Increasing numbers of young girls have been questioning their gender or seeking to change it. Once, those accessing NHS Gender Identity Development Service were mostly boys; now almost 75% are girls. Since 2017, 10,000 children have been referred to the clinic. A whistleblowing teacher reported that in one school 17 children were in the process of ‘changing gender’, with some pupils ‘grooming’ younger children to follow.
This new phenomenon has left parents anxious or in a panic. They ask:How can I protect my daughter? How do I respond if she says she wants to transition?
Beyond feminist groups, little help is being openly offered to parents. A militant trans-lobby seeks to suppress debate. We asked various Christians with knowledge or experience of this area how parents ought to respond.
Here’s their advice:
1. Don’t feel that you are alone
Christian parents facing would-be trans daughters can feel utterly isolated. They look at other families and wonder if they are the only ones. They are not. This phenomenon is affecting parents up and down our land, including Christians.
2. Replace access to social media with positive alternatives
Whatever other parents do, Christian parents should not be afraid to be adults, using the authority God has given to protect their children. The cultural tendency is towards showering children with the latest gadgets and giving them independence to foster a friendly relationship. Tolerance, not authority, is in vogue.
This leads to children taking their questions and mental health issues to the internet – and getting all the wrong answers. Girls, teenagers and pre-teens alike, are asking questions and taking advice from peers on social media sites. Normal problems of their age are being seen through a trans lens.
Parents would be irresponsible to allow children to be friends with just anyone. They want contact with other parents before allowing their daughters to visit another house. So, it would be irresponsible to allow unmonitored conversations with unknown internet voices.
Video blogging on YouTube is significant. Transition vlogs, with teenagers charting their experience in an authoritative voice, influence impressionable watchers. Comments below the videos create the impression of a sympathetic community of understanding peers whose advice is to be respected. InThe Transmission of Transition, Elin Lewis (a pseudonym), writes, ‘Transcritical parents are cast as “bigoted”, “old fashioned”, “transphobic” and ignorant of the new knowledge of gender identity. Parents are urged to “listen” to their trans-identifying child and expressly follow the instructions of transgender vloggers.’ Binge-watching on YouTube may be a gateway to even more concerning content on sites like Tumblr or Reddit.
When Facebook was dominant, some parents did not allow children an account until they left school. This approach still has wisdom across today’s plethora of social media sites. Some parents only allow access to the internet on screens in public rooms, never bedrooms. Even some secular parents now call for zero access to social media for young people. Even without the trans issue, the bullying is often horrendous.
However, simply restricting access can lead to a child feeling oppressed and a total relationship breakdown. Many detransitioners seem to have had a really poor relationship with parents. One detransitioner says that while she was initially resentful towards her mother and ‘felt that her privacy was invaded’, she now believes that trans teens need to ‘get away from the internet’ as a matter of priority. She is also grateful for having a positive alternative: a nine month internship working at a farm. Physical labour away from the internet echo chamber led to full detransition. Less screen time and more time spent outside engaging with nature and increasing fitness has many health benefits, mental and physical.
3. Be empowered by a recent court ruling involving puberty
The high court ruled in December that ‘it is highly unlikely that a child aged 13 or under would be competent to give consent to the administration of puberty blockers’. In other words, they do not know what is best for them. That’s why they have parents who know what it’s like to go through puberty: the God-given natural process that helps people to come to terms with the identity he has given them.
It’s normal for puberty to be difficult. It is easy to forget that it is quite normal for boys and (in particular) girls to be very unhappy about the changes to their bodies. One medical professional reported: ‘A number of the girls I have come across do not really want to actually be boys, but they don’t want to be girls (or at least what society deems girls should be like).’
4. Try to discern the underlying issues
If the trans craze has been fuelled by girls seeing issues through a trans lens, parents should seek to understand what the issues are. Are these normal anxieties of growing up: fear of being different, fear of not making friends, fear of not fitting in? Or could it be that a child is wrestling with more substantial mental health issues that need to be addressed?
