Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Transgender children

Over the past few weeks and years, “transgendered” people have become a fashionable cause. One of the first well known transgenders was Chaz Bono, the only daughter of Sonny and Cher. Chaz, born Chastity Bono, went through a “gender-change” operation and legally changed his name and gender – in California, of course – in 2010.

Even before Chazz, there was Thomas Beatie who was billed as the world’s first pregnant man. Beatie, who had a sex-change in 2002, still has female reproductive organs. This allowed him to give birth to three children. Beatie was granted male legal status by Hawaii.

It may be surprising for many people to learn that a person can legally have their gender changed, but many states, even Georgia, allow it. According to the Mega Family Project, Georgia law allows “all transpeople” to change their names, but will only reissue birth certificates or change the sex listed on a driver’s license if the person can supply a notarized affidavit from a surgeon that they “are undergoing or have undergone gender-reassignment surgery.” Mega Family would like to eliminate the surgery requirement.

It is damaging enough to society when adults suffer from gender confusion, but it is even worse when the problem spreads to children. In the past month, there have been a number of cases in which transgender children made the news.

In the first story, an eleven-year-old California boy is being allowed by his two lesbian parents to have hormone therapy to block male puberty. In another story, a seven-year-old Denver boy was allowed to join Girl Scouts. also featured a story about a young boy who, from age four, wanted to live as a girl. The boy’s mother is regional director of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).

The debate can be framed by comments taken from the Girl Scout story. Fox News reports that the troop leader initially refused the boy’s request to join because “It doesn’t matter how he looks. He has boy parts, and he can’t be in Girl Scouts.” In reversing the troop leader’s decision, a Girl Scout statement said, “If a child identifies as a girl and the child's family presents her as a girl, Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomes her as a Girl Scout.”

On one side of the issue are people who say that gender is a fact that can’t be changed. If a child is born as a boy or girl, then that child remains a boy or girl because they have the appropriate parts. If their genitals are mutilated by surgery and their body is distorted by hormones, it does not change the fundamental fact that they are the same person that they were when they were born.

On the other side are people who feel that physical characteristics are not as important as how a person feels. If a person identifies with members of the opposite sex more than their own, then it must mean that they really are a member of the opposite sex. Rather than learning to be happy in their own skin, these people believe that gender-confused people should have hormone therapy and surgery to make their body match their feelings.

The adults who encourage these children to live out their transgender fantasies do real damage to the kids. Any parent knows that kids can say and do some outlandish things. It is the responsibility of the parent to guide their children along the right path and get them appropriate help when needed. It is difficult to imagine that it would be appropriate to help a child embark upon a lifelong journey of running from their true identity to pursue a transgender dream. It would probably be more helpful to the child to learn to accept and be happy in their own skin.

Focus on the Family notes that most children who are gender-confused “grow out of it” by their teens or early adulthood. The group recommends that parents lovingly direct their children toward appropriate gender roles: “For boys, the mother should be the one to ‘push’ the child from feminine behavior, and the father should ‘pull’ the boy toward more masculine play and interests.” The group also notes that one of the worst courses of action is to shame boys for “girl-like” behavior.

Some parents probably believe that by indulging their children in their gender disorientation in ways from allowing them to dress and style their hair in the fashion of the opposite sex, to calling themselves by a opposite sex name, to allowing hormone therapy and surgery, they are helping to alleviate their child’s anxiety. In the short term this may be true. In the long term, they are likely causing severe damage to their child, however. Such damage to children may ultimately prove to be one of the strongest arguments against same-sex marriage.

There are numerous studies that indicate transgender people are at a substantially increased risk for other forms of mental illness as well. MSNBC reports that nearly half of transgender people have attempted to commit suicide due to higher rates of depression. They face other health risks as well, including an HIV infection rate of over four times that of the general population.

For the LGBT community, the answer to these problems seems to be to change the rest of the world rather than to cure the illness of Gender Identity Disorder. In effect, this is asking society to honor the fantasy that gender can be changed even though when hormone therapy is stopped the transgendered person’s body starts to revert to its natural state.

Many readers will probably view this as hate or homophobia, but is it really hate to point out the truth that virtually everyone knows and yet is hesitant to say? It is arguably more disrespectful to pretend that a man can change himself into a woman (or vice versa) and more loving to help them become the people that they were born to be.

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