Questioning the one-sided media narrative on transgender children

I have noticed more and more material appearing in popular media promoting the embrace of transgender identities. It seems that the push for the normalization of transgender is now focusing on children. And usually, this is done with images and real-life stories that have a powerful emotional appeal (see videos below). The common narrative that I am seeing in these pieces goes like this:

1. Some children feel themselves to have a gender identity at odds with their sexual identity.

2. This situation causes psychological conflict leading to depression, anxiety, and potentially suicide.

3. Resolving this psychological conflict is necessary in order to spare children this suffering.

4. The only way to resolve this conflict is for parents and other adults to recognize and embrace the child’s transgender identity—which would include adopting the manner and dress of the opposite sex and/or hormone therapies and/or gender reassignment surgeries.

5. Anyone who refuses to recognize and endorse a child’s transgender identity harms children and may even contribute to the conditions that cause them to commit suicide.

I think most people would find numbers 1, 2, and 3 uncontroversial. The problem is that numbers 4 and 5 do not follow from numbers 1, 2, and 3. The last two points are non sequiturs at best and misleading propaganda at worst.

It is simply not true that the only way to resolve this conflict is by embracing a so-called transgender identity for these children. Studies have shown that 70%-80% of children who report having transgender feelings eventually grow out of them (read about it here). That means that the vast majority of children experiencing these difficulties resolve these conflicts over time (contra number 4). It also means that any medical interventions causing permanent changes to a child’s body is a short-sighted, long-term cruelty for the 70%-80% who grow out of these feelings (contra number 5). Furthermore, it means that 70%-80% could have great conflict in later years trying to unwind a public identity that they no longer wish to embrace but that their parents and other adults encouraged them to embrace as small children (also contra number 5).

Right now, the media narrative is only presenting one side of the story. They are acting as if there is only one way to help these children. Yet it may be that there is a better way to resolve the conflict that these children are experiencing. It may be that the most loving way to help them is to steer them into embracing a gender identity that aligns with their sexual identity. Why would we accept the absurd claim that changing a child’s body through hormonal therapy or surgery is okay but changing a child’s mind through loving parental guidance is not okay? I am not saying that this is necessarily going to be easy. Such a course will take much support and unconditional love and willingness to hang in there with them through a difficult process. But wouldn’t it be worth it for the sake of these dear children?

We all need to be aware that much of the material we confront in popular media is hopelessly one-sided and ideological. It is emotionally powerful. But is it true? I argue that it is not and that parents would do well not to let propaganda manipulate them into making bad decisions for their children. There is a better way.

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NBC News: Jacob’s Journey: Life as a Transgender 5-Year-Old

CNN: ‘Raising Ryland’: Parenting a transgender child

BBC: Crystal/Cole Lives Part Time as a Girl, Part Time as a Boy, Is Happy

15 Responses to Questioning the one-sided media narrative on transgender children

  1. Christiane Smith April 21, 2015 at 8:21 pm #

    Very complicated issue, DENNY.

    I’ve been thinking about this: “Why would we accept the absurd claim that changing a child’s body through hormonal therapy or surgery is okay but changing a child’s mind through loving parental guidance is not okay?”;
    and I am wondering if it is really a matter of ‘changing a child’s mind’, which IF the child’s mind COULD be changed, would seem the kinder and wiser way to go . . . no irrevocable surgeries, no psychological torment, no intake of hormonal treatments with all that can do at a young age.

    But I am thinking also of the possibility that there is far more involved than just an exercise of the ‘will’ at work . . . I imagine what it might have been like to be born into ‘the wrong body’ with my feminine persona, and how it might be if someone felt they could change my mind into being ‘male’ to go with my ‘wrong body’;
    and if this is how it is for these children in circumstances where they don’t understand what is going on with themselves, much less comprehend the anxiety and fear their parents may be experiencing because of their difficulty . . . so much for a child to bear, that it seems to us that we must do nothing to harm that child further . . . but what IS going on? do we understand everything fully yet about this condition? and if and how it can be helped ? or not?

    I remember when parents ‘chose’ a sex for their babies that were born with hermaphroditic organs, and then expected the child to grow up with that chosen sex mentally . . . only sometimes, the parents chose wrong, and the child suffered terribly.

    Too much is not understood. I fear that by ‘taking sides’ and each side feeling like it is the rightful one, it is like we come with the child before Solomon’s judgement, and only our compassionate love for that child can preserve it from destruction.

    Love for the child must trump a claim of ‘being right’. It did in Solomon’s day. It still does.

