Mr M., from Canada, who has asked that his name be withheld, wrote,
I’ve come across a few videos on YouTube of interviews discussing ‘transgender’ kids. Not teens but little kids. These kids born male identify as being female. They act and dress and whatnot as the opposite sex. By the age of puberty they begin taking prescribed drugs that would stop their natural physical progression to adulthood. Is there a gene in the body from birth or a mental or psychological issue that would cause this? Is this a result of the curse of sin?? And is encouraging this also sinful? If one is born a man should the parents not encourage him to be such and vice versa if one is born a girl? Apparently transgender children are happening more often.
This article presents some basic principles: Hermaphrodites and homosexuality. This refers specifically to those who are born biologically ambiguous regarding male and female genitalia, but many of the same principles apply.
Gender confusion identity crisis is a very complex issue. I heard of one boy here in Australia who injured himself trying to cut off his penis “because he wanted to be like mummy” (he was in a single parent family, which is a common factor with a lot of problems in children; see table appended below). However, this particular child on the YouTube video seems to be from a family with both parents together throughout (although a blended family, which can bring its own stresses).
The child’s doubts (about wanting to be a girl) expressed at about 10 years of age raised alarm bells with me. Many children go through phases of cross-dressing, pretending to be the other gender in play, etc., but grow out of it as they mature. This growing up particularly happens at puberty, at which time sex hormones kick in.
Parental expectations and reactions to behaviour are probably a key to what has happened. Playing with girl things might have evoked a reaction from mum that the child liked and this reinforced his behaviour (that is, to keep going along this line). It is certainly a way of getting a lot of attention. The early bad behaviour, for which the boy was prescribed drugs, might not have been gender confusion but attention getting, and acting as a girl got the attention without the unpleasant conflict and so it was reinforced.
The human brain is incredibly plastic (malleable) and reinforcing certain behaviours (with concern, attention, etc., for example) can reinforce that behaviour. The Bible says, “Train up a child …” (Proverbs 22:6) because children are most open to direction and correction. If we put that in the context of a society where gender-bending confusion is rampant in the media and you have all the ingredients, after some time of reinforcement, of thinking ‘I was born this way’, thus reinforcing the notion that ‘I am really a girl, although I look like a boy’.
Another possibility is that the mind-altering drugs given for the bad behaviour messed with things too; that is a possibility; how many pills did the mother say he was given at one stage?
There are also gender-bending chemicals in the environment today that might be causing problems. For example, there are various estrogen-like (‘female’) chemicals now in the environment, including synthetic ones from birth-control pills and plastics. There are also natural ones from plants such as soybeans that are now eaten in novel ways very unlike the traditional fermented products of China and Japan. The effects of these on sexual development in humans are largely unknown. Studies on fish have shown detrimental effects on physical development but the effect, if any, of these chemicals on physical development of humans is unclear.1 The effect, if any, on psychological health is even less clear.
Our brains are also not above being messed up through mutational degradation, which is happening, and has been happening since the Fall (Genesis 3) and it is always possible something is wrong with the brain’s circuits.
However, overall, I think that this sort of gender confusion is more likely due to behaviour reinforcement.
It is significant that mental aberrations in children have increased with the decline of church involvement. [Secular reporter] Miranda Devine commented on a Dartmouth Medical School study in North America, reporting that, “A ‘direct personal relationship with the Divine’ is associated with reduced risk-taking and better mental health.”2 And, in Australia, “As churchgoing slumped, so did children’s emotional wellbeing … a staggering 20% have mental health problems … [this] has developed since WW2.”
When a society ceases to honour God, the consequences are manifold and not good. “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” Proverbs 14:34.
Vidaeffa, A.C. and Severb, L.E., In utero exposure to environmental estrogens and male reproductive health: a systematic review of biological and epidemiologic evidence, Reproductive Toxicology20(1):5–20, 2005. Return to text.
Devine, Miranda, Church and family can save kids, Sun-Herald (Sydney), 16 Nov 2003, reporting on a 2003 Dartmouth Medical School Study: Hardwired To Connect: The New Scientific Case For Authoritative Communities; www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/11/15/1068674433713.html Return to text.
