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Transgender: The New Normal?

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In this piece, Christian Concern's Communications Officer, Camilla Olim, discusses the news that a 10-year-old girl in the UK has decided to identify as 'gender non-binary' - and news that a six-year-old boy in Seattle now self-identifies as a girl.

Camilla highlights how much of the children's decision was influenced by their parents, and how the media uses stories like this to propagate its agenda. "'Define yourself' is society's new mantra", she writes. 

This week, a 10-year-old girl told the BBC that she is neither a boy nor a girl but rather, 'non-binary'.

'Leo' (her real name not disclosed) explained that she doesn't remember when she first realised she wasn't "feeling right". Initially choosing to identify as a boy, she decided that this didn't quite fit. So Leo's mother did some research, and came across the term "gender non-binary". Eventually, Leo settled upon that definition.

Leo told the BBC that she is grateful to have parents who supported her decision, and reported that she feels happier, now that she has chosen to identify as neither male nor female.

Speaking of her life at school, she said: "Because we're 10 and nine, it just doesn't affect anything. We just play, we don't actually talk about a lot of personal stuff".

To read the words 'play' and 'gender non-binary' coming from the same young girl is jarring, and a sobering reminder of how pervasive the transgender movement has become in a very short time. In Leo's 10-year-old, primary school world – before proper sex and relationships education and before puberty - how could she possibly understand the implications of her choice?

Leo said that her mother was "completely on board", when she first told her that she didn't feel like a girl. What is more tragic is that while asking her daughter which male name she'd like to adopt, the mother also asked: "You've always been more attracted to boys, would you be a gay man or a straight man?"

At the age of 10 years old, this girl has not only been pushed by her parents into defining her gender identity, but also into choosing her sexual preference, before she matures and can fully experience physical and sexual attraction. It is acutely disturbing that in a culture that rightly deplores child marriage, children are nonetheless being so overtly sexualised and treated as objects.

Leo's parents told the BBC that they could see their daughter was distressed. Gender dysphoria, though uncommon, is a real and recognised condition, of which distress is a symptom. But rather than treating Leo's gender dysphoria in the same way as one would treat another psychological disorder (i.e., by providing therapy until the mental state once again aligns with physical reality), the parents pushed a solution on Leo – to allow her to define herself the way she wished (or how her mother wished her) to be defined.

But what happens when Leo gets older? She admitted: "When I grow up it's going to be harder for me to say I'm not a girl."

The American College of Paediatricians cited evidence last month that around 80% of child gender dysphoria cases resolve themselves over time. Statistically, it is likely that Leo would grow into adulthood as a healthy, stable woman, her gender confusion left behind with her childhood.

Except that now her parents, her school and the mainstream media have jumped on board with her story and promoted her choice. It is as though, once she uttered a tentative 'I think this is who I am', a resounding chorus rushed to affirm her.

What happens if Leo changes her mind in the future and realises that she really is a girl and wants to live as one? Leo's decision to identify as 'gender non-binary' may have stemmed from real confusion, but it's hard to deny that this definition has been imposed upon her. The BBC report mentioned nothing about Leo's upbringing, childhood experiences or any other factors that may have contributed to her gender dysphoria. Instead, Leo described her experience repeatedly in terms of "I think" and "I feel", and this is all the validation the BBC requires.

Leo's story is one of many that are being promoted in the mainstream media. Two days prior to the BBC report, a story was published in the New York Times about a six-year-old boy in Seattle who, following dressing up in a girl's dress for play, began to wear only skirts and dresses to school. His gushing parents told the NYT that their son eventually "stopped telling people she was a boy in a skirt and started being a girl in a skirt instead". Two years later, the little boy is self-identifying as a girl and is being referred to as the parents' 'daughter'.

What began as seemingly harmless dress-up morphed into something much more serious and deeply rooted.

That little boy's parents seem convinced that allowing him to do whatever made him "the happiest" was good parenting.

"I didn't want to buy a whole new wardrobe when I didn't know if this was going to last," the mother said. She admitted, though, that she felt "pretty sure the skirts were here to stay".

