Dialoguing About Gender Identity

gender-issuesThere’s been a lot of buzz about gender identity recently, and young people are taking note. The question is… what are they resolving as true?

I stumbled on two very helpful resources in the past few weeks that provide really good information and provoke meaningful conversation. One is a video that simply makes you stop and think logically for a moment. The other is an extremely insightful statement to educators and legislators published by The American College of Pediatricians that looks at gender ideology medically and scientifically.

I’ll highlight each resource below, and then provide discussion questions you can use to dialogue with young people about these resources.

I preface this post by saying—this is an incredibly difficult subject to even talk about today. It’s tender for me, because someone I deeply care about is experiencing these feelings right now. And many of you know and have experienced, if you voice any disagreement about the transgender movement… you are often deemed “a hater.” Because of this many people avoid the conversation. Meanwhile, loud voices are shouting, “Everything is okay.” “Go with what feels right.” So I urge you to approach this subject prayerfully and cautiously. If you are a believer in Jesus and the Bible, like I am, then remember a foundational truth of our theology: we are all sinners and we all need Jesus. And the more time we spend time reading the Gospels and studying Jesus, the more we’ll notice two things out of him: 1. He had incredible compassion and grace for sinners. 2. At the same time he wasn’t afraid to tell the truth. He never bent his theology to get out of a sticky situation. So pray for that balance. Approach the subject in love and as someone who doesn’t have all the answers. Talk more about what you are for, instead of “clanging” about what you are against. And remember, the person you are sitting with might be experiencing these feelings. Pray you can be a source of grace and truth to that person, remembering you probably won’t have the opportunity to share truth if you don’t demonstrate grace.

College Kids Say the Darndest Things: On Identity
The first resource I encountered was an eye-opening video from The Family Policy Institute of Washington (thanks Walt Mueller for blogging about this). I didn’t know where the interviewer was going with this at first… but stick with it. Very thought provoking.

I love his approach. No lecturing, just good questions and a lot of listening.

Questions To Discuss:

  1. What stuck out to you the most from that video? (This question will allow you to take the temperature of the people sitting in front of you.)
  2. Why is it hard for these college students to tell a 5’9” white guy that he is NOT a 6’5” Chinese woman?
  3. What is the difference between being born a male and being born Chinese?
  4. What did you think of the statement you heard: “If you feel 7 at heart, then good for you”?
  5. Why did people seem to specifically have difficulty with him saying he was taller than he was?
  6. He asked a girl why she would question that he was 6’5” tall, and she responded, “Because you’re not.” How come we can say that about someone’s height, but not their gender?
  7. If someone feels like they are 6 feet 5 inches tall, are they?
  8. Can feelings be wrong? Explain.
  9. So what is our “plumb line” or standard for truth?

NOTE: Emphasize that the point of this is NOT to question people about their gender, but instead, to consider our own thinking and reasoning as we evaluate truth.

Gender Ideology Harms Children
The second resource was an intriguing article from several esteemed doctors, like the President and Vice President of the American College of Pediatricians, and the professor of psychology and former chief psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins Hospital. I can’t begin to articulate as well as this article does, so I encourage you to read the article word for word. Truly fascinating! But here’s the gist:

The article is titled: Gender Ideology Harms Children

The statement not only clarifies misconceptions about a third sex, but it also illuminates that… and I quote… “a person’s belief that he or she is something they are not is, at best, a sign of confused thinking.” In fact, Gender Dysphoria is a recognized mental disorder by the American Psychological Association. Since this is a psychological problem that exists in the mind, not the body, it would actually be “abusive” to recommend puberty-blocking hormones.

Why do they discourage chemical or surgical changes until after adolescence?

  • Because the overwhelming majority (70% to 98% of males, 50% to 88% of females) eventually accept their biological sex after naturally passing through puberty. In other words, it’s a psychological condition that will pass when their brain is done developing (which for males, can be in the mid-twenties).
  • Because puberty blockers are dangerous (cause infertility, stunted growth, low bone density, and an unknown impact on brain development), and then cross-sex hormones will be required in late adolescence and those have dangerous health risks as well (high blood pressure, blood clots, stroke, cancer).
  • Rates of suicide are documented up to twenty times greater among adults who use cross-sex hormones and undergo sex reassignment surgery, even in Sweden, which is among the most LGBQT-affirming countries (which squashes the argument that the high suicide rate is simply because they are bullied and oppressed).

The authors go on to say, “Conditioning children into believing that a lifetime of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex is normal and healthful is child abuse.”

The statement concludes with this bold proclamation about those who encourage GD children to impersonate the opposite sex and take puberty blocking hormones:

Never has it been more scientifically clear that children and adolescents are incapable of making informed decisions regarding permanent, irreversible and life-altering medical interventions. For this reason, the College maintains it is abusive to promote this ideology, first and foremost for the well-being of the gender dysphoric children themselves, and secondly, for all of their non-gender-discordant peers, many of whom will subsequently question their own gender identity, and face violations of their right to bodily privacy and safety. (emphasis mine)

Paul McHugh, the author from Johns Hopkins, had written another article on the subject back in 2014, Transgender Surgery Isn’t the Solution, sharing how Johns Hopkins, the first American medical center to venture into “sex-reassignment surgery,” actually stopped doing the surgery because the patients were just as troubled after the surgery.

