out the beauty of the gospel on these issues? Precisely to be that witness to our neighbors that say, “What is it about that family across the street? They have all the same struggles and troubles that we have, but they seem to have a certain joy about it.” To my mind, this is something that is actually hopeful because this is entirely within our power. Regardless of what happens at the state house, regardless of what happens in DC, each and every one of us can decide what we do with our families, what we do with our relationships, what we do with our decisions. It’s within our power to cooperate with God’s grace to fulfill our vocation in life.
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