The desire to transition may be the wrong solution to a real problem. Recent figures from a Swedish clinic show that 90% of their gender dysphoric females have a psychiatric diagnosis, 80% have two or more, 45% are self-harming, 20% have an autism diagnosis, and 35% had so many symptoms that the clinic referred them for a full assessment.
Last year, American journalist Abigail Shrier wrote Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters – which some tried to ban from sale. Shrier wrote, ‘I can’t think of any branch of medicine outside of cosmetic surgery where the patient makes the diagnosis and prescribes the treatment. This doesn’t exist.’
Jean Twenge wrote in the Atlantic: ‘Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011. It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones.’
Gender dysphoria appears more common amongst those with Autistic Spectrum disorders. One autistic girl enjoyed playing tomboy George, from Enid Blyton’sFamous Five,and dressing in boys clothes. Now a young adult, she states:
Now, society would label me ‘transgender’ or as having ‘gender dysphoria’. Society is wrong. I wasn’t ‘transgender’, and my parents never tried to confuse me by treating me like a boy. I was allowed to wear boys’ clothes sometimes – not to church, school or swimming – and they correctly regarded my tomboyism as a natural phase, or even a game that many girls go through when trying to find where they fit in. This is particularly common with autistic girls because of their typically-male traits: logical thought, advanced cognitive development alongside delayed emotional development, stubbornness, disinterest with how they look, and so on. No wonder then that some people refer to autism as the ‘extreme male brain’.
5. Check what is being taught in school
Many campaigning organisations like Mermaids, Stonewall, and Gendered Intelligence have impacted teaching in schools. This may come as part of the new RSE (Relationships and Sex Education) curriculum – compulsory since September.
But with increasingly woke teachers it can also permeate other parts of the curriculum – like English literature. Parents should not be afraid to ask regular and specific questions of teachers and school leaders regarding whether, when, and how transgenderism is addressed in school.
6. Exercise caution with trans studies
Historically, most transsexuals have been trans-women: those with male chromosomes seeking to be women. The phenomenon of pre-teen girls seeking to be trans-men is so recent that it has not been adequately addressed in peer-reviewed studies. Therefore, points made from trans studies should be approached with caution, especially when used to push an agenda. Here are three examples.
Activists often claim that the detransition rates are lower than 1%. However, it’s nearly impossible to record detransitioning accurately. Most detransition studies take their data from those who report their detransition back to clinics where they first received treatment. But obviously, most of detrans people do not report back to the clinics. They just stop treatment and go off the radar. Moreover, most of the relevant research precedes the increase in trans female adolescents. This is a completely different cohort; old figures cannot be applied to a completely separate phenomenon.
Activists often point to studies about suicide in those who do not transition. However, much of this data originates from self-selection sampling. Many of these studies are circulated in trans activist groups. Furthermore, suicide, suicidal ideation (considering suicide), and suicide attempts are distinct phenomena which are also often not clearly delineated.
Activists sometimes point to studies showing positive mental health outcomes for transitioners. This is also a gross simplification of a small number of inconsistent studies. Again, it relies on older, often politicised studies. Some mental health outcomes actually started to decline in transitioning children at GIDS a year into taking puberty-blockers (including desires of self-harm and suicide), but not as much in the first six months. This chimes well with detransitioners who often say they experienced a short period of euphoria after medical intervention. This subsides, and is not a reflection of the long term outcomes.
7. Listen to the de-transitioners
Keira Bell was prescribed puberty blockers as a teenager and progressed to further hormonal and surgical change. She later regretted it. She stated that she ‘should have been challenged on the proposals, or the claims I was making for myself. And I think that would have made a big difference.’ This should empower parents to act in their daughters’ best long-term interests rather than giving in to their current desires at a time of great flux.
