What if your ten-year-old child said he wanted to be a dolphin when he grew up? Would you just laugh? Would you even entertain the idea? Of course not. How could you? Hardly any parent, community or school system would go along with this. But every day, more and more, the idea that kids can decide to change their gender weaves its way into our social institutions, making it seem normal, healthy, and accepted. This sends a devastating mixed message to both “cisgender” and transgender kids alike.
The amount of coverage the topic of transgender kids receives in the news is far out of proportion to their actual number in the population. There are so many stories circulating it feels like the issue must be pervasive and there must be millions of transgendered kids just hoping to be accepted by their families and among their peers. But statistics show that only about 0.3-0.6% of transgender adults live in America; a generous estimate might suggest half of that number represents transgender young people. (More babies were born in the last two days in the U.S. than there are likely transgender kids).
Still, we hear about this school that crowned its first transgender prom king or this community that’s “continuing to press for transgender inclusion” in a Minnesota school district. The latest buzz last week was about a soccer coach who came out as transgender (female to male) to his teenage soccer players. The boys laughed, a few asked questions, and the YouTube video was dubbed heartwarming by all.
But what’s so heartwarming about teaching gender fluidity to children who are only beginning to grow comfortable with their own sexuality and in their own skin? Why is it a good thing to tell them that it’s OK to transition from one gender to another? Whether through superficial means like clothing, or through physical means like taking hormone blockers or testosterone, “transitioning” is a key step on the path to becoming fully transgender. (Before then, a child might just feel he doesn’t match the gender he is biologically, otherwise known as gender dysphoria.)
The concept of transitioning permanently from one gender to another assumes a child is aware of gender, sex, and the fluctuating hormones that influence emotions and thought. A few brave folks, including medical professionals, point out that this cannot be the case, and argue that perpetuating this is actually harmful to kids.
In an amicus curiae brief that Dr. Judith Reisman, an expert on child sexual abuse, filed when Gavin Grimm’s case went to the Supreme Court, Reisman makes the case that the transgender agenda (and it is an agenda) is harmful to students because their dysphoria is often short-lived: “Studies showing that 80 to 95 percent of children who report dissonance between their perceived gender and biological sex find that their perceived gender and biological sex correspond by late adolescence.” Furthermore, kids aren’t mature enough to make the decision to transition. “Neuroscience has documented that children’s brains are cognitively immature until the early to mid-twenties. Scientists can digitally map how the brain develops, and have found that the portions of the brain that permit processing of complex concepts, such as ‘gender identity’, evaluating risk and making informed decisions are the last to mature, usually not until the early twenties. This means that children are not only legally, but cognitively incapable of giving informed consent to these treatments,” she noted.
Todd Whitworth, himself a transgender person, also cautions kids about heading down the path of transitioning at too young an age:
No amount of hormone therapy and surgical intervention is going to change biological reality. This is not a choice to enter into lightly and it’s highly suspect that a child has the maturity and cognitive ability to truly make an informed decision. A person’s brain is in development up to the age of 25. Perhaps we should wait before helping our children to transition.
Most parents don’t let their five-year-olds ride their bike down the street to the local convenience store yet they’re going to let them decide they want to change their gender? Teaching kids to believe that gender is merely a social construct, not a physiological one, is part junk science, part political-correctness gone wild. It’s dangerous because kids are still developing and shouldn’t be allowed to make irreversible decisions about feelings that, for most of them, will change radically as they mature. If transgender activists really want to help the nation’s kids, they should adopt a new approach: First, do no harm.