Confusion & Fear Over Transgender Children

Randy Thomas, the executive vice president of Exodus and an ex-gay yesterday answered some questions about transgender children for Focus on the Family’s CitizensLink on-line newsletter. Throughout the article I see evidence of confusion, misinformation and downright fear.

Hearkening back to the 50’s and 60’s Thomas laments,

With my parents’ generation — the boomers and older — there were deeply taught gender roles, but that started breaking down with Gen X. Now people don’t know how to teach being a male or a female to younger males or younger females.

His answers quickly turn to highlighting lavender scare of gay activists in the school system and the fears he has of the consequence of letting young people decide for themselves if they are a boy or a girl,

The schools are being co-opted by a worldview that is undermining a child’s ability to learn how to be a responsible citizen, and they are going to create chaos. Teenagers are confused enough about their identity; they don’t need gay activists or transgendered activists going into their schools confusing them even further.

Actually many of these transgender children are the only ones NOT confused about their identity. The confusion comes when adults tell them they don’t know what they are talking about.

I sat at dinner with 16 year old Sean and his mom. Sean knew he was a boy as early as age three. Apparently and his mom were uninvited to the Oprah Show when they couldn’t produce any early photos of Sean looking like a little girl. He just never did even though biologically it appeared he was born one.

Some people like Randy Thomas want a very simple world with everything falling neatly into place. When it comes to gender, things do not turn out so simply. How do we account for individuals who are born intersex with both or ambiguous genitals. Usually a doctor determines the sex of the infant and has often gotten it wrong.

But our sex (and especially gender) is not simply determined by the bits between our legs. All sorts of complex processes happen in the womb around our sex that biologically affect our brains, hormones, body types and more. In a simple world where certain people want to think that nothing ever deviates from the mythical norms of the 1950’s, some people come out of the womb with the outside not matching the inside. But instead of listening to these folks, (often because they are children and considered by some to be ignorant) some people insist that these young people are wrong about who they know themselves to be.

Gender variant and transgender people have been around for a very long time. Recently they have had more opportunities to tell their stories, so suddenly for some it seems these stories are new. Consider jazz musician Billy Tipton who lived all his life as male without any questions from anyone. After he died, it came to light that he was biologically female. Many transgender people have passed for thousands of years. There is nothing new under the sun.

Conflating issues of marriage with gender identity, Thomas writes,

As Christians, we know that male and female both uniquely represent the image of God, and when they come together in the form of marriage, they bear witness of Him in a way that they can’t do alone. So gender identity is very important to God.

In fact, gender is so very important that gender variant people pop up all over the place in the Bible. The entire book of Esther would fall apart without the surgically altered gender other eunuchs. You have people acting and presenting outside of gender norms and roles in key stories in Genesis, Judges and the Gospels. Randy may consider coming to see my play Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible.

Most importantly we need to sit with transgender people, hear their stories and learn the scientific facts about sex and gender, particularly the complex pre-natal processes that occur.

This post has 18 Comments

  1. Dave Rattigan on March 15, 2008 at 2:50 pm Reply

    Re: that first quote, this demonstrates a frequent assumption by LGBT’s critics, namely that these things just didn’t exist back in the good old days. (Hand-in-hand with that goes the belief that by acknowledging LGBT, suddenly everyone’s going to start getting confused about their own gender and sexuality – to which I say, Hey, if it makes you insecure and confused about who you are, that’s your issue!) It’s more likely that these things always existed, but were never allowed to be expressed. That people coped (or didn’t) simply by living lives of misery, or worse, not living their lives at all.

  2. Anonymous on March 15, 2008 at 4:36 pm Reply

    Peterson,

    I have come to very much enjoy your comments. I have to admit that your ‘take’ on transsexuality especially appeals to me.

    I’m a woman who had to ‘pass’ as a woman after going through a transition from a male-configured body. It’s not an open secret and I have no trouble with ‘passing.’

    I just wanted to tell you that your heart and understanding I find particularly poignant and refreshing. More to the point I find it very well encompasses my experiences and my hopes that others are able to find that we are neither ‘evil’ nor a ‘threat.’

