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On Sex-Change Treatment for Kids

Yesterday I listen to an interesting interview on CBC ‘s “The Current,” called “Sex-Change Treatment for Kids.”
It began with an interview with Jennifer Carr, a mother who wrote the book, “Be Who You Are.” Her story began when her four-year-old son “Nick” was shopping for shoes. Rather than picking the very masculine shoes which his mother was offering him, Nick found some very “gaudy” pink sequin shoes. On the drive home, this little boy told his mommy that there was something he really wanted tell her, but didn’t know that he could. He finally came out and said, “sometimes I feel like I am a girl inside.” His mom’s response was, “be who you are!” And this began the journey of turning this young boy into a young girl, and renaming her and dressing her as a girl. This child is now approaching puberty, and is quite disturbed about the idea of going through male puberty. Therefore, the family is discussing hormone drugs which will stall puberty for a while. These drugs are reversible. However, they are also considering sex-change drugs. These drugs and not reversible. They will render the child infertile, and they will permanently flood the child’s body with female hormones, and permanently prevent male puberty.
The interviewer went on to interview Dr. Scott Leibowitz, a psychiatrist at the Children’s Hospital Boston and an instructor in psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School. Leibowitz was quite heavily in favor of using such drugs on children, and was advocating for pushing the age limit lower (currently these drugs are not used before 17), since these sorts of drugs are not as effective once a person has gone through puberty.
Of course, this being CBC and this being Canada, they did not present the other side of the argument (Although they did reference “judgmental people,” and “close minded people” which, I guess, is at least acknowledging that there is another side to the argument.)
However, they had a second psychologist on who was at least more moderate in his views. Dr. Kenneth Zucker leaned more strongly towards a later age limit for these sorts of drugs, since he was very concerned that children can make an emotionally mature decision about such a life-changing procedure. Also, he mentioned a very interesting stat.  he said that of the children he has worked with, 85% who come with homosexual tendencies in their childhood grow into heterosexual adults. About 15% persist into a adult homosexual lifestyle.
There’s a lot I could say about this interview, but here’s a few points for discussion:
1) Isn’t this an exaggeration of gender stereotypes? The accusation levelled against historic Christianity is always that we are not open to new ideas of gender, and too concerned with pigeonholing people in this gender or that. However, what did this mother do? When her son wanted pink, gaudy shoes, she concluded that she did not he did not fit in the male “box.” She jumped to the conclusion that he belonged in the “gay” box. Why not just open the male box a little bit bigger? What’s wrong with men and boys liking feminine things?
For example, Jacob was a smooth-skinned man who liked to work with his mother in the kitchen. Perhaps he was clean, soft-spoken and reserved as well. Certainly, he was not interested in tromping off into the bush with his big hairy brother Esau, shooting animals and wrestling with the elements until he was faint with hunger, and barely able to stumble home. Did that mean that Jacob was gay? Perhaps if he was raised by liberal, open minded parents today, they would be too close minded to understand that he was indeed male, but just a different sort of male than they were used to.
2) Aren’t these procedures extremely invasive and unnatural? In all medicine, people always talk about less invasive procedures. Whether one is an atheist or a Christian, the idea is that “nature” or “God” knows what it/he is doing. One wants to be wary of genetically modified foods, chemicals, and other things that dramatically affects the way things are in the world.
On this grounds, isn’t puberty blocking drugs, and sex change drugs, and sex change operations (which were not discussed here) extremely invasive?
Perhaps God intends for some men to be very feminine, and some woman to be very masculine? Indeed, I have met quite a few of these – and they all add a lot of richness to my life, and the world around them. I’m just glad that God loves diversity!
But even if you are an atheist, wouldn’t you see nature as creating something which should be left alone? It just seems so unnatural to step in and so invasively alter the biology, chemistry, and physiology of a person – especially in such a permanent and unalterable way!
3) What do shoes have to do with sex? I hate to go here, but with this topic seems unavoidable. It goes without saying – indeed, it was not said – in the minds of all those involved in this interview that this young boy should grow up to marry and have sexual relations with a man. (Since, after all, he is really a girl inside) But hold on one minute. We are talking about shoes here, aren’t we? We’re talking about a preference for pink, rather than blue. We’re talking about this child having very feminine tendencies and proclivities. As I have said above, I think we need to be more open in accepting that some men are intended to be very feminine, and some woman to be very masculine. We shouldn’t have such a problem with this. And why should we make this huge jump, to conclude that just because this boy enjoys pink, he should grow up to have sexual relations with a man?
I know many couples – likely you do too – where the man is very feminine, and the woman is very masculine. (At least, according to steroetypes which we are familiar with in our culture) Why should this child not grow up and live as a normally functioning male, and go on to find a female with whom he is comfortable?
4) How much should a parent trust their child? The real elephant in the room in this whole interview was a huge amount of trust that this young mother put in her child. The second doctor very cautiously said that this mother was part of “a social experiment, “a movement of young mothers who have blogs, opinions, and who are advocating to change something.” He wondered whether the mother influenced her child at least slightly by her response to his questioning.
This definitely raises the question – exactly how much should we trust the instincts and beliefs of our young children?
A number of months ago, for example, Korban (four) decided that he did not want to be a Christian. For several weeks, he told me that he hated Jesus, didn’t want to pray, didn’t like Bible stories, et cetera et cetera. Understandably, I was quite freaked out. My wife wisely advised me not to treat him like a teenager, but like a child. I stopped taking him seriously, which meant that his words no longer had a big effect on me, or any power. If he said he hated Jesus, I treated that as though he said “I hate rice.” “Very nice Korban now, which story would you like to read tonight?” Very quickly, he grew out of this phase, and is now progressing as a young Christian, who is growing daily in his knowledge of grace and truth.
What may have happened if I had continued to react very strongly to Korban’s infantile opinions? Whether I had acted strong negatively (“You are not allowed to hate Jesus! Say that you love Him right now!!!”) or very positively (“I understand that you don’t love Jesus. That is your opinion, and I respect you even though I disagree.”) I would have perpetuated his ideas, and modified them, so that he would continue to feel a certain way. His maturing identity would have become permanently affected by this childhood phase, because I as a parent did not “let it go,” but perpetuated it in my very response to it.
Now, what would have happened if this young mother had responded in a different way to her child? As the second doctor said, 85% of these children will normally grow into functioning, heterosexual adults. What if this boy was to become one of these? Perhaps in telling her child so quickly, “Be Who You Are!” she inadvertently modified and altered who her child was to become. If this is the case, it seems that such life-altering decisions as name changing, cross-dressing and now temporary and permanent hormone therapy is quite out of place and will lock that child into a lifestyle and patterns which they may very well have grown out of in time.


  1. Your response to Korban gave me something new and deeper to think about (also for when I someday have children of my own). I think you are very wise parents in how you and Annejisca responded to Korban’s “phase”. Strong reactions, both negative and positive can really modify and perpetuate a young person’s ideas.

    • It’s a little terrifying to be a parent. Only by God’s grace and a lot of prayer do we end up not messing our kids up too much by our fears & sinfulness.

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