  2. Sandra Stewart April 21, 2015 at 8:46 pm #

    I am one of the few on the internet who have a web site for transgender children, their parents and school counselors. tgchrysalis.com I am asked by parents who have gender nonconforming children what they should do. My response is as little as possible but that may be quite a lot. For some it may be a phase but I am witness to the fact that for many/most it is not.
    Paul McHugh is not well respected as a therapist or researcher and I can find well done research countering his. Current research indicates that regrets for transitioning are rare.
    The cost of not dealing with transgender children are graphically illustrated by the suicide of Lelah Alcorn, Efforts towards change are unsuccessful and were a contributor to her suicide.
    Most children are not TS and only 4% of the community are post-op transsexual.

    • Karen Butler April 22, 2015 at 3:36 pm #

      I was one of the few on the internet who responded to the swarming of TGC by trans activists and SJW’s when it posted Russel Moore’s ethics question “Joan or John” six months ago. http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/joan-or-john

      You are welcome to read my comments there for more fully developed views.

      Dr. McHugh is not respected for the same reason Professor Oscar Lopez is not — they have the temerity to challenge the use by Big Gay of little children as human shields in the culture wars. No research at all is valid on this highly politicized topic, because these gender nonconforming children we observe now are guinea pigs, and it would take a study like Martin Harrows’ twenty year follow-up on anti-psychotics to add any meaning to this discussion. And just like Harrows if the conclusions are uncomfortable for the powerful they will be deemed to not add to the discussion and will be buried.

      I am relieved you recommend parents do ‘little as possible’ but I think filling pre-pubescents with hormones is a little too much already. Haven’t they banned BPA because it is a hormone disrupter and they are concerned, and have some very solid studies that prove deleterious effects on children’s longtime fertility and brain development? Thank God, most of these confused children are wealthy and empowered, because Generation Rx is filled to the brim already with psychiatry’s experimental subjects among the poor and disenfranchised.( How fortunate most of these children are to not be in foster care because that is where the Dr. Mengeles are doing their nefarious work and getting away with it — Google Study 329 — no doctors were disciplined, JAMA was not forced to retract,and BigPharma had its hands slapped.)

      So, all we have to work with are some gripping narratives. And for all your’ Leah Alcorns’ there are plenty of ‘Ria Cooper’s’ — the UK’s youngest transgender who is seeking to reverse the hormone rejections and make peace with his gender. https://gendertrender.wordpress.com/2012/10/29/uks-youngest-transgender-patient-seeks-to-reverse-sex-change/ Read the comments especially by the owner of the site, ‘GallusMag’ who refutes your contention in great detail, about puberty blockers being harmless and reversible.

      You must know about that site — “GenderTrender” — all those queer feminists who are righteously outraged about the caricatures of femininity that transwomen perpetuate! But anyone who goes there is warned, it is a fascinating, in-your-face and unsanitized look at the paradoxes faced by radical feminism. But they raise some very good questions about this new fad of gender confused children.

  3. Don Johnson April 21, 2015 at 9:22 pm #

    I think the families in those 2 videos are making the best choice they can make based on the info they have at the time they are making the decision. And you make your best decision knowing ahead of time that at some later point there may be regrets. I also think it someone is not in their shoes, it is best not to try to second guess their decisions, they are closest to the situation.

    The Jewish rabbis point out that the goal of their covenants with God is to live. So they say that when under the treat of harm, the only three commandments that they must follow are to not commit idolatry, not murder and not commit adultery, all the other commandments can be ignored if required to sustain life in the extreme. Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God and the next is to love others as oneself, to me this means that if any other thing found in Scripture ends up opposing those two things, then that other thing drops away from consideration and love prevails.

  4. James Bradshaw April 21, 2015 at 10:54 pm #

    I share Denny’s concern about taking drastic measures to solidify a transgender identity in children.

    I also understand why some may feel the need to be affirming. To discourage it would imply moral disapproval of what the child might be.

    I don’t think this needs to be the case. Adolescence is a tumultuous period of life. Perspectives and personalities (and even physicality) change radically within a short period of time.

    Why make decisions that cannot be undone later?

    Most people would balk at allowing a teen (or pre-teen) to get breast implants or even a nose job. I’d think that utilizing hormone therapy or any type of sex reassignment surgery would be far more drastic and thus requiring far greater deliberation and time for consideration.

  5. lynnb100 April 22, 2015 at 1:00 am #

    This is very sad. Since when do we allow small children to make such decisions?

    Remember the day not so long ago when some little girls hid their pigtails under a baseball cap and went by a nickname such as Sam? Most reached puberty, maybe later than most, and decided they wanted to wear their hair down and even curled it when a special boy took notice. Maybe they never did become the lace and ribbons type, maybe they chose to become a forest ranger and not a nurse (although nurses today are increasingly male) but nobody including her believed she was a man in a woman’s body.

    We do sometimes in some ways unnecessarily try to pour everyone into a tight fitting mold of what is “normal,” but the answer to that is not to set aside common sense and do the completely insane.

    A child with hermaphroditic organs or abnormal chromosomes makes for some very difficult decisions. But that is rare and not what is presented in these videos.

