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Why transgender ideology is harmful for children (and everyone)

A better way forward for those experiencing confusion about their gender and sexuality

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December 3, 2020

This week marked both a step forward and a step backward for the transgender movement. On Wednesday, actress Ellen Page, who starred in the films “Juno” and “Inception,” among others, announced that she is transgender. In her announcement, she declared to the world that her name is now Elliot Page and that she wished to be addressed with the pronouns he/they, instead of the feminine pronouns she/her. Immediately, the internet was abuzz with the news of the announcement, mostly celebrating Page’s courage, offering well wishes, and applauding another individual “embracing” her true identity.

But on the other side of the Atlantic, the High Court in the United Kingdom dealt a serious blow to the transgender movement. 

Moral sanity

In a landmark ruling, judges in the U.K. denied that children under the age of 16 are able to give informed consent to receive puberty blockers, which “suppress the body’s release of sex hormones, including testosterone and estrogen, during puberty.” As Alison Holt told the BBC, “The judges have effectively split the issue into stages. They concluded a child under 13 is ‘highly unlikely’ to be able to give informed consent and at 14 and 15 it is still ‘doubtful’ they can fully understand the implications of the medication. Even for 16 and 17-year olds the ruling says it may be appropriate to involve the courts in the decision.” In issuing the ruling, the court noted that puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones used as treatment for individuals experiencing gender dysphoria or wishing to “transition” genders are in fact experimental treatments, the long-term effects of which are still very much unknown. 

The news from the U.K. represents a victory for moral sanity. The court was right to recognize the experimental nature of these so-called treatments. And though it is shameful that this needs to be said, we should not experiment on the bodies of children. Moreover, we certainly should not do so when the treatments in question are invasive, dangerous, and could bring with them lifelong consequences. This leads to the larger point: Children experiencing confusion about their gender and sexuality are not in need of drugs or hormones. Instead, they are in need of nurture, guidance, and support. Oftentimes, what they are most in need of is truth. And this is the problem with the transgender movement.

The solution to gender problems is not puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, or surgeries. Instead, it is the pattern of God’s design for men and women that is set forth in the Scriptures and applied with the grace of the gospel.

The transgender movement is predicated upon a disturbing ideology that denies basic facts about human beings. But denying fundamental realities like the relationship between a person’s gender and his or her biological sex does nothing to alter these realities. Instead, it simply fosters an inchoate form of dissonance, typically in those who are already vulnerable or struggling. It tells those experiencing gender dysphoria that their bodies are incidental to their identities. It creates a disconnect between how individuals think and feel and who they actually are. But contrary to transgenderism’s harmful and destructive ideology, the theology of Scripture (not to mention biological science) offers a much better framework for understanding ourselves and our sexuality.

Bodies matter

The Bible not only tells us that God makes each person as either male or female (Gen. 1:26-27); the Scriptures also teach us what a person is. Human beings are complex creatures, to be sure, but fundamentally every person exists as an integrated whole. We are not simply our emotions, our minds, our bodies, or spirits. We are all of those things. And we are all of them at the same time. None of the things that make a person a person are fungible. Each of these aspects, together, make us who we are. 

For example, Christians are commanded to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30). This combination of the physical (heart, mind, and strength) with the spiritual (soul) represents loving God with our whole selves. This is why theologians will sometimes define a person as an “embodied soul.” Defining person this way clarifies that all of the things that make us who we are form an integrated unity. And the concept of unity is important when it comes to gender and sexuality because our bodies are not any more incidental to our identities than our emotions and feelings. 

Our biological sex, that is, whether we are male or female, was determined by God long before we were born. Our gender, or, the way we express our maleness or femaleness, is not something we choose either. Gender is tied to the biological reality of sex. And our sex, gender, and bodies are permanent features of our identities that we must not seek to change. Instead, as we embrace these elements of our identities, we are truly “finding ourselves.”

Broken but beautiful

Because our world is broken by sin, we often experience incongruence and discomfort within ourselves. This can manifest in all sorts of ways, but one of the most common ways it surfaces is with our sexual identities. Children experiencing gender dysphoria need to hear that it is natural to experience confusion or discomfort when it comes to their bodies and sexuality. Everyone does to some degree. And the presence of those feelings is no sign that a person was born as the wrong sex or should seek to transition to another gender.

This week’s High Court ruling from the U.K. recognizes the dangers of allowing children to pursue radical actions to relieve issues related to gender that can be detrimental to their long-term health. It is tragic that people who experience gender dysphoria or claim to be transgender also experience a host of other difficulties including bullying, rejection, and even self-hatred that can lead to depression and suicide. No wonder many cheered Page’s announcement this week. She was seen as a champion for those who are suffering in silence with the very same issues. But the solution to gender problems is not found in affirming something as deceptive and pernicious as transgender ideology. Instead, the answer is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The gospel says that God made you and loves you. Male or female, he made you as you are and as you were always intended to be. You are broken but beautiful. You are flawed but infinitely loved. Whether you experience occasional discomfort or unbearable incongruity, God gave you your body and sex and gender. And none of it was done by accident. The solution to gender problems is not puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, or surgeries. Instead, it is the pattern of God’s design for men and women that is set forth in the Scriptures and applied with the grace of the gospel.

Josh Wester

Joshua B. Wester serves as the Chair of Research in Christian Ethics at the ERLC. He is also pursuing a Th.M. in Public Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Josh is married to McCaffity, and they have two children. Read More by this Author