Dr Sharon James works for The Christian Institute, and is author Gender Ideology: What Do Christians Need to Know (Christian Focus Publications)
What follows is based on this post.
A growing number of adolescents – mainly girls – are experiencing ‘rapid-onset gender dysphoria’ (ROGD). Such youngsters often belong to a group of friends, most or all of them identify as transgender at around the same time.
A peer group (either real or virtual) fosters the mutual belief that anxiety and unhappiness may be caused by being ‘transgender’, and that ‘gender transition’ will provide the solution. Girls may try to ‘bind’ their breasts (using sports bras, or buying ‘binders’ on the internet); boys may try to ‘tuck’ or hide their genitals. Young people may change their clothing and hairstyle; experiment with different names; ask to visit a ‘gender specialist’; or some may try to obtain hormones over the internet.
How can Christian parents respond?
1. Teach children and young people God’s good design and the bigger picture
‘God created man and woman in his own image, and he created men and women different by design.’
‘This is good news. It liberates us from the pressure of having to construct our own gender identity!’
2. Teach your child that everyone should be treated kindly, no matter how they behave or what they believe
But none of us should be forced to agree with the beliefs or behaviours or others. ‘Disagreement is not hatred.’
3. Avoid exaggerated stereotypes of masculinity and femininity
We should neither flatten out all gender distinctions nor give way to gender stereotypes. Just because a boy is artistic and sensitive doesn’t mean that he should be pushed into thinking of himself as other than a heterosexual boy. Just because a girl doesn’t want to dress in ‘pretty’ clothes doesn’t mean that she is not ‘really’ a girl.
‘Behaviours that would have been accepted as within the normal range even a few years ago (girls wanting to play boys’ games or boys not wanting to engage in rough and tumble games) are now being interpreted as ‘gender confusion’. This defies common sense. All children are different, with differing aptitudes and gifts, which should be encouraged and nurtured, even when they may not be ‘stereotypically’ male or female.’
4. Check out what your child is learning at school
‘Parents should resist explicit and permissive sex education. Children before puberty should be allowed to remain innocent. It is abusive to expose them to sexual activity or images before their brains and bodies are ready. Lovewise provides age-appropriate and biblically faithful resources on sex education for parents and churches (as well as schools). The Christian Institute also provides information on sex education, including a free briefing Too Much, Too Young. Their dedicated Education Officer can speak to parents, teachers or students who have concerns.’
5. Check out what your child is reading and watching
Watch out for the uncritical promotion of gender ideology on social media platforms. Be aware that ‘much of the fiction promoted by schools now gives children the message that intimate friendship must have romantic or sexual overtones.’
6. Help children and young people to be critical of the claims of gender ideology
‘In 2017, Rachel Dolezal, a white American woman was found to be wrongly claiming to be black. Logically, if we can choose our gender, why not our race? In 2018, a 69-year-old Dutchman went to court to claim the right to ‘self-identify’ as a 49-year-old. Logically, if we can choose our sex, why not our age?’
7. If your child claims to be transgender, ask more questions
Is there an underlying issues, such as depression or anxiety? Are the relationship difficulties? What else is going on in their life that might have prompted them?
Remember that adolescents often experience rapidly shifting ideas and emotions. Empathise without affirming. Don’t reinforce an idea that might otherwise pass over. Be cautious about who you look to for ‘professional’ help. Many psychologists and psychiatrists may be far too hasty in advocating transition. ‘Gender therapists’ and ‘gender specialists’ will very often be committed to the false ideology of gender identity theory. Try to find a mental health professional who is competent to address underlying issues without jumping to the conclusion that gender confusion must only be ‘fixed’ through ‘transition’.
8. Don’t encourage ‘social transition’ or permit access to puberty blockers
‘In general, for most young children gender dysphoria ‘desists’ around the time of puberty.’
9. Don’t be intimidated by threats of suicide
‘False statistics are routinely repeated, but those who transition are still often likely to commit suicide. The safest approach is actually to seek to line up their child’s perception of themselves with their biological sex.’
10. Take the long-term perspective
‘There’s a natural and safe way of resolving gender confusion in young children. It’s called puberty. When…you allow testosterone to kick in for boys, and oestrogen for girls, in the vast majority of cases gender confusion is resolved.’
[It’s only fair to add that Katie Pope has written a critical response to the above advice. I can only say that I was not at all impressed by her ‘ten alternative tips for parenting in a gender fluid culture’. She begins by claiming that ‘If your child is transgender this isn’t a theological…issue’, and seeks to support this by observing that in the Genesis account God created our first parents ‘male and female’, not ‘male or female’. Pardon me?]