A few months ago, I saw a clip from a talk show featuring a couple who was raising their young boy as the opposite gender. Their 6-year-old son was now their “daughter” and they were in the throes of a legal battle with his elementary school because he was suddenly no longer allowed to use the girls’ restroom.
It wasn’t long before this that the mother of a 7-year-old boy was in the news for her effort to enroll her son in the Girl Scouts. Bobby, a lover of Barbies & Bratz dolls, was eventually given the opportunity to join.
And the stories continue to appear… Josie, a 9-year-old boy living as a girl featured on Dateline… 6-year-old Harry, now Haley on Our America… 11-year-old Jazz, formerly Joey on 20/20. Most recently in the news, a “Boys’ camp to redefine gender.”
It’s no doubt that any parent facing these struggles has a heavy cross to bear, whether their child simply refuses to leave the house in certain clothes or has gone so far as to try mutilating their genitalia with nail clippers, as one mother recalled.
So what are parents to do? It would seem “brave” and “extraordinary”, as the media put it, that these mothers & fathers facilitate their children’s transition and encourage a gender “switch.”
But is it right?
One parent pointed to the answer: “I believe my child is just who [she] is – God made [her] just like this.”
Indeed, He did. He designed us perfectly according to His will. Created by Him, our bodies belong to Him. St. Paul asks us in 1 Corinthians, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, who is in you, whom you have received from God, and that you are not your own?” (6:19).
We don’t have the authority to identify as something we are not; it is not our right or privilege. Our creation as man or woman is inherently good and willed by God (CCC 369), and when we reject our bodies, we reject Christ and His wisdom and goodness.
“It is a question here of faith in the Creator,” said Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, “and of listening to the language of creation, the devaluation of which leads to the self-destruction of man and therefore to the destruction of the same work of God.”
“Properly understood, persons are either male or female. The body is a fundamental indication of what sex we belong to. It is a physical, empirically verifiable reality that does not change simply because our beliefs or desires do… our sex is indicated by our bodies.” (National Catholic Bioethics Center)
Unfortunately, so many of these children wishing away the gift of their sexual identities are totally unaware of their design. Most of them express a desire to change their body to reflect the state of their mind, as if they are one gender “stuck” in the opposite gender’s body. And most of the children’s psychologists, therapists and even medical doctors agree, seeing the problem as an “alignment issue,” as one doctor described.
Certainly there is an alignment issue, but not as it’s being interpreted. It is the mind that must be aligned with the body and not vice versa, as is happening among these kids. Our bodies reflect unchanging Truth: they will always truly be either male or female. On the contrary, our thoughts and feelings are entirely subjective and may not always reflect the Truth. So when it comes to knowing our true gender, the objective answer is revealed by our body. When we consider our sex as something to be discerned, it’s as if we have a block of gold in our pocket and question whether it’s really silver, or perhaps that it was meant to be silver but it suffered an “alignment issue.”
These parents, however good-intentioned they may be, are creating a greater struggle for their children. It’s as if their son has cancer and they are treating him for a broken bone. And these children don’t know better about themselves, as much as their parents want to trust that they do.
In one segment, a doctor asked a child if he would be happy to wake up the next day with breasts and a vagina. He giggled – an expectedly immature response from a 9-year-old, who lacks a true understanding of sexuality. In another interview, a boy’s parents explicitly shared “In the last few months, we’ve seen [her] becoming more cognizant, more aware; ‘Other girls don’t have a penis, don’t have the body I have.’” It’s tragically indicative of the child’s foundational misunderstanding of his body. These parents are trusting their children, whose knowledge of gender and sexuality is understandably limited, to make choices that no adult is even entitled to make.
Children inherently rely their parents, no matter how much they may defy them. And as much as these parents want to reverse that authority in this “gender decision,” leaving it up to the kids, their children continue to seek affirmation that what they are doing is alright.
As parents, the souls of our children are in our care, and we cannot forget that “If you cause one of these little ones who trusts in Me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck.” Mark 9:42
As Catholics, we are called to instruct the ignorant – and so many are suffering because of their misunderstanding of God’s wisdom in creating us male and female. We must proclaim the preciousness of our bodies, of our being male and female, designed as God intended. We must treasure our bodies and their inherent dignity so sincerely that questioning their goodness and rightness would become unthinkable.
And when the moments come that we fail to see the beauty in our sexual design, wishing we had bigger or smaller whatever or longing to be a different gender entirely, we must turn to God for encouragement and offer up our struggles for His greater glory. In this, we turn our suffering into great acts of love, in thanksgiving for the many sacrifices which Christ has made for us.