The Little Boy Who Wanted To Be a Girl

I witnessed one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen last week. It was a report on NBC’s “Dateline” about an 11-year old child named Josie Romero. Josie looks like a normal little prepubescent girl. Only it turns out, that Josie was not born as Josie but as Joey. Josie was born biologically as a boy. Yet somewhere along the way, he decided that he liked behaving and dressing like a girl.

Dateline interviewed Josie’s supportive parents and talked to them about the difficult transition that Josie has made over the last couple of years as he has totally given up any male identity so that he can look and act like a little girl. Now that he’s eleven, he’s on the edge of puberty, and he wants to have surgery to make the change permanent and official. His parents, however, are considering putting him on hormone suppressers to delay puberty so that they can figure out what they want to do next.

I don’t pretend to understand all the pathologies that lead a little boy to identify as a transgender person. Nevertheless, there was one very telling moment in the story. While looking through some dresses for a photo-shoot, Josie comes to her step father and says, “Daddy, is this okay? Can I do this?” It turns out that the step father had been uncomfortable with this transition all along, but with this question his resolve completely melts away. He says, “At that point, all of this became a reality to me. And I no longer had a son. And I had to put all my feelings aside to embrace my daughter.”

How does a parent get to the point that they are willing to put all their feelings aside to embrace a child’s desire to be something other than what God created them to be? A parent gets to that point because he’s viewing his child’s natural inclinations as basically good—whatever they are—and as something to be affirmed.

These parents are doing great damage to their child because they are not seeing the human condition for what it is. Our view of human nature is decisively shaped by our worldview. If you are a modern person, you are likely to embrace the view that human beings are basically good, though sometimes they may make bad decisions. In this worldview, the role of the parent is simply to affirm whatever identity a child chooses since that child is coming from a place of inherent goodness.

Yet the biblical doctrine of original sin would have us size this situation up differently. If you believe the Bible, you know that children aren’t born innocent. They are born with a natural inclination to sin (Rom. 5:12; Eph. 2:1-4), and they are born into a world that is under a curse because of sin (Rom. 8:20). We should expect our children to have many “natural” inclinations that will be sinful and out of line with God’s purpose for them. Thus, the job of parenting is often to guide children in ways that contradict their inherent feelings. Leading them in paths of righteousness will necessarily involve that kind of confrontation—especially in cases like this one.

“Discipline your son while there is hope, And do not desire his death” (Prov. 19:18).

17 Responses to The Little Boy Who Wanted To Be a Girl

  1. Ryan Szrama July 16, 2012 at 7:53 am #

    “A parent gets to that point because he’s viewing his child’s natural inclinations as basically good—whatever they are—and as something to be affirmed.”

    I’d have to second that. I was just reading Sex at Dawn on the recommendation of a contact in a largely atheistic (or at best spiritual / agnostic) developer community, its basic premise being that our culture at large is trapped in a counter-evolutionary sexual ethic as a result of a religious culture of lifelong heterosexual marriage. It seems to be an exercise in legitimizing our “natural” sexual inclinations through an imaginary human sexual evolution informed by the sexual practices of the animal du jour.

    “Naturally”, the idea that our natural inclinations deserve to be affirmed must be inconsistent. In matters of personal identity and consensual physical relationships, it seems anything is fair game; but where a person’s natural inclinations infringe on another person’s rights, I suppose we’re just supposed to know that’s wrong. One of my friends who recently passed struggled with homosexuality for years, but he also believed he was born and always would be a kleptomaniac. To be consistent, it was much easier to assure him through the gospel that his natural inclinations in any area aren’t to be trusted and that the Scriptures should be the prism through which he filtered his desires and behavior. I’d be really interested to see how a therapist would justify the one set of feelings (sexual identity) while working to eliminate the other (covetousness / unthinking theft).

  2. Greg Baggett July 16, 2012 at 8:26 am #

    There are few things that I read about that leave me feeling sadly perplexed about where we are at this point in time. This story was one of them, however. I am indignant that the perversion of a fallen world is at the point it is. I am somewhat angry at parents that would allow a child to slide so far down that slope of perversion and would actually begin to embrace the misguided desires of an eleven year old. And finally, I am sad and hurting for all of them. Part of me screams, “Come quickly Lord Jesus”, and another part wants to the Father to extend His patience just a little longer so that people can be given just a little longer to have the truth of the gospel articulated to them in hopes that God will give them a burst of light and truth that will lead to repentance. So, sadly perplexed…. yeah, that’s me this morning.

  3. Don Johnson July 16, 2012 at 9:10 am #

    Of course this is a worldview question. If you believe that humans are formed into 2 distinct genders and there is no overlap, then one just looks at the externals to see what one is and what others are.

    However, the reality is that the process of gender formation is a part of the broken world and that there are intersex people, that mix attributes of both genders in various ways. So the question for me as a believer is how do I best love such people?

