The March edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association indicated that 73% of transgender women and 78% of transgender men first experienced gender dysphoria by age 7. The study was led by urologist Maurice Garcia, MD, director of the Cedars-Sinai Transgender Surgery and Health Program. The Transgender Surgery and Health Program “includes specialists and experts in patient education, comprehensive male-to-female and female-to-male gender-affirming surgeries, complex revision surgeries, and more.”
Doctor Garcia is an advocate for the transitioning of people at any age. He writes, “While policies regarding transgender people’s rights are evolving, what is still clear and unchanged is the unequivocal need for accessible health care for transgender and gender-nonconforming people of all ages.” Dr. Garcia goes on to say, “All of the study participants came to my clinic asking for surgery and every one of them said they experienced gender dysphoria around the same early age. What they experienced earlier in life was not a ‘passing phase,’ which is often suggested about transgender people seeking surgery. They knew exactly when their gender dysphoria started. It’s like asking about your mom’s birthdate – you just know it.”
These are the thoughts that Chloe had when she was 12 years old and wanted to transition from a female to a male. At 13, she came out to her parents. That same year, she was put on puberty blockers and prescribed testosterone. At 15, she underwent a double mastectomy. Less than a year later, she realized she’d made a mistake — all by the time she was 16 years old. Now 17, Chloe is one of a growing group called “detransitioners” — those who seek to reverse a gender transition, often after realizing they actually do identify with their biological sex. Tragically, many will struggle for the rest of their lives with the irreversible medical consequences of a decision they made as minors.
“I can’t stay quiet,” said Chloe. “I need to do something about this and to share my own cautionary tale.”
A question that should be asked is why has the number of children experiencing gender dysphoria in the West skyrocketed? Between 2009 and 2019, children referred for transitioning treatment in the United Kingdom increased by 1,000% among biological males and 4,400% among biological females. Meanwhile, the number of young people identifying as transgender in the US has almost doubled since 2017, as reported by the New York Times as part of a Centers for Disease Control & Prevention report.
There is a startling consistency with kids wanting to transition – social media influence and pro-LGBTQ+ influencers. Chloe joined Instagram at 11. “I started being exposed to a lot of LGBT content and activism,” she said. “I saw how trans people online got an overwhelming amount of support, and the amount of praise they were getting really spoke to me because, at the time, I didn’t really have a lot of friends of my own.”
According to an online survey of detransitioners conducted by Dr. Lisa Littman last year, 40% said their gender dysphoria was caused by a mental health condition, and 62% felt medical professionals did not investigate whether trauma was a factor in their transition decisions. One respondent (“Helena”) said: “My dysphoria collided with my general depression issues and body image issues. I just came to the conclusion that I was born in the wrong body and that all my problems in life would be solved if I transitioned.”
For Chloe, the quest for wholeness resulted in testosterone altering her bone structure, permanently sharpening her jawline and broadening her shoulders. She also struggles with increased body and facial and a large scar across her chest from her mastectomy. In addition to her body-acceptance struggles and loneliness, surgery became another burden to overcome, a burden those who advocated for her “transition” didn’t prepare her for: “The recovery was a very graphic process, and it was definitely something I wasn’t prepared for. I couldn’t even bear to look at myself sometimes. It would make me nauseous.” Now Chloe’s greatest concern is the uncertainty of ever being able to have children. The viability of Chloe having a child is unknown, given the years of testosterone injections. Currently, she is working with doctors to discover the extent of the damage, and her future is uncertain. “I’m still in the dark about the overall picture of my health right now,” she said.
As followers of Christ, how do we approach people like Chloe? How do we stand with young people who need guidance and stand against the advice of “medical professionals” who support mutilation and disfigurement? How do we oppose those who advocate gender dysphoria and urge gender reassignment as a path to wellness?
Step one: Understand the Issue.
At the core of dysphoria is the notion that I am not who I should be. Social activists and cultural forces foment the natural awkwardness and need for acceptance into something wrong, out of place, and needing change. Knowing no other way forward, along with a toxic mixture of online messaging and a lack of support from people in their life, the individual chooses a path that will do incredible physical and emotional damage. The feeling of disconnection and discontentment that ALL PEOPLE experience. This is not unique to a person but a reality for everyone at some point in life.
Step Two: Listen & Tell Your Story
Share stories of your background and difficulties you faced, fears, and doubts you experienced. It doesn’t have to be the same story, but a shared story of humanity and the fears, frustrations, doubts, and difficulties we have experienced. When a person knows that what they are feeling is not strange or consistent with who they really are but part of our shared struggle, the loneliness gets less heavy. Hope is born in the heart and mind of the person struggling when they realize they are not alone in the journey.
Step Three: Offer The Better Way.
Our role is to offer a better way, a new reality that transcends man-made coping mechanisms, something we were all made for – to know God and find our joy in Him. A few weeks ago, we considered the Goodness of God as part of our Portraits teaching series. The underlying truth in this teaching is what someone believes about God will shape how they live life. Whether a person is an atheist or a theist, our lives revolve around our belief in God. Therefore, the idea that God made you and is FOR you provides a framework on which life makes sense; it is the insulator against the cold winds of culture and the scorching heat of heartache. The belief that God is good toward me has the power to extinguish the haunting notion that you are trapped in the wrong body. Every person was made with value and worth. The feeling of awkwardness, confusion, and wanting more in life can only be satisfied through Jesus and His life given FOR you! If a person rejects this truth, respectfully warn them of the course they are on. Warn them that the path they are on will never satisfy, and God will hold us all accountable for what we do with the lives we have been given.
We would be honored to talk and hear your story. We want to be helpful in your journey by connecting how the goodness of God is designed to satisfy the confusion and loneliness in all of us. Reach out at [email protected]