He wraps up that article with the following:

At the heart of the problem is confusion over the nature of the transgendered. “Sex change” is biologically impossible. People who undergo sex-reassignment surgery do not change from men to women or vice versa. Rather, they become feminized men or masculinized women. Claiming that this is a civil-rights matter and encouraging surgical intervention is in reality to collaborate with and promote a mental disorder.

Questions To Discuss:

  1. What stuck out to you in these articles?
  2. Why do these doctors, the American Psychological Association, and others call Gender Dysphoria a “disorder”?
  3. Why do you think the majority of young people eventually grow out of this thinking (that they might want to be the opposite sex)?
  4. Why do you think these doctors, Johns Hopkins Hospital and so many others think it’s “abusive” to recommend permanent chemical and surgical treatment until after adolescence?
  5. Why do you think the rate of suicide is twenty times greater for this group?
  6. How can we show love to someone who is experiencing Gender Dysphoria?

I hope these resources provide an avenue for discussion. Today’s Christians need to be on the lookout for opportunities to engage in pleasant, soft spoken, meaningful dialogue (not monologue), where we get a chance to listen to the needs of others and share a little truth.

NOTE: I shouldn’t even have to say this, but, it’s not helpful to start throwing out wild conjecture like, “If we allow Transgenders in bathrooms that will open up opportunities for them to molest kids!” (Just listen to how offensive that sounds. That’s a sure way to end a conversation… not to mention… it’s spoken from fear, not fact.) Be conversation starters, not enders.

MORE ON THIS SUBJECT:
If you enjoyed this post, Jonathan recently talked about the subject of gender issues on Dennis Rainey’s radio show Family Life Radio, and has written several articles about reaching kids experiencing same sex attraction. JONATHAN McKEE is the author of 20 books, including two books about sex, SEX MATTERS and MORE THAN JUST THE TALK.

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over twenty books including the brand new If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; Sex Matters; The Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket; and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers; Connect; and the 10-Minute Talks series. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.
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6 Responses to Dialoguing About Gender Identity

  1. Kit Ilardi says:

    It is important to note that the American College of Pediatricians is a very small socially conservative group founded in 2002 consisting of about 200 members in contrast to the American Academy of Pediatrics which has over 60,000 members most of whom do not support the point of view of the ACPeds. The Southern Poverty Law center has described ACPeds as a hate group.

    • Of course they are seen as a “hate” group. My point exactly in my “preface this post” paragraph. If you dare have your own opinion on this subject, you are a “hater.” That’s why everyone in the video is saying, “Good for you!” They are petrified to say anything else because they’ll be declared a “hater.”

  2. Sean says:

    Or the ACP could be wrong.

    Dude starts off by discussing the Bathroom gender issue, and then goes into the Transgender topic.

    Two different topics.

    He ask me what I think about the bathroom issue, I simply say that making Bathrooms gender neutral easy fixes the issue. It’s not like Gender Neutral Bathrooms is a new thing. Will there be problems at first? Yep, will there be bad seeds in any process? Yep. But like everything, over time it works itself out. So remember any horror stories you can tell your children about the time those who gave the Devil another victory for allowing both sexes to use the same bathroom are mostly for the present. The future is a different matter. Which is interesting that he had no answer for the kids who gave the GN answer. He went right into the issue he wanted. So excited that he had ammo to stomp the new generation and their liberal minded thinking.

    If he ask if he is a Chinese women? Then I’d ask how he came to that conclusion?For transgender people it’s a personal thing, and I can’t attempt to read their mind on why they think the way they do. So why would I question it? I don’t have enough info, nor to I know these people. I wonder if he went against an actual Transgender College student with those questions what kind of answers he would have gotten?

    Unless I’m a Christian of course. They can read minds. All the have to do is use their Bible, and it will give them the right to tell these people they are Wrong. That or they’ll use stats and info off groups a majority of people don’t consider legit.

    I have no problem with Transgender people. I don’t know any, have seen a few, and for the most part feel for them because I know they take crap everyday.

    I like these games, Jon. We never play game anymore.

    Love You!!! 🙂

    • Sean… I’d just ask you to pause and consider the information presented. Is it really that intolerant or judgemental of these doctors to say, “Hey, if your 12-year-old feels confused about gender issues, don’t start giving him meds or remedies with irreversible ramifications.” That sounds like pretty reasonable advice, caring for those kids. (And we didn’t even bring Jesus into it.) And as for the guy with the microphone. He asked good questions… period. He wasn’t preachy, he wasn’t jumping to conclusions, and he wasn’t even 10% as accusative as you were in your comments above (to be honest, Sean). Step back and take a deep breath, Sean. I’m not a hater. I’m trying to provide good information to help people engage in meaningful conversations.

  3. Sean says:

    No, but did I ever bring up that part about Doctors believing it best for parents to wait the situation out, did I. I was more interested in the game of gotcha the dude on the mic was playing.

  4. Good resources. It is hard to discuss truths that hurt to hear. And so often young people have a hard time differentiating between truth and perception (feelings). I like your approach. I’ve been quietly using your resources for about 5 years and I appreciate all you do. Thanks!