    I am a heterosexual male and I do not even understand heterosexual females sometimes, as I simply cannot walk in their shoes, so I certainly cannot walk in the shoes of intersex people. I do know that God loves them and calls me to love them also, but I am unsure exactly HOW to do this. The best I can do is listen to their stories about what it is like to be them. And when I do this, they consistently inform me that I should not try to fit them inside the 2 distinct genders model, which at the least is oversimplistic.

    • Randall Seale July 16, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

      Don – how do you relate your statement “the reality is that the process of gender formation is a part of the broken world and that there are intersex people” with what Jesus said “he who created them from the beginning made them male and female” (Mt. 19:4)?

      • Don Johnson July 16, 2012 at 5:40 pm #

        I think that most people are either male or female, but it has been shown that later male babies tend to get more “female” hormones from the mother in the womb when compared to their earlier born brothers, which tends to give the later ones more attributes that are associated with females, such as less body hair, etc. and that this is progressive with each male baby.

        And the process of forming a male baby from a generic baby body has multiple steps, any of them (or all of them in the case of testosterone insensitivity syndrome) can malfunction. So there are XY individuals who have totally female body types on the outside and some that are partial. So this is the reality we need to try to deal with.

        In Genesis and the subsequent references to it by Jesus and others, I see the idea of an ideal (unbroken) world as God intended without the effects of sin. Perhaps in such an ideal world such things as intersex people would not happen, but they DO happen in our broken world. I believe God loves intersex people, because I believe God loves all people and therefore I am to love them also. However, since I am not one of them, I need to listen to them when they tell me HOW to love them, just like I need to listen to my wife when she tells me HOW to love her.

  4. Steve Hedges July 16, 2012 at 12:22 pm #

    Thanks for the post! I do agree with your thoughts but had a thought of my own that I think is something to consider. You pointed out that you, and I think also the science community, don’t understand if/how this occurs. Your thoughts are coming from the standpoint that the child born sinful is just making a conscious decision to want to live as the other sex. We all are and I understand why you make that point. My problem is, We can’t say for sure, no one can, if this is not some how the “way” God created him. If sometime in the future we find that this is an actual congenital anomaly that happens during development, would this change your response? I’m not saying this is the case or not and not looking to suggest that we don’t still handle this situation in the way that you’re suggesting. What if we find that it is a gene problem without treatment and if it was your own child, thoughts on how you would continueto raise them?
    Its easy to quote scripture, but how can we council and loves family like this, Christian or not?

    • Denny Burk July 16, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

      There’s no indication that this child’s condition is owing to some kind of psycho-somatic physiological defect. In fact, normal puberty is upon him, and it will take hormone suppressors to hold him back from growing normally into the body of a young man.

      Having said that–even if there were some kind of physiological pathology to explain his behavior–that still doesn’t make his behavior right or pleasing in the sight of God. It would make us more compassionate about his physical challenges, but it wouldn’t cause us to throw out biblical definitions of male and female and their necessary connection to biological sex. The parents would still have the responsibility to raise this kid as a little boy.

  5. Paul Jacobs July 16, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

    We know that God created gender. However, there are abnormalities that develop as a result of the fall. I almost always side on my traditional fundamental ultra conservative nature when it comes to these things. However, this is not a “sexual” thing, but rather a gender issue. It has nothing to do with homosexuality and everything to do with neurological issues in the development of the child’s brain, often prior to birth.

    I think that we need to address whether this issue is one of cosmetics or true gender idenity. I do not mean to suggest that it is as simple as a surgical correction if the child was born with a tumor or an extra finger or toe due to a birth defect.

    If the child were to receive both hormone and surgery, why is this different than kids who receive other types of hormone or surgery such as growth hormones. Does it change who this child fundamentally is? Does the surgery / hormone treatment correct what may be wrong?

    • Randy Talley July 16, 2012 at 4:21 pm #

      Paul – I’m not sure I follow you. Are you saying that going the male-to-female route is possibly the “right” thing – or in the best interests – of this child?

    • Charles Mackey July 17, 2012 at 10:21 am #

      I see this distinction between “gender” and “sex,” or rather the separation of “gender identity” from one’s physical attributes made more an more often. I would like to know when gender became a mental rather than a physical condition. Gender is not something that we can choose. No matter what we might feel about our gender, our feelings do not change the facts of how we were born. I understand that some children are born with conflicting physical attributes, but that is a different matter entirely.

      The parents were foolish for ever having indulged the whims of a six year old child (Joey was six when he began to identify as a female) on such a serious issue. If the boy had identified as a tiger rather than a human, the parents simply would have smiled, patted him on the head, and played along until that fascination ended and he moved on to something else. Their indulgence of this whim can only be attributed to our cultural attitudes about gender and homosexuality. Consider that the culture sees it as anathema for anyone to suggest that a homosexual can change their sexual inclinations (as they see it as a fixed state of being), but those same people believe it is perfectly reasonable to change the physical state of a child to suit a gender preference.

      But the more pressing issue now is that they are considering taking steps to drastically physically alter this child. I cannot understand how this isn’t seen as child abuse. If the child chose, when he was of legal age, to make those changes to himself, that would be his prerogative for right or wrong. To be coerced into making those changes by a group of adults is abhorrent.