Vidaeffa, A.C. and Severb, L.E., In utero exposure to environmental estrogens and male reproductive health: a systematic review of biological and epidemiologic evidence, Reproductive Toxicology20(1):5–20, 2005.
Devine, Miranda, Church and family can save kids, Sun-Herald (Sydney), 16 Nov 2003, reporting on a 2003 Dartmouth Medical School Study: Hardwired To Connect: The New Scientific Case For Authoritative Communities; www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/11/15/1068674433713.html
Homosexuality is a state in which the mind only holds an unshakeable conviction which the body denies completely. Anorexia is also an unshakeable conviction of the mind only, which the body also denies completely. If one is recognised in law, should not the other be also?
Legalising gay marriage is not legal. The law provides a protective clause which requires that intercourse must take place in order for the marriage to remain legal Without intercourse the marriage may be annulled. Couples need this protection against unwilling partners so this law cannot be removed. Homosexuals are therefore illegally married because they cannot consummate the marriage. Unless – consummation is very poorly defined. It is specifically the penetration of a vagina by a penis. If it is not so clearly defined then it could mean the manipulation of anything by anything. Such as kissing.
Peter B., Australia, 20 July 2013
Excellent article, especially the table which showed the much higher risks associated with single parent families, is there a similar table for children of same sex 'marriages'?
I have a friend (who is a homosexual) who once posted a question on Facebook that he claimed would end homophobia:
"Guys, when did you learn that you were 'men'? Did you choose to be men or were you born that way?"
Obviously, it's a misleading question because all men would say "we were born this way" (because a guy is born with parts that are exclusively male). And his response would be "that's exactly how I feel".
Of course, the Bible says in the beginning, the Creator made them Male and Female, and for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave with his wife" (Gen 2:24; Matt 19:4-5)
Most men act like men because physically, they are male. While most women act like women because they are female. Whereas homosexuals have to make a conscious decision to act outside their nature.
So in reality, they were never "born that way". They are simply believing a lie. Unfortunately, the media treats this lie as though it's the same as your skin colour. Again, skin colour is a physical trait. So homosexuality can't be part of "social injustice" mass media claims. They are confusing a feeling and justifying that feeling as though it were "natural".
It's getting more and more difficult to be understood when you explain that homosexuality is a sin because "it's not the way God designed it" (the Philippines is dominantly Roman Catholic where most people who are gay still claim they believe in Jesus). Either they brand you as a bigot or they brand you as a close-minded religious zealot. And they always seem to bring up "what if your child turns out to be gay" all the time to argue why I can never understand.
Personally, aside from Proverbs 22:6, I quote Deuteronomy 6:7. Basically, if you raise a child to be God fearing, he/she won't choose against God.
Will R., Australia, 21 July 2013
I grew up with a younger sister. l played with her with her dolls and she played with my cars and also played cowboys and Indians with me (she was always the Indian). Neither of us grew up gender-confused. But we had good role model parents, though neither is a Christian.
Judie S., Australia, 21 July 2013
I can't help thinking that, since there are single-parent families with the communal support to reduce the risks in the table, children without that support may be even more at risk. I imagine that, sadly, the number of supported single parents is probably too small to make much difference overall.
Eleanor P., United Kingdom, 21 July 2013
We use a Reverse Osmosis filter as the local water supply is always contaminated with oestrogen (put back into the water system by women on the pill) and anti-psychotic drugs, flushed down sinks in nursing homes when not used. These do not get removed through the cleaning plants and hence boys becoming more like girls and visa versa.
Also soy used in infant formula and vegetarian foods is extremely high in oestrogen. Only fermented soy is good for you.
Don Batten responds
Although I share your concerns about environmental oestrogens and in food products, I don't think that the science has shown a clear connection between environmental oestrogens and feminization of boys. If it were so, we would expect it to be an almost universal effect and it is not. Also, environmental oestrogens are hardly likely to cause girls to become masculine.