    Like most people, we simply want to live our lives in peace and watch our children grow up in a country more given to caring than to irrational fear and loathing.

    I believe that people like yourself are helping bring that reality to fruition. Blessing to you.

  3. DK on March 15, 2008 at 6:59 pm Reply

    Higly interesting. Ha ha. This ex gay-know-it-all tells teh truth about things he knows EEEEVERYTHING about. Or not.

    Btw. My grandmother was raised in a time when there was a lot of emphasis put on making people RIGHT. Oh, by that I mean right HANDED. Funny, she writes with the right hand (because she was beaten the crap out of in school when she tried otherwise), but she is left handed anyway!

    Since 1900 the prevalence of lefthandedness in the western world has risen dramatically.

    And now we see the consequences! Letting people do stuff with whichever hand they prefer has made kids all confused, making them mentally unstable. Yes. Kids spend all days wondering which hand they should use for different tasks. This makes them non-responsible people, more interested in thinking about themselves than our good, Christian values! It also completely horrible, because now people have TWO things to masturbate with – so there is more sinister to the sinistre than you would expect! ;D

  4. DK on March 15, 2008 at 7:02 pm Reply

    Oh, btw, noone worry, the prevalence of lefthandedness has stabilized around 10%. We are not taking over the world!

    And please – don’t mention the ambidextrous – that would be way to advanced for the general public. Ha ha ah.

  5. Angelia Sparrow on March 16, 2008 at 1:24 am Reply

    Peterson, I’m not sure if you know, but Alec Adams of Tricky Pixie is trans. That concert was amazing (pity you had to leave early, you missed the conga line)

    For all that the political situation is discouraging sometimes, it’s also very exciting to be living in this era, when people can be who they are.

  6. Lisa on March 17, 2008 at 3:32 am Reply

    Just to post an edit note- Billy Tipton was biologically female, so the story goes. And, in case it comes up on Jeopardy.

    As far as the interview in the Focus on the Family site, bias based on ignorance and a closed mind to difference, and fact is bigotry. I don’t think it is the first time we have seen bigotry in the name of the lord.

    Transexualism in children? Obviously we are unable to teach children such basics as how to be a man, we’ve lost the way. John Wayne, Erroll Flynn, Humphrey Bogart have all passed away Now, everything is taking us down the path of ruin.

    What are we to do? I know there are too many people willing to believe the ideas presented on the FOF site. They can make me weary.

    Thanks for your site.

  7. Liadan on March 17, 2008 at 1:07 pm Reply

    If you have to TEACH someone how to act according to their genitalia, gender roles according to assigned sex must not be all that “natural,” huh?

    The mind boggles.

  8. Carol on March 17, 2008 at 1:38 pm Reply

    The thing is, most of the “Christian training” that I’ve had goes against the love and acceptance that Jesus has for all of us here on the planet. My experience is that we are only acceptable to God if we are acceptable to FOF-type standards. Further, the concept that all things fall into place if we do the “right” things, believe the “right” ways, and pray the “right” prayers – and all will turn out “right” if we make the “right” choices. (Turns out, it just doesn’t always work that way.) Expressing my thoughts to the contrary is like trying to go against the flow in the lines at Disneyworld.

  9. Diana_CT on March 17, 2008 at 4:54 pm Reply

    What strikes me is that he said that the children are not being taught to be male or female. Well what are they suppose to learn? That it is OK for boys to play football but not be a ballet dancer. Alternatively, that girls should learn to be homemakers but not engineers and scientist.

    That being a bigot or a homophobe is preferable to have a worldview where everyone is treated equality. I think they are still stuck in the ‘50’s in the “Father Knows Best” world. Where it was alright to discriminate and stereotype individuals.

  10. Sunny Dee on March 18, 2008 at 9:33 am Reply

    Steve was born a boy, thinks he’s a girl and now thinks he’d feel best looking like an apricot on the outside to match his inside. Once he was a fruitophobic but now has embraced the cause so that he is going to have re-constructive surgery to make his outsides match his insides. How dare anyone think this is not normal. Everyone should reveal their inner fruit to the whole world! Trans-gender afflicted people I feel the most sorry for. Their quest for acceptance knows no bounds and the more drastic the change the less fulfilled and accepted they feel. It’s no wonder GLBT’s have a higher rate for drug abuse, suicide and depression. All that rejection takes it toll on one’s soul but gay life pretends that aspect does not exist since the center of the gay universe is always a bar.