Another detransitioner, Charlie Evans, said that: ‘Telling girls they have a mismatch between their body and their brain if they act or feel more traditionally like boys – behaviour “treated” with mastectomies and hysterectomies – is not progressive. It is a subversive and manipulative attack on women and girls.’
Issues can get confused, as another de-tranisitioner explains: ‘I’ve tried to talk about background issues with therapists, but gender dysphoria was seen as the cause of my problems and not a symptom of them. Actually I think my gender issues came out of mental health issues, not the other way around.’
Lucy’s testimony is poignant: ‘I’m horrified that when I went for the hysterectomy they didn’t emphasise to me how important these organs are. Now it’s too late. I’m 23 and I am basically in menopause already, with all the health implications that come with that.’
‘Lou’ also had great regrets: ‘I didn’t understand that the degree of disconnect from and hatred of my body could be considered a mental health problem… Now, as a result of having transitioned, I will always have a female body that is freakish. I will always have a flat chest and a beard. And there’s nothing I can do about that.’
8. Promote what the Bible calls men and women to be
Part of the push towards trans is a feeling of not fitting in to a social-stereotype, particularly of womanhood. Many feminists, resisting trans-ideology, acknowledge the feeling but prescribe another remedy: embracing a lesbian identity.
The evidence does support a link between same sex desires and gender dysphoria. Older studies showed that around 80% of gender dysphoric young boys desist in the desire to be female, but usually retain homosexual attraction and often pursue gay relationships. More recently, many detransitioned females say that are attracted to other women or identify as lesbian.
Given the answers offered to those questioning their gender and/or sexuality by wider society, it is crucial that Christians offer biblical answers. This means promoting what the Bible says about men and women and how it calls them to live and relate to one another. Therefore, whether in church, family or wider society, Christians need to model and, where appropriate, teach principles of what Scripture calls men and women to be.
One father, parenting in the current context, has realised that all parents need to be ‘ready to define, defend, and celebrate their daughters’ true femininity and their sons’ true masculinity.’ Churches should be the most safe and secure places for girls to be, where they can happily embrace how God has made them look and how he has gifted them.
The safe spaces for women in society are under threat. Parents should be advocates for their daughters, urging that they must be able to use toilets in safety and not have to compete against biological males in sports – especially contact sports. Many worried parents, without a biblical foundation, may be glad that someone is prepared to contend for girls’ safety against the calls of a vocal minority.
Parents have often made the number of peers for their children a key criteria in church choice. The current climate suggests that the presence of positive role models and mentors of biblical masculinity and femininity is at least as important.
9. Be aware it’s not just Christian parents who have concerns
One secular website providing help for worried parents ishttps://www.bayswatersupport.org.uk/. The Bayswater Support group state: ‘We are for parents of children who identify as trans or non-binary. We are cautious about the “affirmative” model of treatment.’ There are gritty stories where the emotional toll of parenting a gender-confused child is detailed, sometimes with comments from a grateful daughter at the end.
10. Show love in a sensitive but honest way
Lovewise is a Christian charity which provides resources for parents, churches, and schools on growing up, sex, and relationships –https://lovewise.org.uk/. There are also some more specific trans/gender articles aimed at teenagers –https://lovewiseonline.org/
One of its part-time employees, Dr Julie Maxwell, also a part-time Community Paediatrician, recently summed things up like this: ‘The issues around gender identity and gender dysphoria are complex and need to be approached with compassion and understanding while ensuring that the truth of biological reality remains clear. Children and young people deserve the best and most effective interventions based on evidence and facts, not on ideology and feelings.‘
Another informed professional stated: ‘The single most important piece of advice is that the parents show deep love for their struggling child, to focus on building the relationship, without making every conversation about the trans issue.
The parent might, in an attempt to address these problems, feel the need to affirm this identity. In this case the parent needs to know that in so doing they are only co-operating and consolidating the very problem they are trying to solve. It is not that the parent ought to love the childbutnot affirm transition; rather the parent ought to love the childbynot affirming transition.’