I would agree that minimizing exposure to environmental and food-based oestrogens is a good precautionary approach.
Sheila K., Canada, 22 July 2013
This is absolutely right. Socialization has a lot to do with questioning your sexual identity- not just for kids, but for adults too. I have a friend who, several years ago, mentioned to me that he's wondered now and then whether he's gay. Why? Because he's more into fashion, is artsy and sensitive, and just not a very macho guy's guy. I told him outright that he's being silly- that doesn't make him gay, it means he just doesn't fit the stereotypical guy role. The idea that all men should be one way and all women another way is damaging to those who don't fit the mould, and if they find solace and purpose in "alternative lifestyles" then they'll go there.
It seems that there are more gay men than women, & I've often wondered if that's part of it- women nowadays are given a fairly wide range of accepted behaviour; there's a lot I can do without being considered un-feminine. But for guys, the expectations are still much stricter. Add to that the likely influence of estrogenic hormones in the environment...
Also, despite being a woman, I've often identified with traits that are culturally more often associated with men. Luckily, I've been a Christian since I was 14, and God rather quickly pointed out to me that having close female friendships and a few "male" personality traits doesn't make me a lesbian. Which is good, cos when I mentioned my experiences to others, they automatically said I should explore my sexuality and embrace who I "really" am. I could easily see how kids growing up without knowing God could get confused by such messages from society.
Cecily M., Australia, 22 July 2013
Good response Dr Don. The comments are interesting and helpful, too. I also wonder to what extent putting babies and toddlers into long-day care by working mothers might have an influence on sexual orientation later on. There is definitely brain damage. As one researcher put it, “It alters the chemistry of the brain”. It is a most traumatic experience for a young child causing grief, a sense of abandonment, the undermining of trust and the fragmenting of bonding.
Marc A., South Africa, 22 July 2013
I believe that even as Christians, judging from these posts, we have fallen for the current, media driven equivocation on homosexuality. We refer to homosexuality as if it is something intrinsic, a condition. This is driven largely by the regular comparisons between discrimination based on skin colour and based on so-called sexual orientation. This is fallacious. Homosexuality is an action; men and women having sex with others of the same sex. In our fallen world, especially our current sex soaked culture, many are prone to sexual lust for unmarried and married women, children, animals, the same sex and many other perversions; but we don't regard them as fornicators, adulterers, rapists or paedophiles unless they actually indulge those lusts. Why do we treat 'gay' differently? These things begin in the heart, and the Bible tells us to see them for what they are, sin, to ask God's forgiveness, and then to do the right thing. Boys and girls are not born having sex with their own sex. Homosexuality is something people DO, not what they are. When is a person not a rapist, or an adulterer, or a paedophile, or a homosexual? When he or she is not indulging the predisposition to sinful desires. Let us recognise sin for what it is, and love the sinner enough to share the hope and forgiveness and victory possible through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Don Batten responds
I agree regarding homosexuality being something people do, rather than an 'orientation' as one commenter put it.
The article was about gender confusion in children, not homosexual behaviour. It seems that a couple of commenters are bit confused. :-)
Norman Vincent J., United States, 26 July 2013
I tend to believe gays are born that way from a mutated gene at birth.If I am correct ; gays who marry same sex partners IF they do not utilize artificial insemanation to procreate during ,so called marriage, will in time correct this problem as the gay gene will disapear and correct the problem.If I am wrong and it doesn't ;I conclude they ARE born that way.
Don Batten responds
The research has already been done and there is no 'gay gene'. Such complex human behaviour cannot be shown to be caused by a person's genetic makeup.
But again, this article was not about homosexual relationships (of adults), but gender confusion in children. Regardless, gender confusion has little to do with most homosexual behaviour; that is a common misunderstanding.
