As a group of us (transsexuals, detransitioners, desisters, parents and medical/psychological professionals) waited to testify in support of billsto protect minors from sterilization and permanent medical harm in Texas, we watched the bill opponents gather. They were the usual suspects, the LGBTQI+ community that believes that gender nonconformity should be medicalized through “gender affirming care”, not just accepted, nurtured and celebrated. From their midst emerged a less expected crowd: clergy from some of the most mainstream faith communities in America, Episcopal and Methodist among them, with their white collars on, rainbows and trans colors affixed to their garments. The believers among us could not help asking ourselves: how can it be that our trusted faith leaders are here advocating for medical interventions that will turn questioning, confused, gay, and gender non-conforming children into lifelong medical patients with uncertain outcomes?
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” Luke 23:34
To those of us advocating for the bills, the enthusiasm of the clergy shakes our faith. We know the growing evidence shows – counter to the prevailing narrative – the short and long-term physical/psychological/emotional harms outweigh the benefits of “gender affirming” medical interventions. We have to ask, how much have our religious leaders reflected on what these medical interventions are doing to children’s bodies and their young minds? Have they looked beyond the message of “save trans kids”? Have they delved into what it means to be a “trans kid”, the lifelong medical path that is inevitable? Are they comfortable taking the position that children can knowingly and intelligently choose infertility? Is what we are doing to kids, of God?
The Episcopal faith values Scripture, Tradition, and Reason equally. Episcopalians often use the metaphor of a three-legged stool, with each leg of the stool contributing equally to their balanced approach. Each of the three sources of authority must be perceived and interpreted in light of the other two. Supporting gender non-conforming kids is a worthy mission, one that the church must hold dear, but uncritical support of the gender ideology put forth by LGBTQI+ activist groups defies reason.
History – indeed recent history – is rife with painful examples of exclusion and persecution based on unforgiving notions of “normalcy” and “difference.” Tragically, even children haven’t been spared cruel treatment by their peers and the wider world, simply for being the quirky, awkward, unconventional and yet beautiful children of God that they were born to be. Even under the banner of religion, kids have faced meanness, rejection, even abuse—and nowhere has this been more true than in the struggles faced by gay and gender nonconforming children simply trying to make their way through to adulthood.
We are grateful and relieved that the world is more welcoming to gay, lesbian, and nonconforming kids; and we are grateful that they can now find support and the warm embrace of their faith community. We applaud your conscious and active efforts to show kids that, no matter who they are, or whom they love, they are blessed and precious—and they belong. We see you opening your arms to struggling kids, and we know you want them to hear and feel that there isn’t anything wrong with them; that the universe of how they can be themselves is vast; that they are free and encouraged to grow up and develop into the healthy, thriving people that they are made to be. But we believe that you, unwittingly, are telling them something else entirely when you stand with a movement telling children that the only way to develop into their authentic selves is by making dramatic alterations to their healthy growing bodies.
We know that, like us, you do not want to see children harmed that, in fact, you seek to protect them. Certainly none of us wants to make the same mistakes that were made when gay children and young adults were systematically shamed. So, we trust that you are coming from a place of love and a place of good intentions; we just think you have the wrong information, provided to you by a political and ideological agenda.
Please make room in your hearts for another viewpoint. We are asking you to reflect on some information that you may not have considered. “Gender affirming care” is said to be “life saving.” Have you thought about how this treatment saves lives? Is it treating an illness that would otherwise kill a child? Gender dysphoria does not itself threaten kids’ lives—in fact a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria is not even required in order to begin a course of “gender affirming” medical treatment. Actually, “gender affirming care” is said to be life-saving because it is sold as a suicide prevention measure. As catastrophic as suicide is, we know – and you know – that suicides are never caused by just one thing. Statistics telling you of high rates of “trans youth” suicides are compelling—they are also misleading.¹ Children experiencing gender dysphoria, confusion, or incongruence do unquestionably suffer from mental distress, however the actual suicide data for these kids points to a complex and uncertain conclusion.²Tragically, even children receiving “gender affirming treatment” have killed themselves, and post-transition adults have killed themselves. How can anyone confidently state that “gender affirming” medical interventions are saving lives?
Moreover, the “affirmative care” model for treating gender non-conforming children overlooks a world of potential harms to their futures. Without an adequate evidence base, medical providers are intervening medically in the healthy processes of human maturation.³ Even though it challenges even the heartiest of emotional constitutions; puberty serves as the necessary bridge between childhood and adulthood. Pubertal development is not confined to secondary sex characteristics: growing humans also experience physical, cognitive, and emotional growth that are necessary components of the miraculous process of becoming the men and women God made us to be. Please ponder the risks that puberty blockade and exogenous hormone treatments pose to kids’ growing bodies.⁴ How much risk is tolerable to healthy bone density and brain maturation? Choosing “gender affirming” medical care for children also means electing for them a loss of the sacred gifts of healthy sexual and reproductive function. Our faith in God tells us that adolescent identities – in all their wonder and glory – can be affirmed without medical disruption of their healthy growth, development, and bodily wholeness.
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; Jeremiah 1:4-5
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” 2 Timothy 1:7
From Believers in Crisis
1. Biggs, M. Suicide by Clinic-Referred Transgender Adolescents in the United Kingdom, Arch Sex Behav 51, 685–690 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-022-02287-7
3. Levine, S.B., Abbruzzese, E. Current Concerns About Gender-Affirming Therapy in Adolescents. Curr Sex Health Rep (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11930-023-00358-x
4. Terhune, C, et. al. Youth in Transition: Part 1, The Dearth of Science, Reuters Investigates (Oct. 2022). https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa-transyouth-care/