  11. Peterson Toscano on March 18, 2008 at 5:19 pm Reply

    sunny dee, I remember when I first came out as gay. Filled with residual shame and still believing all the myths about LGBT people, I hated the idea of being part of the gay world which I assumed had at the center of its universe a bar.

    I have been fortunate though and have experienced all sorts of LGBT peoplethroughout the US, Canada, Europe, West Africa and the Caribbean and have discovered that I need never enter a bar to meet up with brilliant, interesting and thoughtful LGBT people. And I can also meet amazing people at bars too.

    I can meet them in book clubs and film festivals, cafes and poetry jams, gay bingo at community centers, churches, choirs, theater productions, anti-war rallies, food pantries, orchid societies, gay soccer teams, softball and bowling leagues, conferences, colleges, hiking clubs, camps, resorts, cruises, and bookstores.

    I find LGBT folks on the board of LGBT organizations, at concerts, and gay-owned restaurants. I meet folks on-line through wonderful social networking sites like http://www.gaycrhstian.net, and of course blogging. I meet them at book signings and Pride Flag making events, art shows and Gospel concerts, political rallies and fund raisers for LGBT youth groups.

    I meet them in homes for game night or to watch the Super Bowl or NCAA Championships or to just hang out with them and their kids. We go to the beach, out on the lake for the day or just a cup of coffee or a prayer meeting or a music jam.We camp together at spiritual or arts festivals. We worship at national or regional gatherings. We read together, share music and listen to many different LGBT comics and storytellers. We work on causes, in gardens, and on school projects.

    In my LGBT world, I meet hundreds of well-adjusted, content folks living their lives, pursuing their dreams, contributing to their communities. Traveling has helped me to see beyond the myths and find our people in all sorts of wonderful nooks and crannies. None of us need to remain trapped in the shame and the myths.

    For me many trans people have been strong models and inspirational roles for me in their fearless pursuit of authenticity. I feel beyond pleased to know them and have greatly grown as a result of their lives and integrity.

  12. Carol on March 18, 2008 at 10:27 pm Reply

    Yeah, that was what I wanted you to say!

  13. paraflax on March 19, 2008 at 1:50 pm Reply

    But sunny dee, transsexual people who gets acceptance has lower suicide levels than any other GLBT-group and arent more suicide than the regular straight christian person. So your theory is just plain wrong.

    Where the gays have their center has peterson already written about but as for me, my center is with my kids.

    If you feel sorry for me I surely feel sorry for you.

  14. KarenSDR on March 24, 2008 at 11:59 pm Reply

    You might find this article interesting:

    http://www.rockymountainnews.com/news/2008/mar/01/its-me-in-a-different-way/

    It’s about a transgendered high school kid in my town. She’s got a lot of guts, since it’s a pretty conservative town. I was encouraged to find that the school administration is supporting her.

  15. Peterson Toscano on March 25, 2008 at 1:37 am Reply

    karensdr, Great article. Thanks for the link!

  16. Jennie Kermode on April 3, 2008 at 5:02 pm Reply

    Back in Medieval times the Church was quite open about the existence of intersexed people and saw no difficulty in fitting them into society. It did require them to choose either a male or a female identity at the point of marriage (an identity which could not be altered if they were widowed and wanted to marry again), but at least this gave them the freedom to make their own decisions at puberty – something we don’t always have today.

    I grew up intersexed and intergendered and getting through school was very difficult, more because of the attitudes of teachers than of other kids. Transgender people don’t need to ‘go into schools’ – they’re already there.

  17. Anonymous on July 5, 2008 at 12:28 am Reply

    so sorry to see these posts. Transgender is a mental issue. These people are mentally ill, and should be looked at and treated as such.

  18. sue on July 26, 2008 at 5:47 pm Reply

    If gender identity is not determined by genetialia, then why are transgendered people so concerned with changing theirs so it corresponds to how they feel?

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