  6. Curt Day April 22, 2015 at 1:50 pm #

    I agree that points #4 & #5 don’t follow from the first 3 points. But I am wondering if #4 & #5 are a result because we don’t know how to disagree while affirming the equality of the person with whom we disagree.

  7. Chris Ryan April 22, 2015 at 1:55 pm #

    My hunch is that more often than not this is some parent’s wish for a boy or a girl getting the better of them. Gender is mostly constructed socially. What it means to be a “boy” or be a “girl” has changed a lot and is changing before our very eyes. When FDR was a little boy pink was for boys; and little boys often wore Shirley Temple style hairstyles (if you Google “FDR, boy, hair, dress” you’ll see a famous picture of him that looks more like Shirley Temple).

    I don’t think the media is choosing sides here. They’re broadcasting the stories because its a controversial subject even among liberals, but because the coverage is of children they’re trying to be sympathetic. I do think the best things parents can do in these situations is just to be neutral and gently encourage their children toward more gender conforming dress and behavior.

  8. Brian Sanders April 22, 2015 at 1:58 pm #

    From FoxNews.com

    Apr. 22, 2015 – 1:47 – Teachers at Horace Mitchell Primary School in Maine read a book to children about a young child with a boy’s body but a girl’s brain. What happened to good old-fashioned nursery rhymes?

    http://video.foxnews.com/v/4188897990001/starnes-school-teaches-5-year-olds-about-transgenderism/?intcmp=obinsite#sp=show-clips

    • ian Shaw April 22, 2015 at 2:25 pm #

      Reaffirms even more my decision to not send my children to public schools.

  9. Anon Foster April 22, 2015 at 4:33 pm #

    As a foster parent I can tell you that there are people in the system who would love to prevent anybody who believes the Biblical Christian view on this issue from being able to foster. It is not uncommon for teens in the foster system(most of whom have been abused) to have gender identity issues, and many social workers believe it is emotionally abusive to teach Christian sexual ethics to these kids. Immediately on the heels of preventing people like me from becoming foster parents will be the ability for the state to take children with gender identity confusion away from their parents if the parents refuse to embrace the child’s sexual identity. I have already spoken with people who think that the state should have the right to do just that. It’s scary stuff.

  10. Johnny Mason April 22, 2015 at 8:00 pm #

    There is nothing loving about accommodating someone’s delusions or mental disorder. The vast majority of individuals struggling with these issues grow out of it, and the ones who do not and undergo surgery have a high rate of suicide. By encouraging this behavior you are only harming them more.

    We would never think to give liposuction to someone who is suffering from anorexia or to prescribe cosmetic surgery to someone who is suffering from species dysphoria.

    • Jay Hall April 25, 2015 at 1:26 pm #

      In my mind, this has more to do with how overly dichotomous our culture is when it comes to gender. If a little girl wants to play sports and hates to wear dresses, the parents nowadays will be concerned that she’s really a “boy trapped in a girl’s body.” If a little boy runs like a sissy and wants to play with princess dolls, the parents will be concerned that he’s transgender and needs to be given puberty-blocking medication.

      I’m glad I had parents who didn’t seem concerned that I hated outdoorsy things. They allowed me to be artistic, sensitive, and pursue “girly” interests, while at the same time affirming the fact that I was a boy, and not a lesser boy than my rough-and-tumble, masculine brother. I grew up with a healthy gender identity, and I grew up realizing that there are simply different types of men.

      As much as liberal feminists say they hate gender stereotypes, the trans narrative in the media conforms to stereotypes to an obsessive degree.

  11. Jay Hall April 25, 2015 at 1:19 pm #

    I know many LGBT people, including some trans people, who are uncomfortable with the “trans children” media narrative. For starters, a boy wanting to play with Barbies and glitter doesn’t make him a girl. A girl wanting to play sports and wear pants doesn’t make her a boy. So much of the current media narrative revolves around outdated gender stereotypes that feminists and gays have been fighting against for years. When you think about it, the parents of the “trans children” come across as depressingly conservative. They can’t stand the idea of having a sissy son or a butch daughter, so they pigeonhole their children into body modifications that the kids can’t possibly consent to.

    What parents ought to do is let children be children. Let a girl play with cars and trucks, if that’s what she’s into. Let a boy be artistic, sensitive, and nonathletic. Teach the children that being a boy doesn’t mean you can’t be a ballet dancer or a dressmaker. Teach the girl that being a girl doesn’t mean you can’t join the military or build a house. Maybe the children will grow up to be gay. Maybe they won’t. Maybe they’ll just be healthy straight people who were allowed to explore their world and try different things. The problem with these “trans children” is that they’re being held in a state of arrested development. They should be allowed to try on different identities and pursue different interests, not pigeonholed into one by progressive busybodies.

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