P. S., United States, 26 July 2013
I think so far, not very many people commenting even know what they are talking about. I have an adult son who claims he is a woman and says he has felt that way since childhood, although he never showed any signs of it. He always showed behavior typical of little boys. And he is highly imaginative. We had and still have a two parent home. Same mother and father for all of our children. We are Christians and always went to church and were very involved in church and extended family when the children were all young. We taught them the Bible and prayed with them and set a good example of a loving marriage. Not problem free, but loving. So the part in the article about declining church attendance doesn't apply here. Neither does the lack of parenting. Our son, who says he's really a woman, is not even very effeminate. He doesn't desire to dress in a "girly" way. I and my husband are at a total loss as to why this has happened.
We are working through it and are all in therapy. I haven't given up on God intervening and healing the whole situation, but His way just might be getting the medical and mental health attention our son needs. I have not ruled out that it could be the result of completely different problem. A delusion to cover something else. Or even a chemical imbalance of the brain. His physical "balance" has all been tested and normal. He is also not attracted to men.
I see no reasonable explanation(or anything helpful) in anything I have read here, nor in anything my husband and I have done or not done. The rest of our children are "normal".
So many people are so quick to judge and blame. Sometimes, there is no one to blame, and no explanation. Only coping, praying and hoping.
Don Batten responds
Thanks for sharing your sad experience and heartache; it brings a human face to this discussion. My heart goes out to you; as a father of adult children I can't imagine how difficult this has been for you.
I knew a man who was raised in a 'good' Christian home, married, had children, and when the children were grown decided he was really a woman 'inside' and had a sex-change operation. Needless-to-say, his wife and family found all this incredibly, painfully hard to understand and cope with. In my substantial interactions with him prior to this he never gave any indication that he was at all effeminate; he was just a regular guy. And I might add (again) that this has nothing to do with homosexuality.
Your experience underlines something that I was trying to get across in exploring some of the range of factors that could impinge upon gender confusion.
We are incredibly complex beings and just how our brains operate is still largely a mystery (something to remember when in the hands of therapists). As I indicated, our brains are also 'fallen', not just our bodies. We can all have dispositions to 'weird' behaviour. We can have thoughts of things that shouldn't be, and we put them aside. As a Christian I ask for God's help; the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. However, if I dwell on a thought that shouldn't be, it can become an obsession and come to rule over me. Then as a justification I might finally fool myself into thinking 'I was born this way' or 'I have felt this way since I was a child'.
Our imaginations can be a powerful influence for good or evil. The apostle Paul says, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5) It is important that our thoughts are submitted to Christ. So if someone is not born again of the Holy Spirit (not a Christian), their thoughts are not 'taken captive' and they would be much more vulnerable to deviations from normalcy, such as gender identity confusion. Someone can be raised in a Christian home and not be born again. 'God has no grandchildren'.
Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Tim H., United States, 26 July 2013
Gender confusion, I think could better be defined as temptation to sin. We are all tempted of sin, and we all sin. However, not everyone faces the same propensities to fall to the same temptations. The enemy is cunning and destructive. Where we have weak support we can count on being attacked. This is what is happening in society today. There is becoming less and less objectivity regarding this act as sin. Therefore there is less and less support for those who are facing this temptation. This makes our youth of today the perfect targets for this temptation. Those not growing up in church are not taught to recognize temptation for what it is. Because of this, they are lost when facing these confusing feelings and fall to the weakness of the flesh.
Don Batten responds
Again there is a confusion here over gender confusion, which is not the same as homosexual temptation. However, what you say about the decline in moral fibre/fiber in general is correct.
P. T., Australia, 2 August 2013
thanks you for another interesting, informative article. It's great that CMI tackles today's issues head on, graciously and with integrity and humility. I learn much from your info and style.
Just wanted to add a helpful scripture worth memorising and really taking to the battle field of temptation regarding ALL MATTERS:
(NIV) 1 Corinthians 10:13:
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. (that bit alone can stand a lot of contemplation.) And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. (ditto the contemplation for that bit.) But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. (more contemplation)
Is not our God the God of all creation? He knows all things, surely - otherwise, how can He be God? He sees our weaknesses - and gladly helps us choose His way if we lean on Him. So, are we leaning on Him?
Keep up your fantastic work for His sake and ours. Thanks again.