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Finding a True Self or a Set-up for Regret: Transgenderism Revisited

As experience with Transgenderism—identifying with or expressing a gender identity that differs from the one which corresponds to a person’s sex at birth—grows, an amazing polarity seems to be developing.

On one hand, are those (particularly youth) who celebrate and increasingly demand acceptance of these feelings (People Magazine, January 15, 2015).  On the other hand, is mounting evidence that such persons come to regret their efforts at living life as the sex opposite of that of their birth.

He is a She, so Says People

People Magazine shows its perspective in an article about a struggling teen (born Josh).  People refers to the teen by his chosen new name (Leelah) and uses the pronoun “she” throughout the piece.  Of particular concern in this approach is the lack of consideration for the research that demonstrates how inconstant and variable identity is during adolescence—and, therefore, the inappropriateness, if not danger, of presuming the confused feelings of a 17-year-old about his gender identity or sexual orientation should be treated as a fixed state.  Sadly, the teen’s fame has come posthumously—after a completed suicide.  His suicide note blamed his parents for not accepting transgenderism (e.g., continuing to call Josh, “he”) and for only taking him to Christian therapists, who were described as being unempathetic and critical.   I can’t speak as to whether or not the therapists were, in fact, unempathetic and critical.  Certainly, treating a delicate patient in such a manner would be both unhelpful and unkind.  But, as we have discussed in several past articles, there are real reasons, and supporting research and evidence, for not blindly accepting such a desire to change.

Trouble In Transtopia

Such evidence comes, in part, from testimonies from people who have taken their opposite gender identification to its ultimate and extreme end, having surgeries and treatments in an effort to change their manifest sex characteristics to those which they subjectively feel so strongly.  Sadly, the stories unfold showing how years or decades after the fact, they come to realize that they still experience their original gender in fundamental ways, or are not as fulfilled in their new gender as they believed they would be.

But in the current social milieu, such stories are not welcomed.  One author, Stella Morabito, documents the many threats directed at people who try to share the truth of their experience on-line.  Unfortunately, as Josh became increasingly isolated and depressed, this is just where he went, searching for understanding.  As Morabito’s research revealed, it is increasingly difficult to find a balanced perspective on the web, as those who might voice caution and concern about transgenderism are apparently intimidated and silenced.  Insights into the truth about this condition, alongside the uncompromised truth of the dignity of every person, are necessary to prevent others from Josh’s tragic decision.

The Research and A Way

The notion that this vulnerable young soul would have been somehow better off if he had been given the full opportunity to live as a female is not supported by the research.  An empirical study of the health of those undergoing sex change surgery found the post-operative mortality and suicide rates for transsexuals are many times higher than the general population. That study was conducted in Sweden, which Morabito calls “probably the friendliest environment on the planet for transgender individuals.”

This type of finding is not unique in the LGBT literature, where the favored hypothesis, that the mental health and emotional issues of people who identify as LGBT are caused by some form of discrimination or ostracism, does not fit the data.  This is, of course, not to say that there is not bullying and maltreatment of persons who are struggling with these issues.  Certainly there is, and this added stress is not helpful for them.  Yet, it is critical that we don’t miss the essential point that attempting to live denying essential biological and genetic aspects of how one was born, will not bring one peace.

It is sad that Josh did not have an opportunity to learn this before his tragic action; sad that his parents are threatened and blamed; and sad indeed, that there are those in society who, seemingly for their own purposes or social agenda, believe that encouraging and affirming the disordered feelings and perceptions of our youth will save them from pain and suffering.  Freedom from that pain and suffering can come only through a difficult but necessary journey of healing at the end of which they can fully realize and accept who God has made them to be.