    • Paul Jacobs July 17, 2012 at 11:00 am #

      Randy,

      This is a tough one. On one hand I have to put my theological glasses on and look at this through the lens of a solid biblical understanding of personhood and the sinful nature. I am not convinced that this applies completely in this situation.

      The clear biblical passages referencing our teachings of biblical manhood / womanhood are not in doubt. However, I am not sure if it is good hermeneutics to apply these passages of scripture to what could be a neurological and biological abnormality. This is not an issue of homosexuality or immorality but rather a condition that may have some biological / neurological / prenatal pathology. If a child is abnormally short and parents opt to use growth hormones to add a few cubits to his stature, is that wrong? Growth issues are caused by an abnormality in the brain and the failure to have proper hormone. Is this situation that much different?

      • Randy Talley July 17, 2012 at 12:10 pm #

        My answer to that question would be “yes, it is different”. Since the presence of a Y chromosome is what determines gender, I think placing gender issues into a gray area where the Bible does not do so is a dangerous thing. Medicine is great for helping with illnesses, handicaps, etc., – where it really can help. Pumping female hormones into a Y-chromosome body is something altogether different.

        My approach to this is that God was not surprised when this child was born with the distinctives mentioned in the article above. He was born into the same fallen world as the rest of us, and is no more or less depraved than any of us who are descended from Adam. Nevertheless, I would also say that he was just as “fearfully and wonderfully made” as the psalmist.

        Is there a “solution” to this issue? Not outside of the gospel. The family members said nothing indicating that any of them had saving faith, so the choices they made shouldn’t come as a surprise. One of my concerns in all of this is that there will be even greater confusion for these folks in the future if and when God redeems this child or his parents.

        • Paul Jacobs July 19, 2012 at 11:45 am #

          If the presence of the Y chromosome were the only consideration as to the determination of gender idenity (not sexual preference) then I am sure we would agree. I am not so sure that the Y chromosome presence is the sole determining factor. If it is, upon what is this based? In other words, “Says who?”

          Yes he is fearfully and wonderfully made as we all are. Is this not the case with a cleft pallet? Is this not the case with a club foot? Medicine can provide great relief in this case.

          Having vast experience in a mental health hospital, I can tell you that mental disorders often are medical issues, even without the presence of drugs and alcohol which always makes it worse. There is no indication that this is the case with this child.

          There are no easy answers. This is why Christian brothers can disagree and still love Jesus. Until I have walked a mile in the parent’s shoes, I am not so sure that I would have anything relevant to say. I have a friend who went to court to keep his brain dead child on life support because he believed that the “life was in the blood.” As long as the child’s heart was beating, then the child should be kept alive at any cost and for as long as necessary, even if there is no hope of recovery. The child died while on life support prior to a legal decision thus rendering any judicial action moot. While I may not believe as my friend does, I have never walked in those shoes. Until I do, I will support the parents where Scripture is silent.

  6. Tom Hardy July 16, 2012 at 11:26 pm #

    Although I can certainly feel compassion on the parents and on the boy on what they are going through; in the fact it isn’t an easy situation. I couldn’t agree with Denny more on what he said on the matter.
    I would say the same thing if it could be proved that it is a hormonal or physical condition.
    Unless we are to disregard Scripture on the matter; we must conclude that since Joey was born a boy, he is still a boy no matter what any doctor or so called professional says.

    On another level, although this matter is disturbing; it is however not all that surprising given the depravity of man. The world says this kind of thing is normal and therefore we should embrace it. Scripture on the other hand says this kind of thing is wrong and therefore the two world views naturally oppose each other.
    This is no different in the fact that most leading scientists believe in macro-evolution and say that anyone who doesn’t believe in macro-evolution has their head in the sand. Unfortunately, this has caused some Christians to reevaluate how they understand Scripture. Instead of letting Scripture interpret Scripture, they use outside sources into the equation in order not to seem to have their head in the sand. Not understanding that evolutionary science is no more than a presupposition and not true science at all.
    With that in mind, going back to this story.
    When the child asked his dad, is this ok? If the dad had a Christian world view, would he have answered the same way?

  7. Diane Woerner July 17, 2012 at 4:48 am #

    Michael Horton recently made this important observation:

    “Lust is a perversion of sex and homosexuality is a perversion of philia–that profound love that men and women have for each other that is wonderfully different from the love of husband and wife.”

    To the degree we assume all “attractions” to be exclusively sexual, we will be prompting more and more children (and adults) into these misdirections.

    For example, a young boy is properly drawn to men who prefigure God (ideally including his father). That drawing is spiritual, but it also serves to clarify his sexuality through identity with that which is masculine.

    When these authentic same-sex drawings and bondings are obscured or reinterpreted or absent altogether, we will find even more of us wondering about our “identities.”

  8. Shawn Keating July 17, 2012 at 1:27 pm #

    The real, unspoken, tragedy is the abuse this child most certainly suffered along the way. My wife is a counselor and sees cases like this often. And it is indicated by the broken family structure at its root. Such a tragedy!

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