But had the child's parents intervened much sooner, putting an end to the dressing up before it became serious, and simply sending him to school dressed as a boy, it is likely that after the initial backlash, he would have forgotten about the dress. The skirts would not have stayed. We have to remember that the child was only six years old. Children explore and play and go through phases. But in the case of this child, the distinction between fantasy and reality was blurred, perhaps even irrevocably, through the fault of irresponsible parenting, a culture that has lost its moral bearings, and a media that loves an unusual story, especially if it suits its agenda.

This, like Leo's story, is a tragedy. Yet the media celebrates stories like theirs.

Up until recently, the media's primary narrative seemed to be based around the simple idea of 'being yourself'. Now, the narrative has shifted. Being yourself is no longer sufficient (and how could it be when people don't truly know who they are?). 'Define yourself' is society's new mantra.

Now, we can simply invent a new gender identity – or 71 new ones, in fact, according to Facebook's profile settings – and define ourselves by one of those. In fact, some complained that this was still too restrictive, so Facebook introduced a 'custom gender' option where people can fill in their own.

It is incredible how a whole movement is sweeping across Western society despite its total disregard for objective physical reality.

That six-year-old boy 'became' his parents' 'daughter' because they allowed him to dress in girl's clothes until he felt like a girl himself. His case echoes the story portrayed in the recent hit film 'The Danish Girl' - the story of one of the first known men to undergo gender reassignment surgery. The painter Einar's decision to identify as a woman grew out of a secret obsession with trying on his wife's clothes. The film romanticises this as a journey to self-discovery, but it seems that the cause can be traced to a chosen behavioural pattern.

How did we end up here?

Romans 1 21-25 says: "For although they knew God, they did not honour Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up to the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen."

Paul argues in these verses that man either acknowledges and worships God, as separate to and higher than himself, or, he worships what God has created (which can take a myriad of forms).

Knowledge of God informs us not only about who He is but about who we are. We are created in His image, but we acknowledge Him as Creator. Through worship we conform increasingly to His likeness, and this way the glory of the Creator is revealed through his creation. Dr Peter Jones explains this issue in greater depth on the truthxchange website.

Yet our society, having at large chosen to reject God as Creator and Supreme ruler over all the earth, has found itself adrift. There are malign spiritual powers and principalities that seek to mimic aspects of God's created order, and while they seem alluring, the reality is very different. Without God we are totally lost, and any identity we grasp is a pale shadow of who God tells us we are. God's Word tells us that if we acknowledge Christ as both Saviour and Lord, we become sons and heirs of His Kingdom. Before we were created, we were known by our Father who sees us form in the womb. We are intentionally created, fashioned with a purpose and a destiny.

Nobody told 10-year-old Leo this. Nobody told the six-year-old boy in the dress that his Heavenly Father took delight in his creation as a boy.

As believers, we have the answer to this confusion and pain. We know that Christ redeems all things and heals all broken places; we know that our true identity is found in Him – but what are we doing about it? Do we even discuss transgenderism in our churches?

It is vital that we understand the times we are living in and engage with these issues. Transgenderism is an issue that is not simply going away, and it is becoming mainstream.

Sadly, the Church at large has not taken a lead in this matter. This may be partly because transgenderism is relatively new – and partly because the Church can be reluctant to talk about sex, despite its importance in terms of identity, marriage and family.

Acknowledging this, Christian Concern is pleased to be hosting The New Normal conference in November, to help explain some of the roots of transgenderism and other issues surrounding sexuality – and to give practical steps to help those in need.

Visit the Eventbrite page for more details, including the day's programme. 

Related Links: 
'I'm a non-binary 10-year-old' (BBC)  
From He to She in First Grade (NY Times)  
Gender Dysphoria in Children (American College of Pediatricians)  
Human Identity in Crisis (TruthXChange)  
Gender Confusion and Evangelism (TruthXChange) 
The 'New Normal' conference (EventBrite)